It was -25 degrees C in Edmonton when Christine Koltun got a phone call that two cats had been found under the bench in a bus shelter.
A note left with their crate, covered with a blanket, said they were born Aug. 20 last year. “Please take good care of them!”
Koltun, founder and director at Furget Me Not Rescue, said both cats, since dubbed Kate and Tully, are healthy and doing well now, but their story is not unique. She said her volunteer organization gets similar calls constantly, and she hears similar tales in Edmonton and surrounding communities almost every day.
“It just speaks of the level of desperation … at some point that person felt like that was their only option and that’s really scary,” said Koltun, noting the trend represents a big shift from previous years when normally atthis time of year, Furget Me Not might have five or six young kittens, but now they have more than 40.
Koltun said there’s been a surge in people dumping their pets where someone might find them, including some sought-after breeds adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic who now need veterinary care.
Koltun said there may be some shame attached with not being able to keep an animal anymore, but it’s important for owners to reach out.
“It’s definitely discouraging for us when nobody even tried to see if we had space or room … if it’s an emergency, we’ll try to figure something out or we’ll reach out to our partner rescues — sometimes even in other cities — just trying to find placements. But we’re not even getting those initial contacts anymore,” she said, noting they may be able to help get pet food or subsidized vet services to help.
“Always reach out to us before doing something extreme,” she said.
‘All of these things are coming to a head all at once’
While many Albertans struggle with high costs amid an inflation crisis, donations are low, and Furget Me Not’s vet bills are high.
It’s already had to spend 10 per cent of its medical budget in the first three weeks of 2023, when 75 per cent of intakes are expected between May and October. Koltun said that’s concerning.
“All of these things are coming to a head all at once,” she said, adding that with a lot of pets ending up for sale online, some are falling into the wrong hands.
Her message comes after a spate of recent animal cruelty cases in Edmonton.
In January, Edmonton police said they were investigating the case of a dog found dead in a park with its paws bound. It was believed the dog had been adopted, but its owners were unknown.
At the same time, police said they were investigating a separate case of a two-year-old male cat named Milo who was found with an arrow through the middle of his back.
Milo was seen by a veterinarian, the arrow was successfully removed and he was expected to make a full recovery.
In December, Edmonton police’s animal cruelty investigation unit appealed to the public for information during their investigation into the October stomping death of a cat in the northeast Evansdale neighbourhood.
The owner took the cat to an emergency vet, but the pet was declared dead.
Furget Me Not is collecting donations for the family of that cat through [email protected].
Koltun also encouraged Edmontonians to reach out to their favourite rescue and ask them what they need even if they can’t give financial support — sometimes that could mean certain types of food donations, more foster space, or just support in sharing social media posts.
“We all need something right now,” she said, adding that she feels guilty making public calls for help when she knows Albertans are struggling.
You can find more information about the rescue at furgetmenot.ca, and it takes credit card donations at https://buy.stripe.com/cN2cPjbcz2JfdDG5kk.
You can also reach out to organizations like the Edmonton Humane Society, Alberta Animal Rescue Crew (AARCs), or check out the humane society’s list of pet resources, including where to get support for vet care, access pet food banks, and the emergency pet keeping service at the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
As of press time, Kate and Tully were still available for adoption.