MEOW! It’s our 25th anniversary!

Twenty-five years ago, a few caring souls decided to come to the aid of the 300+ free-roaming cats just surviving along the Newburyport waterfront. The effort they launched was one of the first in the nation to use Trap-Neuter-Return to improve the lives of free-roaming cats.  Once the cats had been trapped and spayed/neutered, they were fed twice a day at waterfront feeding stations and monitored for illness, injury, and any new additions. Thanks to that incredible work, the final cat in the waterfront colonies, “Zorro,” passed away in 2009.

In 2017, we are proud that, through continued expansion of our efforts, the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society has now assisted over 114,000 cats—free-roaming and owned, sick and healthy, young and old—in Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.

Today, our organization has 18 staff, over 200 active volunteers and a line-up of effective and life-saving initiatives that benefit cats and the people who care for and about them. This year, we plan to celebrate our extraordinary past, and to look forward to our next 25 years.

Click here to learn more about the work of the MRFRS.

Four Tips for a Cat-Safe Celebration

The year-end holidays are a joyous time. Let’s not ruin them with a trip to the vet! We’ve assembled a few tips to keep in mind while you’re decorating and dining to keep your kitty safe this weekend.

Candles

The soft glow of candlelight adds warmth to holiday gatherings. It also occasionally adds fire to houses. Cats don’t know this though and may bump candles or the furniture they are on, knocking candles over and causing an emergency.

Pets may also try to play with the flickering flames which will lead to burns and other injuries. We suggest using safe, battery powered candles. The realistic, flickering light will add ambiance to your holiday table but they won’t ruin the celebration if your kitty accidentally pulls the tablecloth.

Tinsel and Ribbon

Glistening tinsel and curly cue ribbons decorate the tree and presents but they pose a risk to cats. Both are fun to play with but are easy to swallow. Once consumed these materials can cause everything from discomfort to death in dogs and cats.

We suggest you avoid these items all together and opt for big, fun-to-bat-around-but-hard-to-eat bows, but if you feel like you can’t live without it, keep your veterinarian’s number on hand and contact them immediately if you suspect your pet might have ingested a decoration.

And…while we realize this is kind of icky…if you see ribbon or tinsel hanging from your cat’s butt – don’t pull it! It may cause internal injury. Contact your vet for assistance.

Holiday Foods

Everyone knows the highlight of the holidays is big meals, snacks and sweets shared with family. But let’s not share some of these items with the cat. Chocolates can cause diarrhea, vomiting and death due to caffeine and methylxanthine content. The general rule is the richer the chocolate the more dangerous it is. Luckily, chocolates aren’t as appealing to cats as they are to their canine companions but if you think your cat has gotten into that tray of fudge you were saving for guests call your vet or the ASPCA’s poison control at (888) 426-4435. (Be aware they do charge a consultation fee for this call.)

Other items you’ll want to keep out away from your cat? Nuts, bones and fat trimmings. Both are choking hazards, can cause digestive issues and fat trimmings can lead to pancreatitis.

But the slice of turkey your cat has been eyeing all day? YES! It is Christmas after all. Feel free to share!

Holiday Plants

Many of you already know that lilies are extremely poisonous cats, and that poinsettias can cause stomach upset — but did you know many other plants can make your cat sick — or worse? Check out the ASPCA’s list of plants!

Luckily, they taste pretty bad, but then your cat also enjoys the smell of you gym shoes so it’s best not to risk it.

Keep in mind also that pine needles, mistletoe and holly are also toxic when ingested. If you must have them, place them out of your cat’s reach!

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Holiday Hacks for Helping Cats

We know…working through that lengthy gift list can turn the holidays into a hassle. Why add to your stress level…here are a number of quick and convenient ways you can delight the cat lover in your life and make a difference for cats at the same time.

Buy the MRFRS Calendar

It’s just $15 and makes a great stocking stuffer.  Your lucky recipient will be treated to 12 months of adorableness. You can order online here, or pick one up at our adoption center on Elm Street or the following locations.

Use iGive or Amazon Smile when you shop online

Buy a gift…get a donation…it’s a win-win! Use either of these services when you shop online, designate MRFRS as your preferred charity and a portion of your purchase amount automatically comes to us. You’d be surprised how quickly those small amounts add up to help our kitties.

“Virtually” Adopt a FeLeuk Cat

Give the gift of sponsorship of one our Feline Leukemia cats. Your recipient will become a member of our FeLeuk Fan Club, and get a card and periodic updates from our neediest cats. Get all of the info here.

Gift a MAC license plate

The “I’m Animal Friendly” license plate supports several important programs in Massachusetts that directly benefit our furry friends. Head over to petplate.org, and check out how you can give the plate as a holiday gift. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Of course, you can make a direct donation to MRFRS in honor of your family or friend and we’ll send an acknowledgement and photo of one of our cats. We hope you find these ideas helpful and time-saving…and more fun than driving in circles around the mall parking lot!

Ask the Vet: What you need to know about Massachusetts’ distemper outbreak.

Is your cat up to date on her feline distemper shot? If you visit the veterinarian regularly, chances are your vet has vaccinated your cat for it—and that’s a good thing. In October of this year, there was an outbreak of this potentially deadly virus here in Massachusetts, in Mattapan. Let’s find out a little bit more about feline distemper and why vaccinating against this disease is so important.

Feline distemper (or feline panleukopenia) is caused by a highly contagious parvovirus. It is also very stable in the environment, meaning it can survive for long periods of time outside of its feline host. It can live up to a year at room temperature and can survive freezing!

The virus is shed in bodily fluids, including saliva, mucus, urine, vomit and feces of infected cats. The virus enters a susceptible cat’s body through its nose or mouth. Virtually every cat will be exposed to feline distemper during its lifetime—but whether or not this exposed cat becomes sick depends on its age and vaccine status. Vaccination is typically very effective at preventing disease and adult cats are rarely affected by feline distemper.

Infection is usually seen in very young kittens and can be fatal up to 90% of the time. The virus destroys rapidly dividing cells in the body, targeting the lymph nodes, intestines and bone marrow.  Infected kittens are often lethargic and can have a fever. Vomiting and diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration.   Blood tests will reveal an extremely low white blood cell count.  If a pregnant cat is exposed to the virus, the kittens may be born with a neurologic condition called cerebellar hypoplasia, which causes them to be unsteady and have tremors.

Treatment of feline distemper largely focuses on supportive care and may require hospitalization.  Antibiotics are needed to protect against secondary bacterial infection. Fluid therapy is vital to correct dehydration. High-quality nutrition will provide necessary calories to help fight the virus. A sick kitten may also require pain and anti-nausea medication. The good news is that kittens that survive feline distemper usually have no permanent damage—but the virus can continue to be shed for up to 6 weeks after recovery.

Kittens in a home environment should begin a vaccine series around 8 weeks of age and receive booster vaccines every 3 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Adult cats should be vaccinated every 1-3 years depending on your veterinarian’s recommendation. Feline distemper is a preventable disease, thanks to safe vaccines that are very effective at providing immunity. Please be a good “catvocate” and spread the word about the importance of vaccinating and protecting our feline family members against distemper!

Happy Holidays from All of Us at MRFRS!

On behalf of all of us at the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society, thank you for being part of our wonderful cat-loving community! During 2016, we helped over 7,000 cats and kittens from January through October and many more in recent months…solely due to your commitment and generosity. As you think about your year-end giving, we hope that you will consider a donation to MRFRS. Your support will help us continue our adoption, veterinary, and spay/neuter programs that bring much-needed help to both cats and cat owners in our region.

Help us to continue our work assisting cats and kittens in need by clicking here to make a tax-deductible donation today!