MRFRS Catmobiles Reach Amazing Milestone

Here’s a haiku that we know you will enjoy:
Fifty thousand cats
spayed and neutered by our two
Catmobiles. ME-WOW!

CM2 Photo

When MRFRS first initiated the Catmobile program back in 2008, we had high hopes of making a contribution to reducing the persistent feline overpopulation problem in Massachusetts. But we never could have imagined that in fewer than 10 years, we would have performed 50,000 spay/neuter surgeries on owned and free-roaming cats throughout Eastern and Central Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.
We reached that milestone in May, and have to thank our amazing Catmobile veterinarians, vet techs, call center staff and especially the wonderful clients who have brought their kitties to the Catmobiles over the past eight years for those spay/neuter surgeries. We also have been assisted by grants from many foundations that have allowed us to reduce our Catmobile pricing even further in areas or situations where the need is greatest.
Did you know that the Catmobile was part of a revolutionary movement in feline welfare to make high volume spay/neuter surgeries more accessible to cat owners? Former MRFRS Executive Director and current Board Member Stacy LeBaron tells the story:

“Back in 1998, Dr. John Caltabiano spoke at our annual meeting about his mobile spay/neuter clinic in Connecticut. When I heard him, I thought this was a game-changing idea and it always stayed in the back of my mind. Once MRFRS achieved the goal of purchasing our adoption center in 2003, our next big goal was adding the capability to provide help to owners who lack the resources to take their cats to a vet.
In 2008, we received a large donation from a private donor for a spay/neuter initiative. After doing a full analysis of all of our options, the MRFRS board voted on launching a mobile clinic. Dr. Deborah Brady, the lead vet, who had been donating her time to our Sunday spay/neuter clinics, was very interested in helping us launch this program. And so we were off in the fall of 2008.
Several years, later, MRFRS received a very generous grant from the Weiderhold Foundation that enabled us to purchase another vehicle. So Catmobile 2 hit the road in February 2012, doubling the number of cats and kittens we are able to reach.”


The Catmobiles rely heavily on word-of-mouth to broaden their client base, so anytime you can share our schedule and Facebook posts with your friends, you are playing an important role in the spay/neuter revolution by helping more cats get the surgeries they need, and reducing the number of cats coming into rescues and adoption centers.


For other ideas on how you can help spread the word about the Catmobiles in your community, feel free to reach out to our CM staff at 978-465-1940 or

Happy Tails: Blaney & Victrola

Shelter 2Blaney (pictured left) was trapped in Seabrook, NH and initially he seemed like he might be feral. One of our volunteers agreed to foster him, however, and he was found to be quite a friendly guy, so he was brought to our shelter for adoption. Little did he know, he would only have to spend a few minutes there before being swept away to his new home!
Victrola (pictured above right) is an FIV+ boy who was transferred to MRFRS from another shelter in Central Massachusetts. He is a very sweet boy who was always ready to greet everyone in our main room with nuzzles and “love bites! during his time at our Adoption Center!
Here’s their adoption story from their new “mom,” Arianna F.:

My first experience with MRFRS was fresh on the coattails of a tragedy. I had adopted a sweet boy from another shelter out of town. We shared 3 or so happy months together before he became very ill, and within another month had developed full blown wet Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). If you’ve never heard of it, it’s tragically untreatable and unmanageable and always results in death in a very short period of time. He was sweet and loving up until the very end — I was emotionally devastated to have to make the choice to let him go. I had him peacefully euthanized at home, and spent the next few days in tears. My mother saw how upset I was about the passing of my boy and mentioned MRFRS to me so that when I was ready, I could consider visiting.
A few days later, on a whim, I decided to visit MRFRS with her to meet some friendly, healthy cats to cheer me up. As fate would have it, a fluffy boy by the name of Blaney had just been brought into the shelter by his foster mother. He had been in the shelter for only a few hours before I arrived. Touring the adoption floor, I met plenty of cats that approached me casually for some attention and wandered off. That’s when I noticed Blaney, laying around the corner in the hallway. He was strikingly large, and I just had to pat him, so I crouched down and called him over. He instantly responded and approached me, laying on the floor in front of me for attention.
ShelterRight at that moment, Brit, the shelter manager, came up the stairs. She saw me petting Blaney and turned around again to call to someone else excitedly. The other woman who had been downstairs was Blaney’s foster mom. She came up and peeked around the doorframe, enthusiastically commenting on how lovable he was being with strangers. She explained to me how shy he had been at first, and she was so surprised by how suddenly out of his shell he was. I felt special and we joked about how “I” had just been adopted. His foster mom called her daughter to explain what was happening, and that Blaney was even rolling over and letting me rub his belly!
I was charmed with Blaney right off the bat and I eagerly sent a photo to my boyfriend, who gave me his blessing to go ahead and apply for the adoption. My mother encouraged me to put in some paperwork, and after going through it all, I was approved that day! I hadn’t even brought a carrier or money, not having ever thought I would have left with a cat that day. With a small loan from my mother — and a borrowed carrier from MRFRS — I left with a comforting friend to help me cope with my previous loss.
There was one other cat I met that day who remained on my mind the next few weeks following Blaney’s adoption. Victrola, an awkward, cauliflower-eared boy, had gone out of his way to sit on Blaney’s adoption paperwork when I was filling it out. He had even tried to jump in the carrier before I left!
When I saw him posted several times on the MRFRS Facebook page I did some digging through old photos. I saw he had been at the shelter for a couple months and started to consider adopting a companion for Blaney. After Blaney settled in, he seemed to miss having other cats around, and I thought the company of a cat he had been with on the adoption floor might do him good! I called the shelter right away, put a deposit down, and picked Victrola up at the end of the week.
IMG_0041Both boys are settled into their new home, spending their days lazing in cat trees, eating delicious food with whole shredded chicken, rolling in home-grown catnip, and generally being spoiled rotten. Blaney, who now goes by Hagrid (for his grizzled appearance and sweet personality, for any Harry Potter fans), comes to bed with us every night. Victrola, who now goes by Rocky (for his love of boxing and rough appearance), has his own little bed next to ours that he happily crawls into at bed time. The two boys adore my boyfriend and myself and have become our shadows when we’re home. They are both so loving and are the perfect fit for my home; it feels like fate threw us together.
I’ve had such a great experience with MRFRS, and am so grateful to Gaye for all her help, and all that she does at the shelter. I can’t say enough good things about MRFRS and their staff, and I’m so lucky to have these two boys.

We are so happy Blaney and Victrola have you — congratulations, Arianna, on the new additions to your family!

Ask the Vet

with Dr. Elizabeth Helton, Catmobile 2 Veterinarian
How do I know if my cat is overweight, and how can I help my cat slim down?

If you have an indoor cat age one year or older, chances are your kitty is overweight already! While an indoor lifestyle provides many positive health benefits for your cat, staying slim is usually not one of them. Indoor kitties often do not get enough exercise and eat more food than they need. An average-sized indoor cat may need fewer than 500 calories a day to meet his or her energy requirements.
cat_chart-BCSSo how can you tell if your kitty is packing on the pounds? First, take a look at your cat from all angles. When viewed from the top, does your cat have a bit of an hourglass shape, or is kitty more apple-shaped in the middle? When viewed from the side, does your kitty have a slight upward tuck to her belly, or does it hang lower than her chest? If your kitty is missing her waist, or her tuck, then she’s probably carrying some extra pounds. Next, feel your cat’s ribcage on each side of her chest. If you don’t feel any ribs at all, then your cat is too heavy. You should be able to feel the ribs, but they should not be too prominent. Here’s a good guide to use: Make a fist with your left hand, and feel the knuckles on that fist with your right hand. That is what too thin feels like. Now, open your hand all the way so you cannot feel your knuckles at all. That is what too heavy feels like. About halfway between the two extremes is how your kitty’s ribs should feel.
So if you have determined that Kitty has put on some winter weight, what is the best way to help her slim down? Playing is a great way to interact with your cat, and keep her entertained. Aim for half an hour a day of feather-chasing fun to help burn off some calories!
While exercise helps, the most effective way for kitty to shed those extra pounds is to consume fewer calories. You may need to cut back on the amount of food you provide, or possibly switch to an indoor, or light, formula. I do not recommend free-feeding for most cats. Certainly it’s convenient for our busy lives, but while some kitties can exercise self-control and only eat what they need, many do not. Buy a measuring cup and portion out your kitty’s food into a few meals per day. Use the food label as a guide for to how much to feed your cat, but the portions listed on the package are frequently larger than what is needed.
Weigh your cat regularly, and if kitty is still gaining, or is not losing weight, reduce the amount you feed. Feeding moist/wet food can also help keep calories in control as it has more water than dry food. Again, use the can label as a guide, and adjust according to the results you see at kitty’s periodic “weigh in.” And remember, your local veterinarian can be a great resource when it comes to nutrition and providing an individualized weight loss plan for your feline friend.

Foster Families: A Lifeline for the Kitties

When we take in as many cats as we did on Thanksgiving Eve, it’s essential to have a ready group of willing and loving foster families available to help us reduce the crowding in the shelter and ease these kitties’ way from their old life to a new one. Here are some stories from the fosters who took in some of the hoarding cats:
Joe1“We do not typically foster cats at our home due to our resident kitty, but with the intake of more than sixty cats at one time it seemed we should make an exception. I was excited to get our two presidents, Lincoln and Jackson and two first ladies, Abigail and Mary Todd, home and settled in their room. All were a little frightened and uncertain of what was happening, but none were aggressive at all.
Joe2“Just a day later, Lincoln and Mary Todd were out and about wanting lots of petting, while the other two stayed in their hiding place. By the third day, however, all were out and coming to me. It surprised me just how social these cats were given their circumstances. All they wanted was love and attention. A few days later I was standing in their room and Abigail jumped up into my arms. I’ve never had that happen before.
Joe3“They weren’t used to having toys and it took a while for them to begin to play, but the laser light was a big hit and the furry mice became popular. It didn’t take them long to adapt to Fancy Feast over their previous diet of mac and cheese. I fell in love with all of them and was so happy when they all were adopted just a few weeks later. Now, I miss them terribly. “
-Joe B.

Tarr-Rosalyn“We were given three of these kittens to foster and were told that they were some of the most social and healthy. They were slightly scared at first but warmed up quickly and became super friendly. They purred, loved to be petted and would turn flop over on their backs for belly rubs. One would roll over a couple of times in a row like a little dog. In fact, their personalities were quite dog-like: brave, affectionate, curious, and people-oriented. They all craved human attention.
Tarr-Hilary“Although they were very thin, they appeared to be in good health. They all needed to be encouraged to eat “real” cat food—Brit gave us kitty “junk food” to tempt them. We ended up offering it to them from our hands and they slowly took it from us. One of the three kittens didn’t respond as well as the other two. We force-fed her for a couple of days and then she finally ate some people food mixed with water and tuna fed from my hand. I offered her Wellness canned turkey and that did the trick. She liked that, finally started to eat, and she recovered just fine.
Tarr-Lucy“All three of these kittens were sweethearts. They never hissed, spat, or scratched and seemed to be quite used to being handled. All have found excellent homes and it was a wonderful experience for us to be able to help these kittens.”
– Jane and Laura T.

“We fostered three cats from the hoarding situation for two weeks – a beautiful calico and two orange and white boys. The first thing we noticed about them was how badly they smelled. We thought maybe it was just the cat carriers we brought them home in, but it was the cats themselves. The second thing we noticed was that their eyes looked really dirty and crusty. The third thing was that they did not how to use the kitty litter.
“Thankfully, they worked hard on cleaning themselves up and we cleaned their carriers well. Their eyes looked better each day and they all started using the kitty litter after a few days. They were a bit shy the first day or two. They hid under the bed at first and did not want to be picked up. After some “forced petting therapy” sessions, they quickly adjusted and seemed almost desperate for attention. At first, they were a bit afraid of cat toys, but they learned to play, and also to beg for their canned cat food each day.
“We were surprised at how sweet and friendly these cats were considering the situation they came from. We were very happy to see them all get adopted so quickly after we took them back to the shelter. The boys’ new dad even posted a picture of them on Facebook in their new home! It makes us feel good to know MRFRS has helped send them on to better lives and that we were able to help in a small way.”
– Mary K., Cara M. & Annikaya M.

Helton-Ladybird2“I fostered Mamie and Ladybird. Mamie was the first to warm up to me, and made it clear that she wanted as many pats and belly rubs as possible! She didn’t know how to play with toys at first. Once she discovered that all those stuffed mice in the room were HERS, she learned quickly!
“Mamie was adopted by my sister, who named her Aileron. Aileron has been the perfect companion to her other two cats. She cuddles with and grooms her older cat, and plays with her kitten. She has recently discovered that wet food is food too and now can’t get enough of it! She is also getting used to the fact that she can get all the attention she wants anytime – she thinks that’s pretty cool!
Helton-Mamie2“Ladybird took a week longer than Aileron to warm up to me, but once she did she was all cuddles too. Cat treats were deemed acceptable forms of bribery for coming out of her hiding place! It was really hard to bring Ladybird back to the shelter, as she really came to trust me and only me at my house. I recently visited her at the shelter and she was SO happy to see me! She may be a shy girl, but once she bonds to you she is your girl for life.”
-Liz H.
If you’re interested in becoming one of our “fearless foster families,” drop us a note at

Ask the Vet

with Dr. Sam Simonelli
What is it like to bring in so many cats from a hoarding situation at once? What kinds of things do you need to look out for?
IMG_6207This time the call came in on Thanksgiving Eve. Another animal hoarding situation had been discovered and help was needed. MRFRS staff members and volunteers sprang into action to begin the long process of capturing, transporting, evaluating, and treating an overwhelming number of animals.
As was the case in this hoarding situation, the team deployed to the home is faced with the task of collecting frightened, often poorly socialized animals into carriers to be transported to the shelter. Usually, conditions in the home often require the team to wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and coveralls. The air quality is poor. Urine and feces are found throughout the home. Dead or dying animals are found among the younger and healthier. The animals will try to hide, escape or could be aggressive to these strangers in their home.
IMG_1514Once the animals arrive at the shelter, they each must be examined and a treatment plan formulated. Identification is the first step. As we did with the Thanksgiving Eve cats, each animal is weighed, assigned a name or number, and has its photograph taken. A brief exam is then performed and basic information such as approximate age, sex, and body condition is gathered. Routine vaccinations and de-worming medication will be administered before each animal is set up in clean, dry housing with comfortable bedding and plenty of fresh food and water.
Due to the crowded and unclean living conditions, certain medical conditions are common in hoarded animals. External parasites, such as fleas and mites, as well as fungal infections, like ringworm, can lead to a variety of skin and ear irritations. Internal parasites such as tapeworms, coccidia, and giardia can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. Coughing, sneezing and eye problems are frequently seen due to bacterial or viral infections, and were definitely an issue with the Thanksgiving Eve cats. The vast majority of hoarded animals will be intact, so spaying and neutering them all takes another concerted effort by many.
Animal hoarding has tremendous impact not only on the animals, but on all of the people involved. Not every case will have a happy ending. Some animals may not survive to be adopted. Many hoarders go on to hoard again after intervention. With a lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated people, however, many of these animals can go on to live out happy lives in new families – just as they did in the Thanksgiving Eve hoarding case. For more information about animal hoarding, please visit