Downeast Maine is a beautiful place: Between the rocky coast, the fall leaves that make the hills look like they’re on a magical fire and the exquisite silence that accompanies the snowstorms that come frequently in the winter, there’s no place more gorgeous.
Downeast Maine is also a hard place. Good people work day and night for very little pay, and some of these people do their best to take care of feral cat colonies in their area. Unfortunately, these people — who would quite literally give you the shirt off their backs if it would make your life easier — often can’t afford to do the one thing that would help these colonies to stop growing: spay and neuter.
That’s where Forgotten Felines of Maine (FFoM) comes in. Serving Downeast and Northern Maine, the all-volunteer group travels wherever needed to help good-hearted people take care of their feral cat colonies. The service area extends well beyond Downeast Maine, though: The area the group serves is larger than the other five states that make up New England. The organization has done trap-neuter-return operations in the far north of Maine, in Maine’s capital city of Augusta and in other cities including nearby Bangor. But because the state is largely rural, it’s the operations in small towns and farms throughout the state that really make a difference in controlling the cat population.
Forgotten Felines of Maine is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about free-roaming cats by providing literature and advice on caring for feral, stray, homeless and abandoned cats. The most important part of the group’s mission, however, is assisting in humanely reducing cat overpopulation through TNR programs, providing access to spay/neuter services and helping to place adoptable cats in loving homes.
Forgotten Felines of Maine has a network of foster homes throughout Downeast Maine, where the organization takes care of kittens and adoptable cats until they’re ready to go to loving homes.
Recently, volunteers went out on a cold, rainy and dark night to trap three kittens and their mother on a property “in the middle of nowhere,” as quoted from the group’s Facebook page. Judging from interactions with the cat, the volunteer who trapped them determined that mama cat might be a scared stray rather than a truly feral cat.
Later on, the group got all four cats to the vet for health checks. The kittens will be kept with their mother until they are weaned. The organization will then spay and neuter them and put them up for adoption. If it turns out that the mother cat is socialized to people, an adoptive home will be found for her, too. If not, she’ll be returned to her colony, where she can live out the rest of her life without adding to the cat population.
On another night, Forgotten Felines of Maine posted the following: Last evening we got a call from a lady who found a newborn kitten on her deck. It had been there for hours, and with darkness looming she called and asked for help. We drove the 45 minutes to go pick up the kitten. The volunteer rescuing this kitten placed him under her shirt and against her skin for the drive home so as to warm up the baby.
Fortunately, Forgotten Felines of Maine had a nursing mother cat in care. The kitten was placed with the mama cat who readily accepted the new kitten as one of her own.
If it weren’t for the volunteer, who drove an hour and a half round trip to pick up the kitten, and then drove another hour to meet the volunteer who had the nursing cat, Forgotten Felines of Maine would have been unable to help this abandoned kitten.
How does Forgotten Felines of Maine find the money to care for these feral and abandoned cats? They’re powered by fundraisers — also volunteer staffed — including bake sales, yard sales and an annual silent auction. There’s even a young girl who operates a lemonade stand every summer and donates the money she earns to the group. Local veterinarians provide discounted services for spay/neuter and other care that sick cats and kittens need.
Forgotten Felines of Maine also applies for small grants when there is time to do so. But it’s individual donations that make the biggest difference in the group’s bottom line.
Thumbnail: Photography © Igor_Murunov | Getty Images.
JaneA Kelley is the author of the award-winning cat advice blog Paws and Effect. She is a professional member of the Cat Writers’ Association and an advocate for all cats, whether they live with people or in the community.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home