Ev­ery­day Hero

Brian Hayes, out there mak­ing a dif­fer­ence for cats in his com­mu­nity, will win you over

Modern Cat - - Contents - BY ROSE FROSEK

Brian Hayes, out there mak­ing a dif­fer­ence for cats in his com­mu­nity, will win you over.

We love pro­fil­ing un­sung heroes, the peo­ple in our neigh­bour­hoods qui­etly mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. Our Star Cat con­test win­ner, Brian Hayes of West Palm Beach, Florida, who en­tered his for­mer street cat, Cane, in the con­test, is just one such in­di­vid­ual.

“Cane came to me by luck, re­ally,” Brian re­calls. A client of Brian’s was feed­ing a stray and she showed Brian some pho­tos and videos of the cat rub­bing on her legs and giv­ing her goo-goo eyes—and “it was love at first sight,” Brian says. He im­me­di­ately agreed to take cat—but first they had to catch him! “Two days passed and I had the sads,” he says. “They hadn’t seen him. I go home from work that day think­ing I will never get to see him in per­son and just as I walk in, my phone rings and its Kim, my client, and they have Cane on their pa­tio!”

Cane was so con­fi­dent, friendly, and nur­tur­ing, that he didn’t need to be so­cial­ized at all. “He knew just what to do from day one. He is very in­tel­li­gent,” Brian says. He even gets along with Brian’s cock­atiel, Sunny.

Brian cur­rently has eight res­cues in his home. Six of them—Deuce, Smoke, Mis­ter, Elsie, Jin Jin, and the new­bie, Gabby—are from the feral colony he tends to.

“I am a to­tal fail­ure at find­ing homes for them,” he laughs. “I fall in love with them and can't let them go.”

De­spite hav­ing al­ways got­ten his crit­ters from friends or the street, he didn’t con­sider him­self a true res­cuer un­til two years ago when he found his feral colony.

In another in­stance of serendip­ity, Brian’s sis­ter Linda called him to tell him she’d seen a dead kit­ten on the road. Brian headed out to in­ves­ti­gate. “I parked my car at the con­ve­nience store and walked with my shovel and bag to get the poor soul,” he re­calls. But what he found in­stead was a dead squir­rel—and a pretty tuxedo kitty, ob­vi­ously feral, wide-eyed and scared but hun­gry look­ing, watch­ing him. Brian went home to bury the squir­rel then re­turned to feed the cat, and thus be­gan his feral jour­ney. Brian now looks af­ter a to­tal of 13 cats in what turned out to be a colony. He has set up three shel­ter ar­eas, three feed­ing sta­tions, and “they’re all sport­ing lit­tle fat bel­lies now,” he chuck­les.

It’s a labour of love, and one un­der­taken largely at his

ex­pense. “My sis­ter helps when she can and my Face­book groups, Paw Pride and Paws Up United, are a big help,” he shares. “They both know I’m not a wealthy man and will sac­ri­fice my well­be­ing for the cats, so they both have stepped up and been there for me since day one.” But the help he likes the best is when strangers walk up to him and give him dona­tions or money to buy food. “I had a guy two weeks ago give me three big bags of Meow Mix,” Brian says. “Ev­ery time it hap­pens I cloud up a bit, so grate­ful that peo­ple see what I do and ap­pre­ci­ate it.” But the help comes in waves. Brian pays for 60 to 70 per­cent of the food and all of the vet bills. “There’s a lot of sar­cop­tic mange in my colony but I have got it un­der con­trol for now,” he reports. “I never ask for help or fund raise.”

He does, how­ever, have ad­vice for peo­ple that would like to help the stray and feral cats in their neigh­bour­hoods or com­mu­ni­ties: just roll up your sleeves and get out there. “I’m a big be­liever in ‘just do it’—ya see a stray cat, feed it. I carry food with me all the time. There are feral colonies right near ev­ery­one’s home, I prom­ise you. Just look and you will see.”

He asks that you “never rule out strays or fer­als or old cats. They all have a place in our lives and they all de­serve a dig­ni­fied life and a good home. Cats will adapt to al­most any sit­u­a­tion given re­spect, time, and love—but re­mem­ber it's no longer your house it is theirs, he laughs. “Please spay and neuter your pets,” he con­tin­ues. “There are so many low cost pro­grams or grants where you can get it done for free. We will never stop this end­less cy­cle with­out a lit­tle ef­fort.”

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