Deana Vyhlidal will tell you she didn’t know what to expect when she opened up her Fremont home to cats displaced by last month’s Platte River flooding.
“I just happened to have a dry home, and people had a need to find a place for their kitties while they figured out what to do next,” Vyhlidal said. “I did not realize the enormity of the flood when I said bring them to my home.
“But I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”
Vyhlidal joined a nonprofit cat rescue group, Catz Angels Rescue Effort, or CARE, about two years ago. The owner of one cat, she also cares for rescued kitties waiting for adoption and has a state license to serve as a foster home for animals.
The 25 to 30 members of CARE typically foster about 35 cats waiting for a home. Following the flood, there were that many cats in Vyhlidal’s house alone and 70 more with other volunteers.
“It’s very challenging,” said Jan Pemberton of Fremont, the director of CARE. “I feel like all I do lately is something cat-related: cleaning the kennels or raising money. I recently helped write two grant applications.”
Members of the group pitch in at Vyhlidal’s house, cleaning the kennels, administering medications and socializing with the cats. Supplies are donated or obtained through grants from charitable groups, including the Fremont Area Community Foundation and the City of Fremont’s keno funds.
“There’s no way that I could do this by myself because I work full time,” said Vyhlidal, a human resources director. “The cats are all very content because they’re not in small carrying cases. They are in wire kennels, and it’s actually very quiet.”
CARE member Amy Wenzl of Omaha is busy with four foster cats in addition to her own three. The foster cats, including a mom and two kittens, are kept in different rooms of the house.
“We’re so overwhelmed right now that the (CARE) members have taken in dozens of cats,” Wenzl said. “We find it’s best to keep (cats) separate until they are all healthy and then you can introduce them.”
Getting the kitties back to their owners or finding new homes for the cats whose owners no longer can care for them is the goal. Seeing those reunions, Vyhlidal said, makes all the work worthwhile.
“We have had some reunions that are very heartwarming to see,” she said. “When people are able to take their cats back, it’s just the best. You’re reuniting families.”
CARE works to find homes for the cats that can’t be reunited. Sometimes, the cats are surrendered because people have to move away or find a place to rent that doesn’t allow pets.
Pemberton, who is fostering nine cats alongside her four, said CARE arranged for 338 adoptions last year. The group also is responsible for having more than 730 cats spayed or neutered last year.
“Typically, we are caring for about 50 cats, but right now we have approximately 110 cats and kittens looking for a home,” said Pemberton, who works as a massage therapist. “We try to host adoption programs most weekends, but we’ve been so busy just taking care of the cats that’s hard to do.”
Those interested in adopting a cat or making a donation should check out the group at www.catzangelscare.org.
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Pemberton said CARE is certainly not the only group taking in pets displaced by the flood and encouraged people to help as many as possible. FurEver Home Inc., of Fremont, which takes in dogs, and the Dodge County Animal Shelter have done yeoman’s work, she said.
“We’re fortunate that our area has a lot of people who love animals,” she said. “We’ve felt a lot of community support whether its the city, the foundations that work with us or just people who give what they can and volunteer their time.”