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Frost-bitten cat rescued in West Kelowna

Okanagan Humane Society is working to build outdoor shelters for cats
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Shelter boxes for cats. (OHS)

Discovered in West Kelowna, Lenny the cat had severe frostbite to his ears and deep wounds on his head and forelimbs.

The tabby cat had been living on the streets, forced to endure the bitterly cold temperatures that have put the Okanagan in a deep freeze over the last week while his wounds were likely caused by an attack from a larger animal.

Lenny was finally captured by the Okanagan Humane Society (OHS), who managed to get veterinary care for him. Romany Runnalls, OHS president, believes that Lenny had been living in a wooded area nearby for many years after being lost or abandoned, if not born there.

“Lenny (meaning “brave lion”) endured a dangerous life with many risks,” explained Runnalls. “There are many lost, abandoned cats in our community along with many feral colonies that need our support in these frigid conditions in the Okanagan.”

In an attempt to support animals like Lenny, OHS has been building shelters as the temperatures have dropped to dangerously cold levels.

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Lenny the cat will no longer live outside. (OHS)

With the continuing cold snap, OHS is urging the community to be on the lookout for animals that may need human support and intervention.

“Unfortunately, due to the lack of spaying and neutering and the rapid reproduction rate of cats, feral (or stray) community cats are very common in our Okanagan communities both rural and urban areas,” said Runnalls.

Cats and dogs are domestic animals, whether tame or feral, they are not physically capable of hibernation, or slowing their metabolism to conserve body heat and go without food for extended periods such as bears. Therefore, they cannot survive cold temperatures without humans supplying food, water and shelter especially when prey sources are non-existent in winter for cats to hunt.

“Every year, our volunteers get together to build shelters for feral and stray cats that are trying to survive on their own,” said Runnalls.

The easy-to-assemble houses are built out of a thick-walled styrofoam box along with some straw for dryness and insulation. OHS doesn’t use hay or blankets as it can absorb moisture from the animals and environment, then freeze and can cause hypothermia.

OHS has a few tips for ensuring animals are kept safe this winter. Besides keeping them inside, dress animals appropriately with coats or sweaters when out for walks, limit time outside, use pet-safe booties to protect their sensitive paws from ice, salt and chemicals from deicers, provide proper nutrition and hydration, use reflective collars when walking in the dark and tap your car hood or honk your horn before starting your vehicle as cats will seek warmth under the hood or the car.

OHS supports communities from the Shuswap to Osoyoos and had a record-breaking year in 2023 helping more than 2,000 animals.

In 2023, the charity saw a 10 per cent increase in calls for help through the rescue program, a 12 per cent increase in requests through its pet assistance program and a nine per cent increase in its adoption program.

Currently, the charity is in need of foster homes, especially in the North and South Okanagan regions.

To become a foster for OHS, go to https://okanaganhumanesociety.com/ and fill out the volunteer form or email volunteer@okanaganhumanesociety.com.

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Jen Zielinski

About the Author: Jen Zielinski

Graduate of BCIT working in the field of journalism for 16 years
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