Wendi Stafford Wiegand
Wendi is one busy volunteer, not only for Pittsburgh CAT and HCMT but also on behalf of cats with organizations in her home area of Ellwood City, about an hour north of downtown Pittsburgh, and even outside of her volunteer work focuses on rescuing cats.
Already in 2015 she has had over 100 cats spayed or neutered, transported hundreds of cats to and from clinics, to and from foster homes and shelters and offsite adoption areas, constantly has a half dozen or more foster cats, 19 of which were adopted, and figures that in one way or another she has helped over a thousand cats recently.
Wendi found HCMT in summer 2014 when she dropped off a cat named Sarah she had accepted as an owner surrender who had a severe URI, was dehydrated and weighed only 3.3 pounds. Since then she has volunteered in post-op at every single HCMT clinic with her skills as a 2008 graduate of the Vet Tech Institute and often transported 10 or more rescued and feral cats from her area to the clinic for low cost spay or neuter and veterinary care. She fostered the kitty named Sarah through Pittsburgh CAT and in December 2014 began fostering cats and kittens for Pittsburgh CAT on top of her own house full of cats and foster cats and kittens from her area.
In her capacity as an Animal Control Officer for Ellwood City and Wayne Township and vice president of LC-ARF (Lawrence County Animal Relief Fund) she encounters many cats who need care and people who need low cost services with very little available in the area, transporting cats in some way four to five times a week and trapping once or twice a week. “We are working hard on the cat over population in Lawrence County targeting New Castle PA,” she said. “I took the job to be their voice especially for cats, as ferals are trapped and removed from the city and prior to me they were taken to the humane society and euthanized.” Many of the cats she encounters in her work in her area are the ones she transports to clinics and also which she rescues and either fosters in her own home or through another volunteer with Pittsburgh CAT, ultimately for adoption or, in the case of a few ferals, relocated.
Because of her skills as a vet tech she is able to foster ill or injured cats who need more care than others have the skills to provide. She can also bottle feed kittens but has only had one litter of bottle babies with Pittsburgh CAT. “Sadly I am sure there will be more.” And because she is so far north and transports so many cats to and from clinics she does a lot of temporary fostering, picking up and holding cats and kittens and providing care until the next clinic, after which they can go to their new foster home.
Wendi rolls her volunteering in with the work she has done since she and her husband bought their small farm in early 2012 when they began fostering, fixing and adopting out cats and kittens they'd rescued. Their farm also houses horses, donkeys, alpacas, and lots of poultry—and in fact she was recently certified as a poultry technician, and she also works on another farm caring for their horses.
In the past month Wendi has:
+Trapped, neutered and returned (TNR) over two dozen cats
+Trapped two very sick community cats who ended up needing to be put to sleep, one FeLV+, one neurological and crashing ( this is always a very hard decision to make )
+Emergency organized care for a pregnant cat distressed in labor for over 24 hours with no kittens (thank you Dr Becky Morrow for saving TipTat)
+Fostered/fostering 4 adult cats, 2 bottle kittens, 2 feral cats, and temp fostering the 4 abandoned kittens
+Done several transports getting kittens and cats from her area down closer to Pittsburgh to get into foster homes
+Rescued a feral cat that is having his eye removed (Thank you Dr Becky Morrow) who will need to stay and recover
+Relocated 2 feral cats to her farm
+Took three feral cats to Sandy Lake and set them up for relocation
+Distributed food donated to feral cat colonies in need.
She also makes phone calls several times a week to check vet and landlord references to get Pittsburgh CAT adoptable cats into great homes so they can save more. All while bottle feeding kittens, who at least are not on every-two-hour feedings any more but were for two weeks.
“My family is great!” Wendi says of the help she gets from her husband and sister. Her husband is the main financial support which enables her to do all her volunteer and farm work. He is also very supportive of what she does and even after he is done working he'll help in any way he can, riding with her or driving her, and even bottle feeding kittens when necessary. Her sister also lives with her and helps with the cats including bottle feeding, especially “giving all the pets the love and attention they deserve… because frankly I am not home that much, always on the go.”
Wendi's beginnings with cats were pretty grim. Her first cat was a cat named Puffy, adopted sworn to be a male, and my sister's cat sworn to be a male, who were inside/ outside cats and had four kittens one day apart. Wendi was maybe 5 to 6 years old and they were told to pick out a boy kitten and she doesn't know where the two mother cats went. Ying Yang was tragically killed by the neighbor's Dalmatian. Then her family had a big tom cat named Satan into her teenager years. Living on a farm they had friendly drop offs all the time they found homes for.
Also while growing up her neighbor who rented from them cared for a very large colony of sick but mostly friendly cats, who after he passed away were taken 4 to 6 a week to Tiger Ranch not too long before finding out the horrible news about the conditions there.
“I think that colony of sick cats where all the kittens would get sick and die is the reason for my love for cats, and pursuing the animal career field,” Wendi said. “Talking dozens of litters of kittens and only a handful ever lived each year.”
Right now she has five cats, her husband has one and her sister has 3 (all live together). Rescuing cats means a constant supply of cats, often ones with injuries or behavior problems who can't be adopted, as Wendi explains...
+Puddy I have had the longest. He came to me at 4 to 5 weeks old shot with a 22 through the front shoulders. Sadly his 3 litter mates were also shot and did not make it.
+Tiger Lilly was dropped off at my old Alpaca Farm management job with her five kittens, and did not adjust to life on the farm after being fixed and her kittens adopted out.
+Darth Vadar came from my old alpaca job when the doors closed and could not leave him behind.
+Maleficent is my youngest cat at under a year old. He was not coming around being socialized by me and it was decided he was going to be relocated to our barn to live as a feral cat, so the steps were taken and the day he was released he was distraught and even came to the front door meowing, he is now very friendly to myself and occasionally my husband but is feral to anyone else and likes to hiss at visitors.
+Panda Is my newest cat, he is estimated to be 8 years old and was living outside in a feral cat colony until just a few months ago. He gained trust of me in my bathroom and was being so nice and friendly, so he was put up for adoption, but when he got the new house he acted like a feral cat and scaled their walls and hissed at the adopters. After almost 2 weeks and losing 4 pounds he came back here and we decided he wanted to stay here, and he is now in the whole house and friendly to all of us and strangers.
Vinny was caught in a feral trap a few days after showing up to a colony of 7 who were already TNRd, and he had a limp. His rear right leg was severely injured and was infected, he was in surgery for well over an hour debriding all they could and sewing him back up as the injury was days old, he also has some broken toes that had healed and an irregular front shoulder (most likely broken then healed) he has Horner syndrome where his pupils are 2 different sizes, which is caused by head trauma. He is still here being fostered by me and his hair is almost back.
Rescuing cats also means a lot of hard work and some sad losses...
+I currently have a litter of four emaciated kittens that were dumped local to me along the side of the road, starving and dehydrated. They have located the people who did this (thank you Facebook) and are prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law.
+This one is sad and heart breaking...I got a call about 4 kittens who had their cords still attached and had “worms” coming out of them. Kittens were rushed to me and found the worms were maggots on these less than 4 day old kittens. Two sadly passed away in under 2 hours of me getting them, but at least had a full belly. The other 2 were rushed to Rainbow Vet where we all worked to debride them. They had them in their ears, vaginal and anal area as well as umbilical and arm pit areas. Capstar was used to help kill the maggots. Vet gave them a guarded prognosis and said if they lived passed 3 days they would have a better chance. We named them Buzz and Scuzz. Sadly they both passed away on day 3 after arrival just as their eyes were starting to open. Broke my heart, at least they passed being loved and cared for.
+I currently have 2 bottle kittens who were surrendered to WPHS at 2 weeks old. Sadly there were 4 and 2 passed away; a necropsy did not find a cause. They have been up and down, tiny, sick, crashing due to low blood sugar. They are 6 weeks old now and still not out of the woods yet. Losing a seemingly healthy kitten with no notice and then one crashing and passing away all in 3 hours is something one will never forget, especially after over a dozen litters of bottle kitten(s) and only ever losing the litter of 4 who had maggots.
Cat rescuing is a serious business, not for those with a weak heart or a weak stomach. Thanks to Wendi for all her hard work and skill in making life better for the thousands of cats she manages to help. So glad she's on our team.