Weasel the kitten was rescued from a cat colony a few months ago and now enjoys snuggling in the arms of his rescuer and foster mother, Heather Suhadolnik of Binghamton.
A black and white charmer, Weasel is one of more than 150 stray cats and kittens who are rescued annually by Lava’s Lost & Forgotten Felines, a non-profit organization founded and headed by Suhadolnik and now in its third year of operation.
“We focus primarily on trap, neuter and release and community outreach,” Suhadolnik said. “The mission is to stop the breeding and stop the overpopulation on the city streets.”
A lifelong animal lover, Suhadolnik grew up on a farm on Long Island where she discovered her passion for helping animals. If she found an injured baby fox or turtle, she would nurse the creature back to health and then release it back into the wild, she said.
A Binghamton resident for more than 30 years, Suhadolnik became concerned about the number of stray cats roaming the streets and wanted to help them.
Suhadolnik does most of the trapping herself. Most of the cat trapping is done in or around the city of Binghamton but she has also trapped cats as far away as Owego and Norwich, she said.
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Cats are then spayed or neutered. Cats that are very feral and wild are released. Kittens, young cats and more friendly cats are socialized in four foster homes run by Lava’s volunteers. Suhadolnik’s own home is one of the foster homes. Approximately 30 kittens and ten adult cats are being fostered right now with plans for later adoption, she said.
Every cat and kitten gets a name. Some are named after popular movies. Weasel was part of the Dead Pool litter, named after the movie, “Dead Pool.” His littermates include Vanessa and Jackson, characters in the movie. Suhadolnik has also named litters after the Hobbit and Harry Potter movies.
They’ve faced some tough times. Many of the cats roaming the streets used to have owners but were abandoned, Suhadolnik said.
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“People move and just leave them behind,” she said of the cats.
People think the cats can fend for themselves on the streets. But they don’t realize that a single female cat can have four litters per year or approximately 20 kittens, she said.
“It’s amazing how fast they can multiply,” she said of the cats.
Some people feed the strays but if the cats aren’t spayed or neutered, they will just keep having more kittens. One or two cats quickly turns into 20 or 40 cats. That results in a cat colony — a large group of cats living outside.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” Suhadolnik said.
Rescuing the cats is a lot of work, she said.
“It’s very time-consuming, very frustrating at times,” she said. “The end result is rewarding.”
Sometimes, people who have adopted the cats send her pictures, she said. The same cat that was all “hiss and spit” before it was fostered and socialized is now cuddling in their owner’s lap. That makes all of the hard work worthwhile.
More about Heather Suhadolnik
Hometown: Center Moriches in Long Island
Family: Husband, Paul; one daughter, three stepchildren and six grandchildren
Career: Real estate agent and paralegal
How to Help: The rescue is always in need of cat food, supplies such as kitty litter, monetary donations for vet bills and volunteers willing to foster cats. The rescue runs entirely on donations and does not receive any outside funding.
Donations for vet bills can be made at Dickin Memorial Animal Hospital, 2001 East Main St., Endicott; through Venmo under the name of Heather Suhadolnik or by contacting the rescue on Facebook under Lava’s Lost & Forgotten Felines. There is also an Amazon wish list for needed items on the Facebook page.