Nfld. & Labrador

Two cat lovers in Dildo trying to help ease overpopulation problem

At a humble home in Dildo two women are trying to help cats and kittens find a home, in an area with no animal shelter.

An animal shelter in the area is badly needed, say the founders of People For Paws

Stray cats

6 years ago
Duration 1:35
It's a lot of work, but Denise Sooley-Critch and her friend Chyrl Newhook are crazy about cats. They rescue cats in the Dildo area and they say the need is great.

At a humble home in Dildo, two women are surrounded by cats and kittens in cages. These are not crazy cat ladies — but rather two people just trying to help what they say is a rampant overpopulation problem in the area, when no one else will.

"It's very, very bad," said Denise Sooley-Critch, the founder of People for Paws. "I can't tell you how many messages I get a day, and phone calls about kittens and cats. We had 17 here the other day."

The home belongs to Chyrl Newhook, Sooley-Critch's partner in helping abandoned and feral cats and kittens.

"Dildo is bad. Someone said they counted a hundred different cats," said Sooley-Critch.

Denise Sooley-Critch (left) and Chyrl Newhook in Dildo give a kitten its medication. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

15 years of helping animals

Sooley-Critch began helping cats and kittens about 15 years ago, but it started with a stray dog. The people who found it wanted to keep the dog, but couldn't afford to get it fixed.

"I play guitar and sing, and I went to a local grocery where we have lots of traffic, and I busked and I raised enough money to have the dog neutered, and they kept it," she said.

And not long after, she helped her first cat, thanks to some Barbie dolls a friend gave her.

"I auctioned off the Barbies and made enough money to get that one spayed," said Sooley-Critch.

The Dildo area is overrun with abandoned or feral kittens and cats, says Sooley-Critch. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Now, the group uses online auctions on Facebook to raise money. Sooley-Critch scours second-hand stores and flea markets for items to auction off, and it takes quite a bit of money to keep the operation going.

"For cat food, for medications, we could probably be up to $200 a week, a week-and-a-half," said Newhook.

They said the 17 cats was pretty much the limit they could handle at Newhook's house and that the area is badly in need of an animal shelter. 

Newhook and Sooley-Critch both have full-time jobs, and say the work they do with the felines takes up most of the rest of their time.

People for Paws carefully screens anyone looking to adopt a cat or kitten. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

"It is all about the cats and the kittens. I'm supposed to be to a family supper today. I probably won't get a chance to go there. And that's it. The kittens come first, and people realize that about me. When we help one kitten get into a home, it makes it all worth it," said Sooley-Critch.

Newhook echoed that sentiment.

"It makes you feel good. We've brought in some very sick kittens here. When you see them doing well... it's worth every bit of it."

A good owner is hard to find

They said if people are going to be responsible pet owners, they have to think about the cost of taking good care of the animal.

"You have got to check out the prices of spaying and neutering, because that is so important. So maybe start saving ahead. And I think we need some lower cost spaying and neutering," said Sooley-Critch.

Sooley-Critch and Newhook say the Dildo area is in need of an animal shelter. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

Newhook said they get calls from people looking for cats and kittens who just aren't equipped to handle the responsibility.

"Missus was in a boarding house. She had one room and she wanted two cats. And it's not happening... you've got to really screen people."

And Newhook does: she's the heavy when it comes to letting the cats and kittens go. You have to agree to sign adoption papers to have the animal spayed or neutered, and friend her on Facebook so she can check up on you.

They said there are others who help them out with the animals from time to time, and some who drop off items for the auctions, but they bear the lion's share of the load.

"Housework is a thing of the past. I don't even have time for housework anymore."

People for Paws doesn't have a website, but Sooley-Critch and Newhook can both be reached on their personal Facebook pages.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Glenn Payette

Videojournalist

A veteran journalist with more than 30 years' experience, Glenn Payette is a videojournalist with CBC News in St. John's.

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