It’s hard even for us to believe, but today marks Cat Busters Animal Rescue’s 10th anniversary. Since our modest beginning as a team of 5 in 2004, we’ve somehow managed to rescue nearly 500 animals. That’s a lot of lives changed through sheer dedication and compassion. We hope you’ll indulge us a little pat on the back as we survey the 10 years of hard work. None of this would have been possible without volunteers — you amazing, wonderful people who have worked with us over the years and the new faces we hope to meet in the future. We celebrate you as much as the 10 years of happy tails.
To commemorate this milestone, Cat Busters’ CEO and founder, Adrienne Bentley, participated in this brief Q&A about the group’s origins and colorful history:
How did you get started with animal rescue work?
I’ve always loved animals and as a child rescued any strays (or what I thought were strays), in my neighborhood. During the winter of 1999 I ran into a friend of mine on the subway, who was also a cat rescuer. She mentioned to me that she was fostering a blind kitten for Toronto Cat Rescue. Having just seen a fundraising special on television about the Toronto Humane Society and fostering, I had been considering volunteering to do that. At the time I was unaware of the existence of independent rescue groups other than the Humane Society shelters, the Ontario SPCA and a local Toronto organization, Animal Rescue Mission (ARM), long gone now. So finding out about Toronto Cat Rescue and subsequently all the other rescue organizations, was wonderful. I asked her to send me a contact for TCR, and within a week, I was fostering my first cat for TCR. The rest as they say, is history.
How did Cat Busters come to be?
Initially, myself and Mary Anne started discussing the idea of spinning off. At the time we were both volunteering and fostering with TCR. It was then as it is now, a very large group, involved in many avenues of animal rescue. At the time, (April 2004) the COO of TCR made the decision that they were no longer going to be involved in rescuing animals from an animal services shelter that were slated for euthanasia. Both Mary Anne and I felt this was unacceptable, so after some discussion, we decided to start up CBAR. CBAR’s first rescues were all from a high kill shelter outside of Toronto.
How did the group get its name?
CBAR initially started up to rescue animals basically on death row in animal control shelters. Our name came from the concept we were busting them out of jail, to freedom and safety. I wanted to call us Cat Lovers Animal Rescue, Diane suggested Feline Animal Rescue Team (FART), but we ended up with Cat Busters Animal Rescue as a result of a being outvoted at an Exec. Meeting.
How do you balance the demands of volunteer work with your day job?
It’s very hard to do. I go to work for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, usually spend at least 4 hours an evening dealing with CBAR business, (answering phone calls or emails, researching for various fundraising and grant opportunities as well as other things) and spending time with both my own pets, and the cats I am fostering for CBAR. My time on weekends is usually spent doing the same. All our senior volunteers have it slightly easier, as they do not have to deal with the communications aspect of the group.
What’s the most unusual animal Cat Busters has taken in?
Although we primarily rescue felines, we are not restricted to just cats/kittens, we want to help all animals in need. The most unusual animal we have placed was a red-eared slider turtle, Matilda. She was one of four I personally had rescued prior to even being in TCR. I had kept the four as pets, for several years, as I didn’t know what else to do with them. Eventually I found out about an organization that was releasing them back into a conservation area, in the southern US, where they would be safe. By the time it was Matilda’s turn, they were no longer doing that out of Toronto. By this time I had started CBAR, so we added her to our available for adoption internet listings, and a really good home came up for her. We have also placed some fish as well as found homes for two rabbits. The animals we take in to help are really dependent on the foster homes we have. Currently, all we have are people willing to foster cats and kittens, so felines are all we can really help. I took on fostering the rabbits, so we were able to help them as well.
Are there any special rescues who have left a lasting impression on you?
There are many rescues that have lasting impressions on me. I remember in some degree or another, every cat we have taken in (over 400 in the ten years), where they have come from, their names etc. Some rescues are most certainly more memorable than others, usually due to the circumstances they were rescued from. Tripod, the three legged wonder, who returned to her family (of course we didn’t know for sure at time the kittens were her family), injured and still managed to protect them. Tripod’s kittens, who I fostered and bottle fed. Emma, the attack kitty, who was found by a teenager tied up to a tree in a very infrequently visited area of High Park. When I agreed to foster her, she was aggressive towards people, would scratch and bite if she felt cornered, and scared of other cats. She decided to accept my affection, and only mine, for the longest time, anyone else would get growled at, and if she felt cornered, scratched. As we determined she was a safety risk to others, at the time of her rescue, I offered to adopt her. After five years, Emma is a happy cat, who likes other cats and my dog, and is pretty good with most other people.
How do you personally cope with the sheer volume of animals needing help?
It’s hard for me to personally cope, but I must. The only way I can cope is to put things in perhaps a prioritizing perspective. As the CEO of CBAR, I am ultimately responsible for the well being of all the animals we currently have in our foster homes. The pressure is always on me to make the decisions about when we can help an animal and when we can’t. I’ve found the best way is think of the animals we already have in our foster homes. Will bringing one more into an already crowded foster home stress out the animals already there? If the answer is yes, then we can’t take the animal in outright. The best I can do then is to offer other placement alternatives, or the option of our owner/foster program.
What is your proudest moment as a Cat Busters founder?
I think maybe one of my proudest moments was when we were able to step up even though we didn’t really have the space in our foster homes, to save 16 out of 25 cats (the other 9 were accepted by two other rescue groups), that were going to be euthanized by another rescue organization as they were deemed to be unadoptable. We have all found homes for all the cats deemed to be “unadoptable”. I even adopted one of these lovely natured cats.
What are the best ways people can make a difference?
Beyond the usual responses of financial donations, or responsible pet ownership, (getting their pets spayed or neutered and keeping them in), and of course, fostering. One of the best ways people can make a difference is to give up a few hours (even if only monthly), to volunteer with a rescue group. We all need help. Anything from spending four hours a month at an adoption day, to writing copy for advertising or special event posters, to spending a few hours in a foster home with some of the shy cats so they can get used to other people. It doesn’t have to be a lot, and every minute someone volunteers is valuable.