It’s kitten season in Edmonton
“Springtime … it’s when most of the litters come,” says Ashley Lee, co-founder of the Whitecourt Homeless Animal Rescue Foundation (WHARF).
“We’re always really full because there are so many pregnant moms. I did intake on about 65 cats last month,” she says.
North Americans don’t have a tendency to treat street cats with as much reverie as other demographics, but they do fare somewhat better here than elsewhere in the world. Often, cats are expected to rely on their wild abilities to survive, but there are dozens of rescue organizations in Alberta looking out for our furry compatriots. Most are operating on the outskirts of cities and towns, or right out in the middle of rural nowhere, and to adopt the animals is difficult from this distance.
Lee, who dreamt of owning a pet store, and her sister Tessa, who wanted a cafe, founded WHARF together nine years ago and in 2011, moved into a space in the urban epicentre of 124 Street. The south side of the store space turned into The Clever Rabbit Cafe and next door is where Ashley’s pet store and WHARF found a home.
The Clever Rabbit Cafe offers Lee the equipment to bake homemade pet treats to sell next door at WHARF, along with all the supplies needed for animal friends. While people shop, they get to meet, and often fall in love with the animals in the shop.
“I adopt way more black cats from the store than I do off the website, just because of personality. When people look on the website, they look for the prettiest, or the flashiest cat,” says Lee. “When they meet them in person, they’re like, ‘oh my god, this cat’s so friendly and he’s so playful,’ and then they fall in love.”
With the weakened economy, adoptions have become tougher. Many WHARF cats have been surrendered by owners and financial restraints are often the reason. It’s more than the initial spay/neuter, food and supplies bills that ends an owner/pet relationship—a cat’s lifetime can rack up painful vet bills. For first-time owners, this can come as a complete shock and those not prepared for the significant costs are forced to surrender their animals. That was the case with Elliot, who is now healed and up for adoption.
“He came into care, he had two broken legs. He got hit by a car and that was a very hefty bill,” says Lee, ballparking it at $2,700 after the vet discount WHARF receives. “We still haven’t paid that one off yet.”
There are dozens of cats, dogs and small animals you can peruse at wharfrescue.ca, but even if it’s just some animal bonding time (yes, you can open kennels and pet or play with the cats always begging for more love), stop by this quaint animal shelter in the heart of the city.
Whitecourt Homeless Animal Rescue Foundation (WHARF)
10724 124 St.