Last ones out: wild animal sanctuary’s feral cats finally find new homes

A feral Katrina refugee gets a new lease on life as a barn catThe Wild Animal Orphanage (WAO) in Northwest San Antonio Texas was forced to close due to a financial crisis. 

The sanctuary is empty now.

It reminds us of a ghost town with the empty enclosures, quiet machinery and overgrown pathways. The only sound is birds singing in the trees.

After two long years, almost 400 animals from Texas have been placed in permanent sanctuaries throughout the United States.

A task force comprised of The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the United States Department of Agriculture, the Texas State Attorney General's Office Charitable Trust Division and eleven other groups, obtained placement for the animals.

It was a massive effort with much success, but there were still some animals left behind.

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina cats started showing up at the sanctuary where caretakers provided them with food and veterinary care.

Finding placement for 18 feral and semi-feral cats who had been “Katrina refugees” proved to be one of the most challenging efforts of all.

Phone call after phone call met with refusals to take on the cats.

All had been spayed or neutered but because they weren’t "lap cats", they weren’t suitable for adoption into new homes.

Time was running out.

Although the actual date turned out to be later, the caretakers’ last day was scheduled to be November 30th.

They despaired of finding placement for the cats and were broken-hearted at the prospect of leaving them behind.

IFAW’s Animal Rescue Program reached out to anybody who could possibly take on these 18 cats. 

Finally, at the 11th hour, placement was found and it was perfect!

On November 26th the Humane Society of Williamson County (HSWC) in Leander, Texas readily agreed to take the cats into their Barn Cat Program and would travel the two hours to come get them.

The Barn Cat Program collaborates with those who have a working barn or safe, heated outbuilding.

Having barn cats help keep down the rodent population. It’s a win-win solution; the cats help the property owner, while the property owner provides the cats with a safe place to live and veterinary care.

And, because these cats are already spayed or neutered, the property owner won't have to worry about litters of kittens. The program is ideal for this situation because these cats are acustomed to outside life and probably wouldn’t be happy in an indoor environment.

WAO caretaker, Michelle said,

“We are happy to report that all of the cats are now at the Humane Society of Williamson County!  We spent the weekend of December 1st and 2nd trapping. Amazingly, we managed to capture 15 of the 18 cats, using various methods.

My favorite, by far, was an idea that (fellow WAO caretaker) Mary came up with when one of the traps wasn't tripping, due to damage done to it, earlier, by some of the monkeys.  Mary decided to go `old school’--think of a cardboard box, a stick, and a carrot.  The funny thing is that this trap was the most successful!

After capturing the cats, we put them in one of the chimp buildings for safe-keeping. Gina Benner from HSWC came down on the 3rd to pick them up.  Luckily, she is a ninja-master with the net. They were loaded into `feral cat boxes’, which the Humane Society uses in order to provide a safe spot for the cats to hide in.  The boxes are actually very clever and it was amazing how quickly the cats calmed, once they were placed inside.

We still had three cats remaining at the sanctuary.  Mary and I earned our badges in patience with this lot.  Eventually, we trapped each of them up and put them in collapsible crates in the office.  On December 11th, we drove the cats up to Leander and dropped them off.  Mission accomplished! Thank you so much for helping us out with this.  It is such a relief that everyone found a home!”

HSWC is in the process of testing the cats for diseases, micro-chipping them and updating their vaccinations.

IFAW provided the Humane Society with a grant to help with transportation costs and veterinary care.

HSWC has already had interest in the cats, but plan on really starting to offer them up for adoption starting in January.

Now all the animals at WAO have been placed and we can be satisfied with a job well done.


For more information about our animal rescue work around the world, visit our campaign page.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
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Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
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Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
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Shannon Walajtys
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Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
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