Cat rescue is this woman’s fancy

Published: September 11, 2006 | 4718th good news item since 2003

When a stray cat wanders into a backyard, possibly looking for something to eat, some people don’t take notice. However, when this happened to a Sacramento area woman nearly 10 years ago, it changed her life.

The backyard belongs to Ann Dickson, a woman who rescues stray and unwanted felines in her spare time. However, Dickson didn’t always have an interest in cats, and vice versa.

“Most cats I met prior to 1995 just didn’t seem to like me,” Dickson said with a laugh.

Dickson, a 52-year-old state employee at the Department of General Services in West Sacramento, said she was scratched, hissed at and almost spit on by other cats so “getting into cats must have been something a great power had planned for me.”

Dickson acknowledges that while she didn’t like cats at the time, she would never have thought to hurt one.

“I felt sorry for the skinny little boy and began to put a little leftover food along with the crumbs,” Dickson said. “I was warned by my husband that he would become our cat if I continued to feed him. Well, I didn’t think that would happen, especially with my plan to have him neutered.”

After her initial experience, Dickson said she knew she had to get involved in the protection and general health of defenseless cats.

Ann’s home became a foster retreat for various cats of different ages. She and her husband, Herman, eventually added a 700 square foot extension onto their home to make sure they had plenty of room to care for their rescued felines.

In 1998, the couple took their mission one step further and created their own organization called Cause For Paws, dedicated to the vaccination, spay/neuter and adoption of rescued cats.

“I’m responsible for taking care of all the kittens and cats in foster care. [This includes] vet care, food, litter and many other needed supplies.” Dickson said. “We have an adoption site which is run every Saturday and is a 50 mile round trip for me.”

Spay and neuter of feral and domesticated cats is an integral part of Cause For Paws. A female cat that is not sterile is capable of having three litters of kittens in a year, which is a heavy tax on her body. In turn, male cats will fight, disable and even kill other males when they are vying for the attention of females in heat, said Gerry Clark, a feline rescuer and fellow State employee.

The operations also keep the population of feral and domesticated cats in check.

“The clinic was sponsored by the Sacramento SPCA, and when I went in, Ann greeted me with enthusiasm,” said Josh Hicks, a coworker of Dickson’s. “She gave me shots for my kittens at her cost and she’s very knowledgeable.”

Dickson is equally vocal about the adoption of her foster cats, which are kept at her home as well as in a small network of other foster homes.

“To the best of my ability I work on placing the kitties in the best homes I can find,” Dickson said.

Anyone can adopt as long as they meet the following criteria: the cats must be ‘indoor only’ for life, no de-clawing of the cats, and the pet deposit must be paid if the owner of the cat rents their home, the owner must be willing to make a true commitment, and be willing to pay an adoption fee.

As long as Dickson knows her client is truly ready to accept the responsibility of adopting, she will go out of her way to find his or her feline match.

“My boyfriend and I were looking for a female orange tabby, because he had always wanted one,” said Sara Horr, a client of Dickson’s.

The couple got in touch with Dickson and she e-mailed them a picture of the exact cat they were looking for. However, “she was very careful about the health of the cat and said it needed its shots and to be spayed. She gave it its first set of kitten vaccinations,” Horr said.

Dickson’s cause is not always an easy or joyful one. Clark recalls a perilous occasion where “there was a cat trapped on a freeway onramp. Ann risked her life to save it.”

It was Halloween and Dickson was dressed as a nun that year.

“I don’t think [drivers on the freeway] knew if I was real nun or not and I just sort of walked across saying ‘Sorry, I need to get over here,’” Dickson said. “I don’t think I would have ever spotted [the cat]… the coloring of her fur blended into the pavement very well.”

Ann and Herman Dickson have dedicated themselves to feline rescue for 12 years and are planning to retire from fostering next year. In 2005, Clark nominated the couple for the SSPCA Humanitarian Award, which they won. They have also spayed and neutered approximately 1,800 feral cats and adopted out at least 1,200 friendly cats and kittens.

Dickson may never have expected to spend so many years of her life saving animals, but has improved the lives of thousands of feral and domestic cats as well as creating countless bonds of love between her clients and their perfect feline matches.

Published in Animals, Life, Volunteer
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