Animal abandonment, particularly of cats, is a recurring problem in the area, with many being left near farms or in other remote areas.
Mary Meyer, 14, of St. Marys, recently came face-to-face with this problem while walking with her mother, Donna, and dog, Malu, near her home in the Benzinger Road area on the evening of June 19.
"We got to the end of our driveway, which is about four tenths of a mile long, when a kitten jumped out of the woods," Meyer said. "We heard more meowing and realized that there were actually four kittens left alone in the woods. My mom and I did not know what to do at first, so I ran my dog back to my house and put him away and then grabbed a bag of cat food.
When I ran back, my mom was still trying to get the kittens in order to pet them. We gave them food, and it looked like they hadn't eaten in a while. They were about four weeks old and extremely skinny."
Meyer and her mother made several phone calls to try to figure out what to do about the kittens, and ultimately decided that they did not want to leave them alone in the woods to fend for themselves.
"Both of us felt bad leaving them alone in the woods without any shelter, so I ran back to my house to get our pet taxi. When I got back to the area of our driveway where the kittens were, it was very difficult to catch any of them. After about four hours of trying to gain their trust, we were only able to get two of the kittens," Meyer said.
The Meyers took those two kittens back to their house and kept them in their garage, providing them with food and water. The also continued to try to catch the other two kittens.
"My mom and I took the pet taxi back to the wooded area where we found the kittens so that the two we weren't able to catch would have food and a comfortable place to stay. After two days, we didn't think we would find the other two kittens, but on June 21 we found them and, with the help of our neighbor, were able to coax them close enough to grab them," Meyer said. "It was a good feeling knowing they were all safe, but sad knowing someone intentionally left them alone without any food or water."
When the kittens were found, Meyer described them as being "extremely scared, very hungry, and so thin you could feel their rib cages." She added that they were also very skittish around people.
Unfortunately, Meyer noted that the incident is not an unusual occurrence in the area.
"We've heard from other people in this area that they've also found kittens that were abandoned," Meyer said.
Animal abandonment levels in the county have remained fairly steady over the past several years, according to Elk County Humane Police Officer JoAnne Smith. Smith explained that the period from June through August is prime 'kitten season,' a problem seen at animal shelters across the country. While Smith explained that some mother cats drive their kittens away when they are old enough, which she indicated is normal, she added that there are also a number of irresponsible pet owners who will abandon the animals because they do not want to care for them.
Spaying and neutering animals can help prevent the problem, and Smith encourages pet owners to contact their vet to have their animals altered to prevent them from reproducing.
"A female cat can have an average of three litters a year, four if there is a mild winter," Smith said.
Along with having the procedure done at a veterinarian's office, Smith has also recommended individuals take their pets to the Allegheny Spay/Neuter Clinic in Clearfield. She noted that the Elk County Humane Society is currently still in the process of raising the necessary funds to outfit their shelter.
While the Meyers do not know who abandoned the kittens near their home, they are actively trying to find them new, loving homes.
"These kittens need a good home. They need someone that can spend a lot of time with them and give them love," Meyer said. "We have a cat and a dog and it's very hard to give all of them the necessary attention."
Meyer added that, while the kittens were skittish at first, they have since become accustomed to people and are friendly and playful.
"'Charlie' is black-and-grey-striped with calico on her back. She was the first kitten we caught and is one one of the friendliest and is very playful. 'Rabbit' is also a girl with black and grey stripes and was one of the last kittens we found, but has become one of the friendliest too. 'M' is a black-and-grey-striped female who likes to run around and play, but is still somewhat scared. She will let you pet her when she eats. 'Pooh' is the only male and is orange in color. He likes to be petted, but does not like to be held," Meyer said.
Anyone interested in adopting any of the four kittens found by the Meyers can contact Donna Meyer at 814-335-5630.
Pick up a copy of the Saturday, July 16, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.