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Kimberly Carbone Cares About the Strays

September 26, 2007

BY Kathryn A. Burger of Community Life

There is never a shortage of rescued animals in need of permanent homes. Rescuers who eschew traditional shelters where hundreds of animals are euthanized every year in favor of an organization that has a no-kill policy, know they can count on C.A.T.S. to take in the animals they’ve rescued.

One such rescuer is Kim Carbone, of the township. This young woman has been officially “rescuing” for about three years, although she actually began as a little girl. “I’ve always cared for animals and rescued them with my mother since I was a little girl. She’d keep dog biscuits in the glove compartment of the car in case she found a stray.”

And while these rescues were to influence her volunteer work as an adult, it was her successful battle against cancer as a youngster that she feels guided her efforts. “I nearly died during a bone marrow transplant in 1992,” she said. After her recovery, she said she began wondering why, “she was spared when other kids weren’t so fortunate.” She believes she found the reason. “Now I know why, and the job I need to do is to take care of God’s creatures.” That belief is confirmed each time she rescues an animal — and she does it frequently.

THE DEFINING MOMENT

She said she started rescuing cats in earnest because of a job. “I started a job in Fort Lee and cats were all over, roaming the streets, homeless, abandoned and also in feral colonies. [Feral is used to describe domestic cats that have returned to the “wild” and live without human attention.]” Concerned about this and wanting to prevent litters from developing, she did her research on how to go about it and then, she said, she, “went off on my own to save the ones that crossed my path.” And that is how it all began. She helped relocate 50 cats that had been living on the former Helmsley property near the George Washington Bridge . “Then, my name and phone number got around and spread like wildfire. When I helped one person, that person gave my number to another in need of help with feral cats.”

Feral cats cannot be adopted. The best rescuers can do is “TNR” them — Trap, Neuter, Release. But kittens found with adult feral cats can be. Her connection to C.A.T.S. was solidified when she was called to an apartment complex, again in Fort Lee , to TNR about 30 cats. “I rescued about 20 kittens from there and they were all adopted out by C.A.T.S.” She joined C.A.T.S. because, “they are a caring group and they really try to help others.”

In all, Cabone has taken care of close to 200 cats. “Some I’ve found homes for, some [ferals] have been neutered and secured outdoors with shelter and a steady supply of food.”

THE STORY OF CHARLIE

Carbone shared this story of a recent rescue. An older couple from Hillsdale called the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop and asked for help trapping four kittens, and some feral cats for TNR. “When I got there, there were four four-week-old kittens stuck in between two rotted fences. The mother had hidden them there while she went looking for food. I took them right away but the mother cat saw me so I trapped her, too. I got her spayed and released her back there. The four kittens were adopted out through C.A.T.S.

“But the couple told me told me about another cat. They said he was friendly and always hanging around so they fed him. They said a woman who had lived across the street had been feeding him for about 10 years but she had moved away a few months before. The couple said the cat would wait by their door, waiting to come in, but they didn’t want pets in the house. I told them I’d be back for him when I could.”

Then, a short time later, she got a call from the couple — something had happened to the cat. His back was raw. They said crows had been swooping down on him, pecking his back and he couldn’t fight back. They begged her to come, and, of course, she did.

“I carefully picked him up and brought him to the Bergen Animal Hospital in Teaneck where Dr. [Harriet G.] Lederman took such wonderful care of him.” All through the extensive examination — including taking blood and checking his teeth — he was purring. “Dr. Lederman said, ‘What a wonderful cat he is! A sweetheart — he was definitely owned by someone.’ ” She found he’d been neutered, but told Carbone, “He cannot be returned to the outdoors; he is too old and in delicate condition. He won’t survive another winter outdoors. If you don’t take him, I will.”

Dr. Lederman found that he has the feline AIDS virus and hyperthyroidism. Most of his teeth were rotten and had to be pulled. “Charlie” as he is now known, stayed with Dr. Lederman for a month. When Carbone picked him up, she was charged considerably less than the actual cost of Charlie’s care. “Dr. Lederman knows I do this out of my own pocket, and heart,” Carbone said.

A picture of Charlie and his story were posted on the C.A.T.S. Web site and almost immediately, Carbone got a call from a woman anxious to adopt him even though he was old and had health issues. Carbone said, “Not many people would take a cat in his state,” since he was probably about 13 years old and needed medication.”

The woman had cats and dogs of her own. She lived on Long Beach Island — a long trip — but Carbone said she’d bring him down. As it turned out, Charlie didn’t stay long. She got a call from the tearful woman a few days later. She said she’d already fallen in love with him, but Charlie hated her dogs. So she went back and picked him up. He’s now at the C.A.T.S. Resale Shop, waiting for his “forever home,” as the volunteers say.

Carbone says Charlie loves cats and people. “He’ll sleep in your arms like a baby or on your lap for hours. He just wants love all the time.” This writer went to see Charlie and Carbone is absolutely right. As I crouched down to pet another cat, in a matter of seconds, Charlie made himself at home in my lap. Lynn Cancro, the founder of C.A.T.S., said, “He’s got radar. He knows when there’s a lap around. He’s such a wonderful cat. All he wants is love.” Charlie snuggled and purred. I have no doubt he would have stayed right where he was if I hadn’t had to leave.

THREE LITTLE KITTENS

In addition to several adult cats up for adoption at the shop, there are three recently rescued kittens that Carbone would like to find homes for. They were turned over to her recently, along with several other cats and kittens, by a local woman who is now too ill to take care of them. She took the time to tell me about these three [see photos] even though she is currently working on relocating a colony of about 30 feral cats in Fort Lee and a colony of about 20 from New Milford. Interested readers can contact the shop for more information.

C.A.T.S.

Although she’s been called a, “cat lady,” a term she hates, she is undaunted. “I consistently endure people who aren’t really animal lovers. They roll their eyes at me, or laugh or think what I’m doing is a waste of time.” Some even tell her they think saving cats is pointless, that she should be rescuing dogs since they are “better” animals.

“But I tell them, ‘Show me a dog that needs rescuing and I’ll rescue it – a horse, a bird, a rabbit — they are all the same to me.”

She, like the other C.A.T.S. volunteers, long for the day when a local cage-less, no-kill shelter is a reality. “If I ever struck it rich, I’d buy whatever land we have left and reserve it as a forest and garden,” for the strays. She recounted some truly alarming and gruesome incidents of “feral cat control” perpetrated by people who had no concern for the animals. Until legislators improve funding and strengthen the laws protecting animals, she’d like to see New Jersey, especially Bergen County , invest in more spay and neuter vans to help control the feral cat population. “It’s next to impossible for people like me to get affordable prices for neutering when it comes to stray or feral animals.” Carbone works as a medical technician — “human medicine,” she said. “I know it doesn’t seem like I’d have the time, but I do work full-time.”

HER MISSION

Carbone said that after she survived Hodgkin’s disease, she’d felt “lost” and wondered why she’d been spared. She doesn’t wonder anymore. On more than one occasion, she said she felt she had been “sent to the right place at the right time,” to rescue animals. “I will continue to do what I do for these poor creatures. Their situation is one that we humans have put them in.” She is rewarded when she releases cats she has TNR’d back to their territory, knowing they will not have any more litters. “A few less kittens will suffer the horrible life of street living.”

It’s also rewarding when people she helps say, “Thank God for you.”

“That helps me to feel a little less lost at the end of the day.”