It might be a stretch to call Darcy Albert the Mother Teresa of cats, but not by much. To hundreds of abandoned, sick and disadvantaged felines of the Flathead Valley, she is the only reason they are alive.
Take the case of the “burn-pile” kitties. A little over a week ago, a farmer near Swan Lake had just started a pile of brush on fire when he heard faint squeaks coming from the pile. He quickly hosed out the fire, dug through the debris, and found four tiny, frightened orange kitties — all singed but still alive.
First the farmer brought the kitties to the Flathead County Animal Shelter, where he was told the county didn’t take feral cats, and the kitties likely would be euthanized. Next, he took them to the Humane Society of Northwest Montana, where he was told the Society could not take kitties that young.
Fortunately, the farmer heard of Kitty MOM’s Rescue, the organization founded and operated by Albert. Albert immediately began nursing the kitties back to health. Although one cat was burned badly, they all survived — and two of them have been reserved for adoption.
“I was worried about smoke inhalation and one was singed pretty bad on his feet and under his tail,” says Albert. “He will be vet checked on June 18th. They’re all eating well and thriving. The one that has singe damage to his tail may lose half of his tail.”
Since 2008, Albert has nursed, nurtured and adopted out 150 or more cats a year through her Kitty MOM’s Rescue Organization, Inc. While other organizations — such as the Humane Society of Northwest Montana — adopt out healthy kittens and adult cats — Albert has earned a reputation as the go-to person for abandoned. and often unhealthy. strays.
“I like to think that we respond on a moment’s notice to emergencies,” says Albert. “Any little sick or injured cats, we’ll take in a minute. We take the cats that are on the streets or in the barn or in the woods. We specialize in little street kitties that are hungry and cold and abandoned.
“We always make room for them.”
In addition to the burn-pile kitties, Albert’s recent litters of rescue kittens include:
- Three severely dehydrated kitties found under a boat tarp in Kokanee Bend, near Columbia Falls. They were found motherless, and after sweltering under the tarp for several days could barely move. They have now been nursed back to health and two have been reserved for adoption.
- Six kittens were found near Whitefish Stage Road. The mother was killed, and it was clear that she had recently been nursing. A couple spent four days searching for the kittens before finally hearing a faint squeak under the floors of a shed. “They tore up the floor expecting to find a couple kittens,” says Albert. “Instead, they found a pile of six kittens.”
The kittens were starving and listless. Their eyes were sunken from dehydration and several of them couldn’t even lift their heads. Albert doubts they would have lived more than another couple hours.
The kittens were brought to Albert on a Sunday night. She warmed the tiny kitties, rubbed Karo syrup on their gums to increase their blood sugar levels, and fed them Pedialyte with an eyedropper. Albert and her husband, Bob, nursed the kitties through the night and all the next day.
“You have to start out a drop at a time, every hour,” says Albert. “By 6 o’clock Monday they were eating — and eating well.”
Over the week, the kittens grew from 7 ounces to a pound, and are now five of the six have been pre-adopted.
- An abandoned pregnant cat was at a home in Empire Estates, two days later giving birth to six kittens. Albert was able to quickly nurse the kittens to full health, and were adopted by new families the third week of May.
- Another pair of kittens were brought in after their mother was killed on Highway 93 near Murdoch’s Ranch and Home. They were heading toward the highway to find their mother before being picked up by a good Samaritan named David Ford and brought to Kitty Mom’s. Albert named the kittens Murdoch and Ford, and they were soon adopted by a family with two boys who are thrilled with their new pets.
- Another recent litter were strays found near the Mountain Villa condo complex in Kalispell. Their mother, a feral cat, avoided capture, but the three kittens were caught. They remain skittish, but are healthy and one has been adopted.
As one of Albert’s main objectives is lowering the number of neglected and suffering cats in the Flathead, all her cats and kittens are spayed or neutered prior to being adopted out.
Ironically, Albert’s background is with dogs, not cats. She has taught dog obedience classes for 38 years. It wasn’t until after she retired from a 30-year career with Century Tel that the Humane Society asked her to bottle-feed four needy little kittens.
“I knew nothing about kitties,” she says. “Every time we ran into a problem or didn’t understand a behavior, we looked it up. We did our homework. “
And the more she learned about cats, the more she appreciated them.
“They’re clean, they’re smart, they bury their poop,” she says. “They’re such survivors. I’m just blown away by what they can do and what they can tolerate and still survive.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Her rescued cats and kittens are almost always spoken for and adopted after they are healthy, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered.
Not only has Kitty Mom’s Rescue received 501C3 status — allowing Albert to receive tax-deductible donations — but she has garnered local and national press coverage for her efforts. She also has received numerous grants, including $7,000 from Petco that allowed her to buy vet-quality kennels for her adoptees.
Albert dedicates one of her bedrooms and a portion of her heated garage to cat rescue. She recently upgraded the garage, moving lawn equipment to a shed so she could finish the floor with high-quality paint and dedicate more space to the cats,
Albert has attracted an impressive group of followers and supporters, primarily through word of mouth and her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/kittymoms.rescue. That page has 420 followers — a number that goes up by five or so a day..
Albert has a network of a dozen or so volunteers throughout Flathead County who help Albert with adoption events and rescue efforts. She also has eight foster homes for the kitties that Albert doesn’t have room for, leaving the most challenged ones for Albert to nurse to health. Many of Albert’s kitties need 24-hour care with bottle-feeding and medication to survive.
One enthusiastic supporter of Albert’s is Irene Jensen of Kalispell, who has adopted two kittens from Kitty Mom’s. One — a grey and white kitten, named Grayson, — was found abandoned, sick and worm-infested in a northwest Kalispell apartment complex.
“All of her cats are really socialized and very happy,” says Jensen “I stop in and see her quite a bit. She’s got such a great place — the way they can be in her house. And it’s for the love that she does it. It’s amazing to watch these cats that come to her, that if it weren’t for some Good Samaritan, they wouldn’t be alive.
“It’s all for the love (of cats) that she does it. I call her my kitty angel.”
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