WNY cats get a second chance through Blue Collar Working Cat Program

Cats that are considered unadoptable are finding new homes at area greenhouses, wineries, farms and stables — and they’re earning their keep!

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. — Thousands of cats have gotten a second chance thanks to a program in Western New York that pairs feral and unadoptable animals with local businesses and farms that could use a helping paw.

Feral Cat Focus is a local non-profit that spays/neuters and vaccinates feral and free-roaming cats to help keep the population under control. The organization has been around since 2003. In that time, 37,000 feral cats have been a part of their TNVR program, which stands for trap, neuter, vaccinate, and return.

For the past 10 years, Feral Cat Focus has worked with area animal shelters, like the Erie County SPCA, to find homes for cats that are considered unadoptable as part of their Blue Collar Working Cat Program.

The cats might not be available for a traditional adoption because of their temperament. Most are unsocial or fearful. Some have come from hoarding cases, are not used to people, and will never adjust to being a lap cat. In some cases, aggressive cats might have to be euthanized.

As part of the Blue Collar Working Cat Program, cats are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and then put to work on farms, at greenhouses, wineries or stables — anywhere they can help with rodent and pest control.

“They like to have food, water, shelter provided, but they like their freedom. So like I said, they can patrol the property as they may. They always come back,” said Ann Pascarella, owner of Chestnut Creek Stables in Orchard Park. She adopted Fuzzy and Tux through the program.

Thousands of cats have been placed at 600 different spots over the past decade.

“These cats, they don’t often want to be with people. And most people do not want to adopt a cat that isn’t going to be their companion animal. They’re working cats. They like to be outside. They like to be free. They like the rodents. They think this is fun,” said Edie Offhaus, co-founder of Feral Cat Focus.

The Blue Collar Working cat program is considered a full adoption. There’s no upfront cost, but participants are responsible for ongoing food, water and care costs. There are periodic check-ins to make sure the cats are doing okay.

Cats are placed with a buddy, and in some cases, they make even more friends at their new homes, like Fuzzy and Tux who now live with 14 horses, two pigs and four other cats.

“These cats have a wonderful job to do, and if we give them some help, we can get them out of a bad situation, put them into a good situation,” said Offhaus.