California ‘fire cat’ catcher reuniting fire victims with their feline friends

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A Californian woman is attempting to round up dozens of cats that went missing during the state’s wildfires and reunite them with their owners. 

The wildfires in the last three months of 2017 were the most destructive in the state’s history, with 43 people killed and thousands of homes destroyed. 

During the blazes hundreds of cats fled from their homes in fear and many have been missing ever since.

Animal lover Jennifer Petruska has spent almost every night since the fires tracking and trapping the ‘fire cats’  in order to reunite them with their families.

So far Ms Petruska and her team of volunteers have caught more than 70 but they believe dozens more are still missing. 

The volunteers, who have called themselves Pet Rescue & Reunification, have set up a sophisticated system including a network of night-vision cameras in storm drains and other locations where many cats went into hiding. 

California wildfires destroyed thousands of homesCredit:
Noah Berger 

Every evening they set traps with tuna and mackerel and check them hourly until dawn.

Ms Petruska has been focusing on the northern Californian neighbourhood of Coffey Park, where over 1,000 homes were destroyed.

Ms Petruska, whose own home and pet were spared, told the New York Times she realised that her efforts is "ancillary" to losses many incurred and the intensive reconstruction effort taking place.

An unidentified cat injured his paws when wildfires swept through California wine country is cared for at Sonoma County Animal Services in Santa Rosa, CaliforniaCredit:

But families who have been reunited with their feline companions have expressed their gratitude to the team.

“I just wanted my cat – that was the only thing I wanted back,” one local resident, Kelly Stinson, told the paper.  

“I spent hours every single day looking for her."

Darrel Spain walks through the remains of his house destroyed from fires as he and his husband look for their missing cat in Kenwood, Calif.Credit:

Local veterinarians who have treated the rescued cats have explained that unlike dogs, cats have instinct to flee when they sense danger. 

Volunteers set up a tent to post flyers of cats found in the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, Calif.Credit:

A number of the rescued cats have been found with burned paws, singed whiskers and have lost a lot of weight. 

The Pet Rescue & Reunification team are eager to catch and return as many of the cats before Winter temperatures drop further. 

California wildfires cause thousands to flee, in pictures

Around ten ‘fire cats’ which have been found without any identification to enable volunteers to contact their owners are being kept at Sonoma County’s animal services department.

A cat climbs down from an unburned tree where it had taken refuge near stalls where 29 horses and numerous other animals were killed during a wildifre in Sylmar, CaliforniaCredit:
David McNew 

Authorities recommend that owners who have lost an animal during the fires check local shelters’ social media pages.The shelters often update their social channels with pictures of found pets. 

Members of the public who find a lost animal are advised to take it to a centre in the same county in which it was found for the best chance for reunification with its owner.

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