House of Hugs finds homes for kittens


March 14, 2001|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

UNWANTED KITTENS have a friend in North Carroll.

For 21 years, Mary E. Fisher of Hampstead has been rescuing abandoned cats and kittens in four Maryland counties and Pennsylvania.

Two concerns guide her: To find adoptive homes for the felines and to decrease the number of unwanted pets.

Recently, her feline rescue operation, called "The House of Hugs and Kisses," received a financial shot in the arm. It has become a subsidiary of Felines in Trouble, a not-for-profit charity organization directed by Debra Levine, a state's attorney and cat rescuer from Columbia. A third rescuer in the network is Columbia resident Ruth Johnson.

Rescuing kittens and cats is not all cuddly and cute. The longer the animals have been away from humanity, the more wary they become. The three women humanely trap colonies of feral cats that have rejected human companionship. The cats are spayed or neutered and relocated to safe places.

Some felines are found injured. Fisher remembers saving a cat without equilibrium - it would stub its nose during staggered walks up or down stairs. One cat was deaf, one had lost an eye, and one needed leg surgery.

Today, Fisher specializes in kittens. She spends cold nights hunting newborns, because the harsh weather can be fatal.

"I take in kittens from birth to 6 weeks, and I am always looking for adoptive homes," Fisher says.

She cuddles and bottle-feeds them to domesticate them. If the kittens are older, it takes longer. She has spent four months with kittens found at 10 weeks old on a mall parking lot.

"They're not yet people-friendly. My feeling is the more handling when they're kittens, the better cat you'll have," Fisher says.

New arrivals are tested for feline leukemia and AIDS by Manchester veterinarian Dr. Thomas Ryan at Feathers, Scales and Tails. At about 8 weeks, they are spayed or neutered. Fisher, who works as a Towson dental assistant and a Gettysburg ghost-tour guide, usually covers such expenses.

She turned to kitten rescue because she was unable to conceive children. Seven years after the first kittens, she and her husband, Earl John, adopted Justin, an orphan from Korea. He's an eighth-grader at Shiloh Middle School. Justin's baby pictures show him bottle-feeding kittens.

Earl converted the family basement into a carpeted kitten house, with playpen for feeding the lively kits. The Fisher home includes 11 cats and two dogs, all rescued from unhappy situations.

"We keep the ones I think no one will want. Two of these we will let be adopted with the understanding they have problems. Our animals take it in stride. They're accustomed to a revolving door as kittens come and go," Fisher says.

The rescued stay with her until adoption. A small fee is requested to cover costs. She will take a cat back if the adoption doesn't work.

"I'm pretty picky about who gets them, because every cat has a distinct personality," she says. "My main concern is that the animal is happy."

Information: 410-876-3321.

Candles for computers

Shelley McQuaid of Hampstead began a home business selling candles, and 25 percent of sales through March 23 will be donated to the computer lab at Spring Garden Elementary School.

McQuaid was surprised to find the school needed $50,000 to upgrade the lab. She knows the outdated equipment affects the seven children in her day care and her son, Gage. Like another parent at the school who is donating a percentage of Avon sales, she decided to do a schoolwide "party" with Partylite candles.

Fragrances of carrot cake and lemon souffle are her favorites. Plum pudding, apple strudel, coconut cream and chocolate fragrances are offered. Each candle is contained in an eight-sided jar with lid. Prices range from $15.95 for a 30-hour candle to $24.95 for 60 hours.

Information: 410-239-4690.

Last call for directory

Area businesses must send membership dues before March 31 to be listed in the Hampstead Business Association 2001 Directory, which will be delivered throughout the Hampstead area. Dues are $50 a year.

Publication of the directory will be in the second quarter of the year. Members who joined during the annual Expo will be included.

Information: Russ Vriezen, 410-848-4080.

Pat Brodowski's North neighborhood column appears each Wednesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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