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Volunteer Highlight: Cindy Sweet



Volunteer Cindy Sweet has provided direct care to feline residents of Cat by Cat’s shelter for almost two years.


A lifelong cat lover, Cindy has been caring for community cats for many years. In addition to food and water, she provides them with shelters made from sturdy storage boxes that are supplied with heating pads in winter. She currently looks after six outdoor cats, all of which she and her neighbors have trapped and taken to the vet for spay/neuter, vaccinations, and medical treatment

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One day in October 2022, Cindy saw a stray cat at the feeder. Chella, a friendly black male kitty with a distinctive meow, had escaped during his transfer from a trap to his caregiver’s carrier.  On the loose for a couple of months, he eventually made his way across a heavily traveled highway to Cindy’s haven for community cats, over a mile away.


“I could tell he wasn’t feral, and I had some success making friends with him,” Cindy remembers. She took a video clip and sent it to her social-media savvy sister, who found a Facebook post for a lost black cat. Cindy called the phone number from the post and talked to Cat by Cat board member and Director of Communication Jenn Commisso, which led to reuniting Chella with his owner.


Cindy has four cats of her own. She’s had Jackson, a “happy-go-lucky” orange tiger, since she took him in as a stray kitten ten years ago. She’s welcomed three more kitties to her family from the Cat by Cat shelter: Jeffrey, Felix, and Petra.


 Jeffrey, a tuxedo gentleman, is an FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) survivor. Cindy got to know and love him so well as she provided care in the shelter, “I knew I had to bring him home.” She’s pleased to report that “he’s doing great!”


Bonded pair Felix and Petra, brown-and-gray tabbies rescued from a farm, came next. Felix has mild CH (cerebellar hypoplasia), also known as wobbly-cat syndrome, a disorder that causes jerky movement, tremors, and generally uncoordinated motion. The sweet siblings had been adopted by a couple early on but were returned to the shelter when the husband developed a serious lung disease and couldn’t be around cats. Once again up for adoption, they had been back in the shelter for quite a long time when Cindy decided to adopt them herself.


10-year-old Jackson was okay with the newcomers. “He was a little standoffish at first, and you couldn’t call them his best friends, but there haven’t been any tumbleweed fights,” Cindy laughed.

 

All four cats live indoors only, and Cindy wouldn’t have it any other way. “I keep them inside for their health and safety,” she said.


As a direct-care volunteer, Cindy works in the shelter cleaning cages, bedding and litterboxes, and feeding and watering the residents. Her favorite part of the job is socializing the kitties—playing with them, talking to them, helping them get used to humans.

 

The shelter routine changed significantly for a couple of months in 2023, however, when ringworm found its way into the shelter and quickly spread to all the cats.  While not particularly harmful, the rash, caused by a fungal infection, is highly contagious and can be uncomfortably itchy.


In addition to their regular tasks, volunteers followed a rigorous program of medicating more than 50 cats both orally and externally on varying schedules, all the while wearing mandated PPE gowns and gloves to avoid spreading contagion.


“The cats didn’t appreciate what we were doing,” Cindy remembers. “They disliked us for a period of time. It was very difficult emotionally, but I got a real education!” Though time spent socializing was curtailed and care activities were hectic, volunteers never wavered in showing love and kindness to each of their charges.


Cindy credits the smooth resolution of the ringworm crisis to Cat by Cat Executive Director Sally Merritt-Braciak. “I had 100% confidence and trust in Sally … she’s amazing!”


 In her turn, Sally can’t say enough about Cindy’s efforts: “During our ringworm outbreak, she came every single day to help medicate, feed, and provide love to the cats. She is very dedicated to the cats and a true cat advocate.”


When asked what she would like to tell our readers, Cindy quoted “Price is Right” host Bob Barker: From 1979 until his last appearance in 2007, Barker would end each episode with the following words: Help to control the pet population—have your pets spayed or neutered.

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