MALONE — Holly Manley is an animal lover and it shows. She has seven cats, one of which is pregnant. She also has two dogs, a ball python and two sugar gliders — marsupials similar to a flying squirrel.
“The funny thing is that most of them are all kept in the same room,” said Holly.
Through The Cat Palace in St. Regis Falls and Focus on Feral, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the homeless population of animals in and within the surrounding communities of Malone, Holly takes in cats who need help.
One of the cats she has was found in the derelict Gorman Building, another was injured while trying to stay warm under the hood of a car.
Each cat has its own story to tell, and knowing that story makes it easier to match the individual to its forever home.
“At least here I can get a feel for their personalities,” Holly said. “I can tell people, this one does not like dogs.”
“I always have people coming in and out of my house to test out the animals,” she added.
The cat population in Malone is exploding, she said, and she does not know why more people do not neuter their animals, but she thinks part of it could have to do with the cost. “I am assuming it is the cost, or it is spur of the moment, where ‘Oh, I want a cat’ and people do not prepare for what they need to do when they get a cat,” said Holly.
She has only been fostering felines since Nov. 11 but says the rewards are already evident, both for her and the animals.
“I just like giving them a nice home environment. That way they do not have to go into the animal shelters and possibly never be chosen because there is 100 more in the same area,” said Holly.
For her, it is way of giving back but, she said, cats were not her first animal of choice to foster.
“I have a heart for animals and I had originally wanted to start off to only foster dogs,” said Holly.
After thinking about it, she soon realized fostering dogs could be a challenge, so cats became the next choice.
“At the end of the day, I am like, ‘Look at these kittens play, they are not in a crate at an animal shelter waiting to be adopted, they are not out in the streets freezing,’” said Holly.
Taking care of all the animals she has is no easy task. From day to day care to trips to the vet, Holly has to do it all.
“It is hard because they all have to go the vet; if they have a sickness it has to be treated. Plus they all have to be spayed and neutered,” Holly said.
Holly said the vet costs are covered by Focus on Ferals, but the group does not pay for all the food she has to buy for the cats, kittens and the pregnant cat she has, which is kept in a separate room upstairs. She also has to buy the materials to take care of the cats’ toilet needs.
“I buy all the food, but the cat litter is becoming very expensive,” said Holly.
It is all very time consuming taking care of all the animals but somehow she says it works.
“Every single cat gets the attention that they need, including my dogs, so it does take up a lot of my time, but when I sit back, I think to myself and say I am really helping out,” Holly said.
She says people often ask her if she is going to keep some of the cats, but she answers that that would take away from her whole point of fostering, which is to take the cats in to provide them a home while awaiting adoption.
Holly says she also gets some strange reactions from people when they hear she has seven cats.
“They think that I am crazy and they are like, ‘How are you doing that,’” she said.
She says her house and schedule are pretty full, but if there was emergency, she says there is always room for one more.
“If something happened and there was an emergency situation, I know that I would do it,” Holly said.
From food to cat litter, she said there is always a need for more donations at Focus on Ferals.
“If I could encourage people, it would be to do anything, it would be to help donate or even try fostering themselves,” Holly said. “It is a good way to help out.”