When the Wright-Way Rescue team arrived at a two-story house in downstate Cairo to rescue 33 orphaned cats, they thought they knew what they’d find.
Usually, the animal shelter rescue team find animals that are in bad shape and little is known about them.
But the dozens of cats left behind by Loma Kenner were different.
The rescuers found 33 healthy cats — and meticulous journal entries detailing each cat’s personality and behavior. Kenner also had well-organized medical records for each one.
Kenner, 65, was killed in late March in a car accident in Missouri. After she died, a network of southern Illinois animal shelters spread the word about the orphaned cats and embarked on a mission to rescue them.
“This woman truly cared about these animals,” said Christy Anderson, founder and executive director of Wright-Way Rescue, an animal adoption group in Morton Grove that took seven cats. “To find those [journal entries and medical records] was really heartbreaking. It made you realize that these cats were her life.”
Kenner’s notes recalled a typical day with her cats. One entry recounted finding BB wounds on some of them. Others listed some cats’ favorite treats.
A journal entry titled “Early Morning” describes the typical day at Kenner’s house where Max the cat would wake her and the group of 10 to 15 cats every morning before heading downstairs.
“Every morning when I wake up in my bedroom on the second floor, I rise up and first look at the cats that are sleeping with me and they raise their little faces, yawning, some stretching looking back,” the handwritten note states.
Kenner also kept a close eye on individual cats and documented their behaviors, health issues and eating habits.
A note dated Feb. 29, 2004, reads “Chugger goes to the dishes along with the herd and eats some, then stands there alone and meowing. Can’t eat alone! He licks a little of the tuna and chicken, so that’s out. I’ll have to get him more regular tuna.”
“She had records dating back so far [that] we didn’t know who was alive or who wasn’t,” said Becca Baird, founder and director of Finding Forever Animal Rescue in downstate Marion. Her group took 11 cats. “You can definitely tell that she cared about them.”
It took about eight days for Wright-Way Rescue and five other animal groups to gather up all the cats. Besides Finding Forever, the other groups from the area helping out were Project Hope Humane Society in Metropolis; the Angelina Foundation for Animal Welfare in Alto Pass; Herrin Animal Control; and St. Francis CARE Animal Shelter in Murphysboro.
Holes in the walls allowed some cats to hide and move from the kitchen to the basement, which made it difficult for rescuers. “We couldn’t catch up with them,” Baird said.
Kenner’s brother, Claire, who also lived in the house at the time, helped rescuers by remembering as many names as possible and identifying each cat. He could not be reached for comment.
Now, the animal shelters are looking for adoptive families willing to bring the cats into their homes.
Almost all of the 33 cats are still available. Wright-Way Rescue transferred their rescued cats to their Morton Grove location last Thursday and is awaiting adoption applications. Finding Forever Animal Rescue finished the cats’ medical examinations and dental work last week and is also ready for applicants.
Anyone want to adopt one or more of the cats from the Wright-Way Rescue animal shelter will be asked to fill out a survey to match them with the best cat and personally meet them. The Finding Forever Animal Rescue requires proof of housing and a visit with the cats. Adoption fees range from $50 to $125, depending on the shelter.
“They are ready for some loving and some attention,” Baird said.