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Exhausted Westmount Cat Lady decides to call it quits

Golden Girls
January 20th, 2007, 07:57 AM
"The Westmount Cat Lady is retiring"This woman has done so much, I've had the pleasure here and there working with Joan. I would like to publically thank her for all the good she has done over the last 23 years and wish her a happy and restful retirement :grouphug: I hope she get's to fulfil her dream: "I would love to go on a tour of wildlife rescue shelters in Britain,"

MAX HARROLD, The Gazette
Published: Saturday, January 20, 2007

At home, blissfully surrounded by her adoring family, Mamaji, a well-fed torti-tabby cat, is a success story for the retiring Westmount Cat Lady.

Joan (who asked that her last name not be used) is retiring after 23 rewarding but taxing years of rescuing cats in Montreal.

"Three years ago, a friend of mine said she had a colleague with a cat and two kittens living in the tall weeds of her backyard," Joan, 53, recalled of Mamaji's capture. "I went over and sat out with a book to read and a can of tuna at my feet. Not long after, I grabbed her by the scruff and put her in a box.

"The next day I went back and did the same thing with the kittens," she said.

The Brais-McCallum family (parents Pierre-Antoine and Liz and daughter Alice, 10) adopted Mamaji, but not before getting Joan's approval.

"She asked a lot of questions," Pierre-Antoine said. "She definitely knows her cats and she won't match you up unless you're right for each other."

Joan's retirement comes after finding homes for about 40 cats annually in recent years. The 2003 debut of her website,, increased her profile and reach. The detailed site's pictures and anecdotes about the rescued cats' personalities and sometimes heart-wrenching medical conditions quickly found their way to cat lovers' hearts.

Once Joan rescued cats, she would get them medical care and shots in preparation for adoption. She carefully screened people interested in taking in a cat, and charged $100 per adoption.

But the amount of work involved in caring for the many distressed animals, which increased with the website's success, is also why Joan needed to quit.

"Enslavement to mop and broom and can opener" had become Joan's life.

"I'm just exhausted and I can't go on," she said.

For years, she placed the cats she rescued in various temporary shelters, including her home and veterinarian's clinic (which provided medical care at a discount). Not surprisingly, Joan had the most luck finding homes for the healthiest, youngest cats. Many others stayed with her for years despite debilitating medical conditions.

She wants to devote more time to her own two dogs and several cats, and to her day job as a French/English interpreter.

Joan, who temporarily sheltered 16 cats and two dogs during the 1998 ice storm, said other Internet-savvy pet rescuers will probably do right by the city's abandoned animals.

"Rescuing animals is everybody's business. There will always be people who put their cats out in the street because they don't want them."

And she will maintain her website as a source for pet lovers to get advice and find links.

Perhaps in a few years, Joan will be able to go on a vacation. "I would love to go on a tour of wildlife rescue shelters in Britain," she said.

January 20th, 2007, 12:07 PM
Aw, that's so sad. :( So many of the rescues here get burnt out. :sad:

January 21st, 2007, 07:02 PM
I just read through her entire website. I find it incredible that she spent so many years of her life saving these poor, helpless animals. My gosh. What incredible selflessness.

It's so unfortunate she's retiring. It's so sad.

January 21st, 2007, 07:09 PM
What a wonderful story ~ let's hope she fulfills her dream with a well-deserved vacation and that some other kindhearted soul picks up the torch.