At the age of twenty, Megan Yank rescued one cat. Now eleven years later, she has rescued or rehomed more than 200 cats. That’s a lot of lives saved! I recently sat down with her to find out how she got her start, what challenges and successes she’s had, and how others can follow her lead.
I wouldn’t say I really had a reason for “starting” in rescue. It seems that the cats in need have always found their way to me. My friends joke that I can go just about anywhere and find a homeless cat and my heart breaks for them every time.
When Megan started in animal rescue, she was a college student working a few jobs. One of those jobs was a restaurant and it’s where, while taking out the trash, she spotted a little cream-colored kitten standing by the dumpster. “When I saw this little guy, I knew I had to help him. I ran back in the restaurant to find him something to eat, but almost everything was closed and put away for the night so the only thing I could find was some milk. I offered him some and ended up taking him home with me.” Because Megan couldn’t keep cats where she lived at the time, she found a home for him. She’s stayed in contact with his new owner and occasionally pet-sits him.
Megan’s love of animals inspired her as a child to dream of becoming a veterinarian. Ironically, that same love for animals also led her to eventually give up that dream, because she couldn’t face the daunting task of having to euthanize them. Instead, she decided to pursue a marketing degree. As part of her studies, she had to complete a thesis, and Megan chose the topic of affordable cat health care. This led to volunteer at The Cat House, Lincoln’s only no-kill shelter, to pursue what she intended as only a two-to-three-month project. Megan still helps at The Cat House, along with her husband.
Volunteering has become a normal part of my life just the same as when it started as a requirement for school.
As a cat-rescuer, Megan appreciates the support of The Cat House. “While they can’t take every cat, they do help a lot.” Many of the cats that have come in to Megan’s life have ended up going to The Cat House. In addition, Megan has learned the policies and procedures of The Cat House, and follows them when she and her husband personally rehome cat.
Megan also feels grateful for the support of her husband, Matt, who shares a huge part of the rescue responsibilities. She shared that, “The Cat House will call upon him for some very interesting ‘rescue adventures,’ and told of one time when a mother cat had her litter hidden in a pillar of an old house. No one knew how to get them out. Megan and Matt reached a few, but couldn’t get to the rest. Matt came up with the creative idea of using tongs to scruff the rest of the kittens and pull them out to safety. “Another odd rescue Matt did on his own was when the Cat House called him and told him one of the cats got loose in the studio of a local TV station when interviewing some volunteers. They had been there for hours trying to catch that cat but Matt wrangled the cat up within 30 minutes.”
Like Megan and her husband, I feel a special tug at my heart for homeless animals, and so this is where I particularly wanted to pick Megan’s brain. If I were to continue in the world of cat rescue, what might lay ahead for me?
My fosters are considered my pets until they have a new home and we don’t cut any corners when it comes to my cats or my foster cats.
Cat rescue is not for the faint-of-heart. There’s a lot of responsibility involved. When Megan and her husband take in a cat, they accept that it’s now their duty to feed, pay for veterinarian care, and find a home for the cat.
One of the major challenges, Megan acknowledges, is rehoming. “Because I’m not a registered rescue organization, I must utilize my own resources for finding a home. Sometimes we have had foster cats for up to a year or more. Obviously, veterinarian costs are a challenge too. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on vet bills for foster cats.”
How does Megan find homes for all the cats who come her way? Through networking. She’s used her contacts through Facebook, friends, family, and work. “I’ve some great friends in my life that are like-minded when it comes to animals.” As for bills, Megan draws on her marketing skills to do fundraisers for some of the cost.
One last challenge is letting them go. It’s wonderful when a once homeless cat finds a forever home, but I’ll be the first to say it isn’t easy to watch them leave. Just because they’re a foster, doesn’t mean we don’t fall in love.
“I’ve often thought life would be easier without rescue,” Megan admits. She gets exhausted and drained from seeing the endless number of homeless cats. On the other hand, being a cat rescuer has given Megan amazing experiences. She gets to see the change in the lives of cats who otherwise may have never had a home. “What keeps me going is when we’ve rescued a cat that has been injured or very sick or starving, and the transformation we could make with them. It is rewarding to be able to help one that cannot help themselves.”
Megan has grown since her earliest days of rescue. She’s learned a lot about cat behavior and health, and she’s passed that knowledge onto other cat owners. She’s also become an advocate of spay/neuter. “There are many people who spend endless hours trying to find homeless animals homes just to turn around and see another 10 that need homes. There are many organizations such as Lincoln Animal Ambassadors that can assist with costs of spay/neuter or offer a pet food bank.” Megan believes that if more people were educated on animal welfare, it might make a difference.
Start out by helping one cat at a time. –Stacey LeBaron, Community Cats
One of my favorite podcasts, Community Cats, emphasizes that animal rescue starts with a series of tiny steps. In its introductory segment, hostess Stacey LeBaron says that she rescued one cat when she was a child, then adopted several cats with her husband, eventually volunteered as a secretary for a local rescue, which led to her work with the highly successful Merrimack River Feline Rescue. It’s easy to feel intimidated by all that animal rescuers achieve, but Megan is one local example that shows rescue can truly start with just one cat.