Red zone rescued cats find owners

Fingers was reunited with owner Stephen Phillip, after five years, by the red zone cats rescue project.
MONIQUE FORD/ Fairfax NZ

Fingers was reunited with owner Stephen Phillip, after five years, by the red zone cats rescue project.

When Stephen Phillips saw an advertisement for an extra-toed cat found five years after his own polydactyl puss went missing, he thought it had to be Fingers.

After all, how many other lost black and white cats have seven toes on their front paws?

Fingers had disappeared before the earthquakes but found refuge in the residential red zone.

Phillips, a retiree living in St Martins, was unsure how his furry friend had ended up in Avonside.

"I can't imagine him getting on a bus and going there," he said.

It was a good thing that he did.

It meant Dr Jane Newman's cat rescue project could reunite them.

Fingers is one of more than 50 lost, stray or feral cats rescued and re-homed through Newman's scientifically-based methods, which have identified, tracked and trapped them in the red zone over the past two years.

Her night-vision cameras track about 40 homeless cats between Avonside and Dallington at any given time - a small proportion of the estimated 1000 cats in the red zone.

Newman's cat rescue operation is the only one using cameras.

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It is also the only one re-homing feral cats.

Newman analyses the camera footage, primarily for known missing cats and pregnant females, and then traps the cats at feeding stations.

They are taken to Newman's home, where they're socialised for at least three weeks and advertised as found or in need of adoption on Facebook, Pets On The Net, Trade Me, and Newman's Red Zone Cats website.

The 58-year-old can have a dozen homeless cats at her property at once.

The programme costs about $1000 a week, paid for primarily from her own pocket.

"The hardest thing is having the vision and not having the official support," Newman said.

"All I can do is show people that there is a problem and also a solution.

Around the corner from Fingers lives Socksie, another of Newman's success stories.

The "son" of 38-year-old physiotherapists Steph and JP Walker, Socksie went missing from temporary accommodation.

One day, Newman called to say she thought she had found him.

Socksie – a cat so beloved he was included in his owners' wedding vows - recognised them immediately.

"He let me pat him straight away," Steph Walker said. 

"About half an hour later, he was giving my husband wee forehead kisses."

 - The Press

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