Petrolia’s feral cats have a new home, thanks to an animal lover and his employer’s generosity

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Julie Mederios takes a selfie as Ginny Williams watches the construction of the new Petrolia feral cat colony.

Julie Medeiros and Ginny Williams watched as their dream came true.

Wednesday, Cedar Echo employees built a 10 foot by 10 foot cat shelter and it was all made possible by a man the Caregivers of Petrolia’s Feral Cats didn’t know and a company which encourages employees to build up their community.

For over 25 years, Ginny Williams has been caring for the feral cats in Petrolia. She’s used her own money to feed them and make sure they spay and neutered as many as possible. Julie Mederios started helping with the venture about seven years ago. Johanne Tranquille had also helped for years, but moved from Petrolia just three weeks ago.

They were a low key group until March when some young children did damage to the colony’s housing – cat containers and straw up against a fence. Three kittens were taken.

The community reached out to help and the Caregivers of Petrolia’s Ferals Group has been getting some financial support to help feed and care for the animals which live in the downtown area.

But it was a call by Chris Slote-Anderson, a maintenance supervisor at Shell Canada, which really turned things around. Slote-Anderson read an article in The Independent about the damage done to the colony and felt moved to help.

“In the story where it said that with the kids kind of messing with the cats – it kind of broke my heart,” he says.

Shell Canada has an assistance program called Fueling Kindness. Employees can work with community groups to help secure grants for whatever is needed. Slote-Anderson approached his boss asking if helping the feral cats in Petrolia might be something the project would consider. Shell gave the green light.

Cedar Echo workers put together the new cat colony in Petrolia

Slote-Anderson contacted Mederios and Williams offering to purchase a 10 foot by 10 foot wood shed complete with a porch – about a $10,000 value – to be the cats new home.

“I just have a heart for animals,” says Slote-Anderson. “Shell does great with the United Way – the big charities – but I think sometimes just helping out a little group has way more impact, like, dollar for dollar.”

The offer was a huge relief for Williams and Mederios who worry about the health and safety of the cats through the winter.

“These girls were crying the day we said we were going to help out,” says Slote-Anderson as he watched the contractors put together the new colony recently.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to see this,” Williams said as she watched the men working, adding it is “a dream come true.”

“It’s a much healthier environment because we deal with a lot of veterinary issues,” says Mederios. “Cats can get sick from just being in a dirty area.”

It will also save a lot of work in the long run. “As caregivers, we are going to be able to manage far better from what we were dealing with. Previously, it was a yearly cleanup and finding resources to maintain it and rebuild it and it was quite an exhausting process,” says Williams.

The new home for the cats is only part of the story. Shell is providing $2,000 for veterinary bills to help with keeping the cat population down. “Now, we are doing some rescue work within Petrolia and the immediate area, it’s our responsibility to ensure that feral cats are not reproducing at a rate that can’t be handled, that’s always the goal is to stop reproduction, keep the ones that exist healthy,” says Mederios.

And Shell walking the group through the process to become a registered charity.

“We do get some monetary donations, which has helped us a lot. But we we intend on fundraising, because because we have such wonderful support,” says Mederios adding right now, they aren’t able to give tax receipts. As a charity, they will.

By Wednesday evening, the cats followed Williams and Mederios – and the food they were carrying – to their new home complete with their cat containers and a cat door so they can come and go as they please to roam the property already familiar to them in the downtown area.

And Slote-Anderson is pleased he and the company he works for could be a part of it. “Providing the cats a safe place was important to me.”