The soft meows in the background are constant, says Marie DeMarco with a laugh, and that coincides with the rather constant influx of kittens coming through FURRR 911, the cat rescue she founded five years ago in Crompond, New York.
DeMarco, a longtime emergency room nurse and nurse practitioner, spent years fostering cats for a local shelter when in late 2014 she gave thought to serve what she calls “a different niche.”
“I liked more-complex cases that didn’t necessarily do well in shelters — shelters kind of gave up on the special needs [cats] and the weaker ones, and that was where my heart was,” she said. “I didn’t want to just rescue ‘normal’ kittens that everybody could do or find foster homes [for them]. I wanted to focus on the special-needs population.”
On Dec. 31, 2014, DeMarco submitted the paperwork for the articles of incorporation as a nonprofit in New York State, and with that, FURRR — Felines Urgently Rescued, Rehabbed and Rehomed — was born. Since then, many of the cats and kittens she has taken in have come from New York City’s five boroughs. At times, some have arrived at her doorstep in the wee hours of the morning.
“All kittens deserve a chance to live and be loved,” DeMarco said. “Some of ours don’t last that long … but while they’re here on Earth, if they’re eating and happy and purring, not in distress or pain, it’s not the time yet [to give up on them].”
Although she does have “some foster homes and some volunteers who come and go when their schedules allow,” DeMarco handles the overwhelming majority of the work involved with operating FURRR 911 by herself. She is the only bottle-feeder, adding that every year, “we get more and more calls for bottle babies.”
In 2019, she bottle-fed 213 kittens, up from 192 the previous year. At one point, she was bottle-feeding 33 cats. “By the time I finished a feed,” she recalled, “it was time to start another feed.”
DeMarco has no formal veterinary training, describing herself as “self-learned” when it comes to animal care.
“I always look for webinars on care and try to keep up on the latest treatments and protocols coming down the pike,” explained DeMarco, who now works from home doing telephone triage for an insurance company. “I subscribe to some veterinary programs, especially ones that apply to shelter medicine. … I will read veterinary research articles. Because of my background, I can understand the jargon. I’m always looking to learn and read up and research.”
She estimates that “a good 60%” of the cats that came through FURRR 911 in 2019 were adopted. “We always have an overflow from one year to the next,” she added. “The babies that were born in the fall aren’t going to be ready for adoption until the following year.”
During the winter months, DeMarco devotes her adoption efforts to making weekly visits to the PetSmart store in Mohegan Lake, New York. Click here to learn about becoming a volunteer to assist with FURRR 911’s cat care, fostering needs and social media endeavors.