As wildfires approached the western hills on Wednesday, Oct. 11, St. Helena’s We Care Animal Rescue evacuated 188 of its cats to Napa.
A crew of employees and volunteers organized and carried out the evacuation on short notice, putting the cats in crates and loading the crates into U-Haul vans that arrived later that day at the parking lot outside the county animal shelter on Hartle Court in Napa.
Forecasted winds that might have blown the fires closer to St. Helena last week never materialized, and authorities say St. Helena is now safe. The cats returned on Saturday after the immediate threat had subsided.
While the cats were gone, the St. Helena shelter was cleaned and equipped with air purifiers to limit the cats’ exposure to smoke. The purifiers were installed on Saturday as the cats were returning.
During their stay in Napa, the animals were housed in the trucks, with access to food and water. Each crate is equipped with “pee pads” and cleaned three times a day, said Cindy Hood, shelter manager at We Care. Hood said each cat’s medication was administered as usual.
The evacuation couldn’t have happened without the county’s full support and aid, Hood said.
“The county has been so good to us,” sharing food, water and other supplies and endorsing the evacuation plan, Hood said. “I want to give them a big, big thank you.”
Erika Gamez, manager of the Napa County Animal Shelter, said We Care has access to the shelter building and any donated supplies. The Gasser Foundation, which owns the lot adjacent to the shelter, granted permission for We Care to park the trucks there temporarily.
“Considering the circumstances, the cats are doing as well as they can,” Gamez said. “I’ve been the manager of the shelter now for about a year and a half, and I’ve had the pleasure and the privilege of knowing Cindy very well. She would never put those animals in a bad position. They’re in very good hands.”
Twenty-five of We Care’s feral cats chose to stay at the shelter, resisting efforts to coax them into crates.