Salmon Arm ‘s Pam and Eric Gretzinger, who opened their home to two- and four-legged evacuees, have successfully shown and bred Bengal cats for years but have now retired, keeping just three in their home as beloved companions.- Image credit: Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer.

Evacuated cats find ideal haven in Salmon Arm

Empty cattery, motor home, thrill 100 Mile House evacuees

While some evacuees from wildfires might have to make do with mats on gymnasium floors, not so for a group of 17 who travelled to Salmon Arm last week.

This group is lounging on cushions or socializing with others in a spacious, comfortable and well-furnished facility, where they can sleep, eat and exercise in comfort.

These evacuees are 17 Bengal cats, who came to Salmon Arm from near 100 Mile House with cat breeders Jennie Fournier and Eli Roy-Brown, their devoted owners.

Other than their size, Bengal cats look like they would belong in a tropical rainforest with their spotted leopard colours and their muscular bodies. Fournier explains their ancestors are the Asian leopard cat, which was crossed with a domestic variety.

Her fear still fresh, Fournier recounts how, with smoke and flames on the horizon, she took a load of cats and some belongings to her mom’s home in Lone Butte, about 20 kilometres away from 105 Mile. When she returned just two hours later, people had already been evacuated. A 92-year-old woman, like a grandmother to her, had been left behind, so Fournier had to persuade a police officer to allow her to go behind the lines and get her. He was nice and provided her an escort, she says.

The cats ended up spending two days in dog crates, as the couple searched for a place to go. To heighten the anxiety, one of the “queens” was due to have kittens in two days. And adding insult to injury, someone claiming to have a house to rent in Vernon stole a $350 deposit from them.

Fournier got in touch with Bengal breeders in Kelowna, who suggested trying Pam and Eric Gretzinger in Salmon Arm.

The Gretzingers are now retired Bengal breeders, but still have their deluxe facility for cats.

“As soon as we heard about them, it was obvious,” said Pam.

Adds Eric: “We quickly cleaned the cattery – we hadn’t used it for a lot of years, and cleaned the motor home.”

“I cried when I walked into the motor home,” remarks Fournier, standing in the cattery Saturday. “They were offering free to use their whole facilities. This is amazing. It’s bigger than what I have at my house. They (the cats) have only been here for a couple of days, and they’re like, ‘Yup, we’re happy.’”

Although the Gretzingers haven’t broadcast their history with Bengal cats locally, they were well-known in the Bengal cat world.

They won thousands of ribbons and awards with their cats, including a world title. They showed them a lot – in Texas, New York, all over North America.

“When we’d get out at a show in New York, people would say, ‘Is that the Canadian cat?’” Eric smiles.

The couple retired to get a break from the 24/7 commitment, but they’ve kept three cats as pets.

“At this time of life, you’d like to do something other than scoop litter,” Eric remarks.

Asked about price, Eric says pets go for about $1,200 to $1,500. Breeding animals cost anywhere from $3,000 to $4,500. One of the Gretzingers’ most cherished sires, Wurthy, was worth $6,000.

Pam laughingly recounts how when she was a girl on a farm, people would drop off cats – for free. But when the couple found a mouse in their former house in Fort St. John, Eric researched cats. He found Bengals – hypoallergenic, little shedding, friendly, intelligent. And so it began.

The Gretzingers, along with Fournier and Roy-Brown, gush enthusiastically about Bengals.

They have fun personalities. They love water.

“We have a huge walk-in shower; in the morning they come and join you,” laughs Eric.

They are smart. Sometimes too smart.

“Sometimes every time we would come home, all the cupboards would be open,” says Pam.

Pam says some people teach them how to use the toilet, although one guy regretted showing his Bengal how to flush.

“The dog would bring stuff to the toilet, drop it in and the cat would flush,” says Eric.

Pam reiterates how glad she and Eric are to be able to help out their guests from 100 Mile.

“It was a perfect scenario – I’m so glad it worked out.”

Their guests are equally pleased.

Says Fournier: “It’s so generous to offer to let us stay here. Eric and Pam, they are the most generous people.“

 

This Bengal cat enjoys her temporary home after being evacuated from 100 Mile House. - Image credit: Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer.

Just Posted

Open house to reveal proposed changes to Balmoral intersection on Trans-Canada Highway

The South Shuswap Chamber of Commerce has already provided input to the ministry

Dancing with Shuswap Stars attracts Rust Valley Restorers

TV show stars join quest to hone some fancy footwork

Salmon Arm residents learn how to protect properties from wildfire

Removing debris from forest floor can help stop fires from spreading

Thunderstorm leaves small fire near Adams Lake in its wake

Wildfire crews in the Kamloops Fire Centre are also fighting a small blaze near Kamloops

Okanagan-Shuswap Weather: Heat, sun and a chance of thunderstorms for Father’s Day

Morning pancake breakfasts and fishing derbies across the region will see sun, showers may follow.

‘This is unbelievable:’ Raptors dazzled by massive crowds at downtown Toronto parade

Mayor John Tory declares it ‘We The North Day’ after team’s historic NBA title win

Dangerous driving in Keremeos and Vernon nets jail time

Gary Patrick Richard will serve 73 days in jail for dangerous driving and other offences

Oil and gas sector cautious as deadline on Trans Mountain decision nears

Trudeau government expected to announce whether it will approve pipeline for second time on Tuesday

Skipping school costs a dozen B.C. students chance at a new car

Cowichan’s Jared Lammi showed up and won $5,000 cheque toward vehicle, but he can’t drive

Portion of Okanagan highway closed due to vehicle incident

Accident happened on Highway 6 a few kilometres east of the Village of Lumby; detour in effect

More student housing for UBC Okangan

B.C. government to build $25-million, on-campus building to address high demand, low vacancy rate

People throwing food at a bear in Fernie alarms conservation groups

“Approaching and feeding bears contributes to habituation,” says conservation group

Feds announce $50M strategy to fight dementia

Emphasis is on prevention and and supporting caregivers

Federal Liberals’ plan to help first-time homebuyers to kick in weeks before election

Ottawa to pick up 5% of a mortgage on existing homes for households that earn under $120,000 a year

Most Read