Feline refuge | NevadaAppeal.com

Feline refuge

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Photos by Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Johnye Saylor talks Tuesday about her cat rescue efforts in Dayton. TOP: Cats can be found almost everywhere you look at the Saylor home. An estimated 30 percent of her cats are more than 10 years old and would otherwise be euthanized if she didn't take them in. BELOW: Saylor holds a 3-week-old kitten Tuesday at her cat rescue program in Dayton.

As soon as you ring the doorbell at the Saylor home in Dayton, you are greeted by the sounds of many cats and at least one rooster.

Steven and Johnye Saylor’s five fenced acres on the outskirts of Old Town has always had chickens and peacocks, but now it has also become sort of a cat retirement home/rescue service.

For about the past 20 years the Saylors have done what Lyon County doesn’t — provide a facility for cats in need of a home, love and alteration.

In addition to the approximately 40 chickens, 30 peacocks, four dogs, a horse, a bunny are about 60 cats, 20 of which are kittens.

Black cats, gray cats, orange cats, white cats, tortoise shell cats, tabbies, longhaired and shorthaired alike all live on the property, in the house, large garage with additions, and a few sheds in apparent harmony, despite the feline predator instinct.

“They just don’t (try to attack the birds or rabbit),” Johnye said “I think that when they are comfortable with everyone being together, they don’t do that.”

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One explanation may be that the chickens and peacocks are bigger than the cats, but that doesn’t explain why the “Fish Family Robinson,” the goldfish in the pond have survived.

The Saylors take in cats that no one else wants, such as Goldie, 18, who belonged to an elderly woman who died, and no one wanted a cat that age. Bella, another senior citizen at 14, was abandoned in a Reno apartment and Johnye said it took the tortoise-shell cat a long time to get used to people.

About 30 percent of the cats are older than 10, not likely to be adopted and probably at the Saylors to stay, though the kittens will be adopted.

The place is well-kept, despite the numerous animals, all of which seem healthy and happy enough not to roam – which is also probably because they are all spayed or neutered, unless they are kittens, or new or expectant mothers.

The Saylors got started with cats because a friend worked at a shelter, and would bring cats that couldn’t be adopted. Many come from sad circumstances.

One cat, Noelle, who was abandoned around Christmas, has a form of disability similar to cerebral palsy, which affects its behavior and motor coordination. Noelle, 1 1/2 years old, wasn’t spayed because the veterinarian, Dr. Mary Minor, was concerned about possible heart problems.

When the cat gave birth to one kitten, it didn’t know what to do with its offspring,” Johnye said. “We put it (the kitten) in with another mother cat I had who just had kittens, and she took it in. That doesn’t happen all the time.”

The kittens, grays and tortoise-shells, will be adoptable in about 3 weeks, she said.

She said another cat had a broken leg, and the owners wanted to have it euthanized. Others had incontinent problems at their previous homes, a problem which disappeared at the Saylors. A kitten now called Tulip Flower was found abandoned in a Smith’s Market flowerpot.

“Whoever did that just assumed someone would hear the kitten crying and take it home, but it ended up here,” she said.

The cats are not fed outside, all are litter-trained and they all come inside at night, either the house, garage or sheds. The garage is lined with huge litter pans, large food dishes and water dishes filled to the brim, and the cats can feed when they please. Large donations of food, cat trees and toys and litter occupy the center of the garage, all of it donated by private companies and often shared with other cat rescue groups.

“This really has a lot of reward,” she said. “These guys are just so sweet.”

They do get other assistance like the food donations, and Minor helps with veterinary care, but the Saylors have found their limit and can’t take any more cats.

Joe Mainwaring, Lyon County Animal Services director, said the department was working on creating a cattery, and said in the past the Saylors have given the county a lot of help. Right now the shelter keeps only dogs.

“There’s a big cat issue out here,” he said. “Whenever people call on cats we refer them out to four or five rescue groups.”

He said in order to install a cattery, the county would have to remodel the shelter, and he was seeking grant money to pay for it.

He said the shelter received a grant of $20,000 from Maddie’s Fund, a humane organization, and $15,000 will go to the cattery, along with $18,000 in current donations.

“We don’t want to do it unless we can do it right,” he said. “Not just the cat issue, but we need more room for dogs too.”

Johnye Saylor anticipates caring for cats until that happens.

“Lyon County doesn’t help us, not one cent,” she said. “The former sheriff, Sid Smith, considered cats free-roaming animals. But they’re going to have to do something eventually.”

Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-7351.