Lance Graff — a Yreka resident known around town as the ‘Cat Man’ for his dedication to fostering homeless felines — spent two nights in a tent with two adult cats and nine foster kittens after being evacuated from his home in the wake of the McKinney Fire.
The first night, they all slept on the ground in the tent on his grandparents’ property just outside Weed. The ground was hard and full of thorns, said Graff, adding that he missed his air conditioning.
Graff later posted about the experience on Facebook — along with pictures of the romping felines.
“I had to evacuate due to the McKinney fire in Northern California,” he wrote. “Currently staying in a tent, but I brought my essentials with me!”
By Monday night, Graff’s post had attracted more than 3,300 reactions and 227 comments. It was an outpouring of support.
“Praying for a safe return to your home with your precious family,” wrote one user.
“This made me well up so quickly. I’m so glad you and your babies are safe,” wrote another.
The adult cats didn’t panic that first night. They were running around the tent “being cats,” Graff said.
And the one-month-old kittens, who’d just started to walk, were everywhere. To his surprise, they learned how to get out of the box where he’d put them to sleep for the night.
“They got out of their box and started crawling all over me. I’d wake up with them in my face, nibbling on me or playing with one another. It was just a whole night of just, ‘where are the kittens, what are they doing?’” Graff said.
“I spent most of the night just trying to corral them and keep them cool and keep everything calm and focused. It was interesting. I didn’t get a lot of sleep.”
Then on Sunday, with the kittens heading toward heat exhaustion, Graff put a wet towel in the bottom of a small pet carrier.
He plopped all nine kittens on top of the towel, placed the carrier in the shade and hooked up a fan to a 100-foot power cord to cool them down.
That night’s rain soothed the animals, he said. “That cool breeze was really nice. The kittens just sort of slept through it all, especially with the rain. They were champs. I was worried that they would panic, but they didn’t.”
After he posted on Facebook with photos of a bevy of cute kittens in a tent, someone affiliated with an emergency shelter saw the post. All the babies and their mother have been placed temporarily, Graff said.
They still need permanent homes. They can be found at the small animal evacuation center at the Montague Community Center, which is being run by Siskiyou County SNIP (Spay and Neuter Incentive Program.)
Now, it’s just Graff — who has gotten an air mattress for himself — and his two personal cats Lucky and Duchess in the tent until they get the a-okay to return home.
People wanting to adopt the McKinney Fire kittens or foster other cats in the Yreka area can call Graff at 503-773-2286 or Saving Shasta Cats at 510-517-2602.
Michele Chandler covers criminal justice issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter at @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-338-7753 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support our entire newsroom’s commitment to public service journalism by subscribing today.