A local cat lover and owner of Friends of Felines Rescue Center (FFRC) has decided to retire after more than 30 years of working with, and learning from, animals.

Recently The Crescent-News sat down with Jacci Moss, owner and operator of the rural Defiance facility since its inception, and Megan Fischer, an eight-year volunteer who has purchased the center and will continue the operations after Moss leaves.

Driving up to the center that is located on Power Dam Road, one has to be aware that there are a few outside cats who will greet guests as they arrive.

Sitting down with Moss and Fischer, one of the first questions asked concerned the outside cats. Said Moss: “Those are cats that some people have dropped off. Most of them have been with us for years, they really are outside cats. They came here as ‘intact’ males, so they are a bit of sprayers, and people don’t want that.

“They are all neutered and all vaccinated, and they are all well-cared for,” added Moss, “and they stay — I guess if you’re loved and fed, it’s good to stay.”

Throughout the interview, cat meows interrupted the conversation, and from time to time someone was petting a cat, or was surprised by a cat who had jumped into a lap. Moss responded right away: “Sometimes people don’t realize the depth of personality that each cat has. The cats are very distinctively different from one another and that surprises people.”

Moss continued: “Since 1991, I have lived here and at that time I did wildlife rehabbing. I had the wildlife orphanage and rehab center for about 10 years. I loved it.”

During that time, Moss helped with deer, possums, skunks, foxes, owls and eagles, among other animals.

“Every kind of mammal here in Ohio as well as birds ... we took in probably 550-600 animals a year,” said Moss. “The far majority of those were then released back into the wild.”

Trained as a nurse, Moss easily fit into the lifestyle of helping animals of all kinds.

“I also did environmental ed(ucation) programs for the Girl Scouts, and that kind of led me into that desire to do wildlife rehabbing,” Moss said. “I did that for 10 years and I started to get a little discouraged, because people were bringing in babies that weren’t really orphaned. We don’t want to take babies from their parents, but that’s what I saw.”

So how did Moss get involved with cats?

“While running the wildlife rehab center, people brought us cats. That made no sense,” said Moss. “These were not wild animals. So, one thing led to another, and always having a love of cats, we downsized the wildlife and my daughter, Dawn, and I started the cat rescue.”

Starting small, Moss recalled when the rescue center had gotten its 11th cat.

“I told my daughter, Dawn, ‘This is a lot of cats. How can we find room for this many?’ asked Moss. “Now, you know, it’s just spiraled, 11 is nothing now.”

FFRC continues to take in cats as the population in the center will allow. As well, the center allows individuals to adopt cats from them.

“People have to go through a bit of paperwork and we talk a lot to the people that are going to adopt — we want to make sure they are going to keep indoor kitties and that they will care for them,” said Moss.

FFRC is a rescue shelter like the Fort Defiance Humane Society (FDHS), but it is not a 501©3.

“This is a rescue shelter — rescue first. We are much like (FDHS),” Moss said. “The difference between us and FDHS, they don’t do residents, we have residents.”

Added Fisher: “And we can be cage-free.”

Continued Moss: “We work good together with FDHS. Both organizations are big believers in spaying and neutering. We also do low cost spay/neuter clinics that helps out Defiance, Paulding and Henry counties — they come from all over just because of the low cost.”

So where does the center get funding?

“Probably 90% of our funding comes from our viewers (the center has a live feed accessible from its website) from all across the world,” said Moss. “The adoption fees and donations also come from local individuals and organizations. People hear we might need something, and someone from the area will pull up in their car and offer a donation.”

Donations can be monetary or donations in kind: paper towels, litter, cat food, toys, treats, volunteering, postage stamps.

“Our website lists events and other info like things we need,” said Moss.

So how many cats does FFRC have today?

“We have around 45 cats that we take care of outside,” began Moss, “right now, inside, our numbers are low because of the transition. Normally we would allow 90-110 inside. You have to be careful because you don’t want to stress your cats out. There are a lot of factors that determine how many we can manage at one time.”

Though the majority of the cats there are nursed and adopted out, some remain as permanent fixtures at the center. Moss said, “Those are cats we have chosen for various reasons to keep as residents.”

The center also has a vet on staff, Dr. Darcy Adams of the Fountain City Animal Hospital in Bryan, who attends to the cats monthly, and has done so for many years. Dr. Adams responds to medical emergencies 24/7 and does surgeries.

“Everything we do here has to be covered by a vet,” said Moss. “We can only work on our medical things with our FFRC cats. We cannot do medical things for the public.”

Moss also pointed out the difference between cats and dogs as pets.

“Dogs are social, but cats are, ‘aloof, but lovable,’” Moss said. “The far majority that are adopted from here are social. I get pictures all the time from the cats that have been adopted and they are still very physical and social.”

With so many of the cats to care for, and after so many years of nursing them, how can Moss now retire?

“This was a major, hard decision. This is my life, my ‘blood, sweat and tears,’ said Moss. “I have put everything into this going on 23 years. I love it with a passion. I know them inside and out.”

For a short time, Moss thought closing would have to be the new reality, but Fischer stepped up and offered to take over.

“This has to continue. It’s a big help to our community and surrounding counties. Megan expressed an interest and since she had been a volunteer here for eight years, she already had her foot in the door of knowing what we do here. The last three weeks have been heavy training with another five weeks to go,” said Moss. “She will be just fine.”

Said Fisher: “A lot of what Jacci does, you don’t see as a volunteer. It’s definitely very beneficial to have the volunteer background, just to even know the specific likes and dislikes of the cats, and how to handle them in certain situations. Now, it’s just more of the administrative duties and the medical training. It’s going to be a big thing, but I feel I am farther ahead than if I had walked in off the street.”

Fischer added with a laugh: “And I have her phone number if I need to call.”

Volunteers are an important part of FFRC. Moss said that COVID has brought down the amount of visits with volunteers, but about 40 different volunteers visit the facility, on a regular basis.

“The main jobs of our volunteers are feeding, cleaning, loving, petting, brushing — lots of loving,” said Moss. “If you want to get involved, just call us. Or visit our website, fofrescue.org. We love our volunteers.”

So are residents from Defiance and surrounding counties the only volunteers?

“We have people from all over the world who have visited and volunteered: Amsterdam, Argentina, Australia, all of the U.S., Germany, Great Britain,” said Fischer.

Moss added that the visitors come and usually stay a week.

“They offer their services to do whatever and we used to have the ‘little house’ — like a studio apartment — where people can come and stay,” said Moss. “We use a separate calendar to keep track of that, but because of COVID we have been unable to use it lately.”

“I am looking forward to that again. We have so many people that come from all over. It felt like that was almost always booked,” said Fischer.

Moss will officially retire around the end of February, and says the only regret she has is leaving.

“I have loved, loved, loved this and I am going to miss it,” said Moss.

Anyone who would like more information about volunteering, donating to or visiting the Friends of Felines Rescue Center can visit fofrescue.org, or call 419-393-2400.

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