Billy the Kid may be history’s most notorious outlaw, but Virginia Beach-based Billy the Kidden Rescue (BTKR) has a far kinder and gentler reputation. Just ask Stevie Wonder, a fluffy gray and white cat who BTKR pulled from the Suffolk Humane Society with a long list of medical ailments, one of which ultimately led to veterinarians surgically removing his eyes to relieve pain. Hence, Stevie’s wonderfully affectionate moniker.
“I had the honor of naming that boy,” says BTKR Executive Director Olivia Brown. The organization often partners with area shelters to help felines who may be destined for euthanasia. “We put in that extra effort for those cats who may have special needs,” Brown notes. Stevie Wonder’s surgery was a success, and he was ultimately placed in a loving, local home.
Founded in 2013, BTKR’s mission is to “improve the lives of displaced cats and kittens and reduce feral cat populations in Hampton Roads by socializing outdoor-born and unwanted kittens for adoption into forever homes.” They do this primarily through a foster-based rescue and adoption program, medical care and vaccines, and the practice of TNR or “trap, neuter, return” in which feral cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, and then returned to reduce the outdoor breeding population.
The largest home-based rescue on the East Coast, BTKR has three public adoption centers—one at the Catnip Cat Café in Norfolk, one at the Pembroke Pet Smart on Virginia Beach Boulevard and one at Pups ‘n’ Stuff on Holland Road. In addition to an array of partnerships with other animal welfare organizations around the region, BTKR works with an extensive network of foster volunteers.
And the need is great. National estimates put the feral cat population in the U.S. at somewhere between 60 and 100 million. While it is hard to pinpoint a number locally, it is undoubtedly thousands. “It’s really an astronomical number of feral cats,” Brown says. Here is how BTKR is made a dent in these daunting numbers in 2020:
- Worked on 40 feral cat colonies (may include 50 to 100 cats)
- “Closed out” 20 feral cat colonies through TNR of all kittens
- Helped approximately 860 cats through their intake process
- Trapped, neutered and returned approximately 200 cats
All of this work to improve the lives of cats comes with a price tag. “Our vet bills alone were $74,000 in 2020,” says Brown. If you would like to help, money is always a good way. But they are also always looking for volunteers to assist in trapping and fostering cats as well as donated supplies like cat food, litter, blankets and toys: “You name it, we need it.”
You can check out their wish list on Amazon or go to BillyTheKiddenRescue.org to learn more about Billy the Kidden Rescue.