‘Tis the season for giving, but generosity is something Mike Fountaine is familiar with all year round. Founder and head of the Lucky Few, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping unwanted animals, Fountaine is committed to saving the lives of countless of our furry friends.
In 2006, Fountaine moved to a beautiful ranch in northern Santa Barbara in hopes of becoming closer to nature and being able to live a more sustainable life through farming (and we’re talking about a prime location here: this place is in the middle of the woods, but after walking about half a mile down a quaint path, you find yourself emerging straight onto the beach to the sound of waves crashing against the shore). The day Fountaine arrived at his new home, he noticed a couple of cats nearby, but they quickly disappeared when he got close. Later that day, he saw at least ten more going through the bins when he went to take out his trash. That night, he heard the sounds of fighting tomcats, and the next morning, he saw the terrible damage they did to each other in those fights. After just a few days in his new home on the ranch, he realized there was a huge and very unhealthy feral cat population fighting to survive there—upwards of 60 cats. He knew something had to be done.
“By domesticating certain animals, we humans have made them much less able to fend for themselves and much more reliant on us,” he says. “When we turn our backs on them, they suffer.”
I first came across Fountaine’s website shortly after moving to Los Angeles when I myself was struggling with how to help the cats in my own new neighborhood. At the time, I had no idea what a feral cat was, nor did I know how feral cats differed from strays. All I knew was that there were two beautiful little kitties living in the bushes of my new home and that it was both the humane and responsible thing to get them fixed and vaccinated.
With the help of Fountaine’s site, I slowly learned about feral cats, the differences between a feral and a stray (a feral cat will not allow you to approach or handle it; they need to be humanely trapped in order to bring them to a veterinary facility, whereas a stray cat will likely approach you and to be vocal and will often allow you to pet it), and tips on how to humanely trap, neuter, and return the cats to their environment (TNR). If this guy could help over 60 cats, then I could surely help this mother and baby cat living in my yard.
After several weeks of trying, I was eventually able to get the younger cat to trust me enough to come up to me, and I was able to put him in a carrier (this is very rare for most feral cats; they are usually so skittish that you must humanely trap them.) I then took him to the Pasadena Humane Society, another amazing organization dedicated to helping dogs and cats in the Los Angeles area, and after a day of recovering, this little guy was safely back in his home environment in my yard.
Catching the mother cat was another endeavor entirely. It took months, but after a lot of hard work and patience, I was finally able to humanely trap her one spring evening. When I took her to the Pasadena Humane Society, they told me that, although she was very young, she had likely already given birth to at least three litters, and she would have continued to get pregnant for years to come, thus introducing more and more homeless cats into the Los Angeles population (which has the largest number of homeless cats in the country). She was safely spayed and vaccinated, and after letting her recover in my bathroom for a couple of days (which she hated; feral cats do not like to be confined, but I had to monitor her as she healed), she too was released back into the yard, and since then, I have helped to TNR more than fifteen feral cats in my neighborhood.
I could not have gotten through this endeavor without the help and guidance of Fountaine. Not only did his website provide lots of great information, but he also responded quickly to all the questions I had and gave me suggestions and advice about what to do. It was during these email exchanges that I realized that I was communicating with a truly exceptional individual.
Fountaine has literally dedicated his life to ensuring these cats are happy and healthy. Professionally, he is a pilot, but he spends the majority of his days making rounds on the ranch to feed and check up on the various feral colonies that live there. When you’ve got over 60 cats in your care, each one with individual needs and a unique personality, there is never a shortage of work that must be done.
It would be an understatement to say that Fountaine has a very special connection with animals. He is a big fan of clicker training, a technique that uses positive reinforcement along with the sound of a click to mark the behavior being reinforced. Still, the connection that he has with the cats on his ranch is unmatched by any that I have ever seen. He has got these cats rolling over, leaping onto his shoulder, and even high-fiving him and one another. He’s got cats that were previously so feral that they wouldn’t come within thirty feet of anyone now purring like happy kittens as they snooze on his lap. The love he has for each of these cats is just astounding.
It takes a huge amount of time, money, and other resources to ensure that these cats are fed and well cared for, and your donation can help to do just that. The Lucky Few is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, and 100% of the donations go back to the cats. To find out more about how you can help Fountaine and the cats, visit the website, or you can contact the organization directly at email@example.com. In lieu of gifts for Christmas this year, I am asking my friends and family to donate to this amazing organization.
So what’s Fountaine’s next project? “I’ve seen a couple of mountain lions on the property, and my goal is to get some of them clicker trained, at least partially,” he tells me with a laugh. “There’s never a dull moment here on the ranch.”