One of the earliest photos of Barbara Starkey is of her happily cuddling a very relaxed kitty.
That photo would become a template for her life as an activist and rescuer of stray cats, a woman who refused to let even multiple sclerosis halt her never-ending desire to see abandoned cats placed in loving homes through The Cat Adoption Team, a grassroots organization she founded.
“I fostered her first cat, around 1998,” said longtime friend and supporter Carol Murawsky, who remembers Barbara struggling to care for the animals as her illness progressed. “She was very determined. She was amazing, didn’t complain. It was always for the cats.”
Barbara, born one of two children in England, began working in the civil service before immigrating to Canada in 1990 where she found a job in insurance, a job that help support her cause.
Her sister Janet Ralphs recalled that Barbara’s “love of cats began very early in life, as you can see from the photograph with Tiger, her first cat. She was passionate about animal welfare and that is why she chose to help the cat rescue.”
Carol said it all started when the ladies who had been running Cats In Crises, ran an ad seeking help.
“People burn out,” said Carol. “Barb called to help out.” What followed was a meeting of people interested in supporting cat rescue but it would be Barbara who ran what became the Cat Adoption Team, a group of people who had many adventures and helped hundreds of cats over the years.