Rodger Degagne, a former employee with AECL in Chalk River, may
be embarking on a new career as Feline Breeder. Relaxing in
his spacious home on the shores of the Ottawa River, Mr. Degagne recalls
how 15 years ago he befriended two stray young cats on the old AECL
research facility at Chalk River. The kittens had appeared in
late summer and apparently had gotten under a security fence around the
old labs abandoned since the late 50's. With the help of his
tuna sandwich, Mr. Degagne was able to coax the kitties close enough so
that he could pick them up. A self described animal lover, he
did not want to place the kittens in the local Humane
Society. In this largely rural area, cats of all stripes and
ages largely go unwanted and are humanely disposed of after a few
days. Later that evening his wife Louise and their two
children, Nicole and Kelly came to a family decision to keep the kittens
which they named Lost and Found. Lost turned out to be female
and Found a male. When nature finally took it's course, a
litter of kittens was born 6 years later. One of the litter
was a big white female with a unique black markings on her side and
tail. Something about the kitten captured the hearts of
the family and while her siblings eventually found homes elsewhere,
Snowball stayed with the Degagne's.
While Lost and Found are no longer with us, their progeny live on. In her 9 years Snowball's size has seemed to snowball. Put simply, Snowball is no ordinary cat, she measures 69 inches from nose to tail and weighs in at 87Ibs. She started out a big kitty and she just seemed to keep growing. She always meowed for more food and would climb up on the counter to eat food which anyone forgot to cover. Chicken is her favorite. "Once I left a cooked chicken on the table that I was going to use for a boat picnic, an hour later the chicken was gone", Louise said.
We knew that snowball wasn't your average cat when the neighbor's German Shepherd ran yelping away from his first encounter with her. She just isn't afraid of any animals. After we found a half eaten raccoon out by the garage, we decided that maybe Snowball should be kept fenced in. We soon discovered that while we can keep snowball in the yard, we couldn't keep raccoons from Snowball. At least it kept the food bills down. Rodger laughed "Like all female cats she is very territorial, but with us she is just a big ole kitten" he said.
So what does a 87 pound cat eat? Snowball goes through a about 3 lbs. of cat food a day, along with cooked chicken, supplemented with deer and moose that Rodger hunts in the fall. She likes Pike a lot, so don't throw them back any more. Snowball often accompanies Rodger fishing on the Ottawa, eagerly peering over the side of the boat as soon as his line goes tight. So what do the Degagne's attribute Snowball's size to? Rodger says, "Well, the vet thinks it could be her thyroid, but she isn't fat, she's just a real big cat. I think maybe her parents got into something at Chalk River that they shouldn't have."
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