Critter Cafe founder known for her care of small animals – Muskegon Chronicle

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Nov 1, 2013 in Rat News | Subscribe

FRUITPORT TWP. — While most people involved in animal rescue focus on cats or dogs, Christine Lea Bishop specializes in small, domesticated species.

“I simply love animals,” she said.

Fifteen years ago, neighborhood kids told Bishop about a rat that had been left in an

M0129CRITTERCAFE1.JPGChristine Lea Bishop is the founder of the Critter Cafe and Rescue in Fruitport Township. She is holding Twister, who was rescued in the Montague area in November.

aquarium when its owner moved. Bishop rescued the rat, and that was the beginning of Christine’s Critter Cafe and Rescue.

Based in Fruitport, the Critter Cafe has taken in and adopted out cats, kittens, bunnies, hamsters, rats, chinchillas, guinea pigs, dogs, birds and more. Some of the critters are kept in foster homes, but most stay at Bishop’s residence where she is their full-time caregiver.

“I feel so bad for these animals — that they don’t have a voice. They’re all deserving of proper care.”

Fruitport resident Ron Cooper, editor of the Fruitport Area News and co-founder of the West Michigan Spay and Neuter Clinic, has known Bishop for four years and said she pours her heart into what she does.

“West Michigan is fortunate to have her,” he said.

But it’s not just local communities that benefit from Bishop’s compassion.

A few years ago, she received a call from the Marquette Humane Society in northern Michigan asking if she could take 17 female rats. She didn’t hesitate to say yes. The rats were part of a college student’s thesis on aggression.

“I was always a rat person,” she said. “Rats make wonderful pets.”

Her appreciation for the long-tailed rodents started years ago when her daughter, Nicole, was 9 years old. They went to a pet store and came home with several pet rats.

Bishop sometimes gets calls for injured or abandoned wildlife. She is not a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, but she gets involved and ensures the animal is transferred to someone qualified to care for it. She has helped with fox, raccoons, squirrels and rabbits.

While she has a soft spot for all animals, she absolutely loves rabbits.

Critter Cafe and Rescue

Critter Cafe and Rescue
Christine Lea Bishop is the founder of the Critter Cafe and Rescue in Fruitport Township. She houses several rabbits and other animals such as guinea pigs, rats, cats, and birds.
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Three years ago, she got a call about a rabbit breeder in Fremont who had moved and turned her animals loose outside. Bishop helped catch or live-trap 42 rabbits.

Last November, she rescued a 19-pound Flemish Giant which had been abandoned outside in Montague.

In mid-January, Bishop got a call from central dispatch asking if she could pick up two rabbits someone had left in a box at the end of a dead-end road. She doubts they would have survived the freezing nighttime temperatures.

“Abandoning a domestic bunny is abuse. It makes me crazy,” Bishop said. But abandoning rabbits isn’t the only thing that makes her crazy.

“After Easter, we get flooded with bunnies,” she said.

She has advice for anyone considering buying a baby bunny as an Easter present: “I tell people to research, research, research.”

Critter Cafe and Rescue

Bishop said bunnies do not make good pets for children — they don’t like to be held. When they get scared, they kick so hard they can break their back. When their hormones kick in as they mature, bunnies will growl, lunge and bite. They need to be spayed or neutered. Plus, bunnies require a very specific diet and they like to chew.

Bishop added not all veterinarians treat rabbits. Bunny owners need to work with a rabbit savvy veterinarian such as Dr. Jeanne Corbett at Fruitport Animal Hospital. Corbett provides medical care for the animals at the Critter Cafe.

Bishop is active in online networking. One of her supporters is Pennsylvania resident Tom Imke, who got involved in animal welfare after he retired. Although they have never met, Imke said he communicates regularly with Bishop via email and the telephone.

“It is easy to determine she is all about the animals and their care. She is seriously dedicated,” Imke said.

Bishop also loves cats, and a lot of the calls that come into the Critter Cafe are for cats and kittens. She can’t begin to help them all, which makes her sad.

“As I adopt animals out, I can take in more,” she said.

Bishop works closely with Judy Austin, who runs Cat Tales Rescue in Norton Shores.

“That girl is dedicated,” Austin said. “She’ll do anything to help a helpless animal. She has a lot of knowledge and just gives and gives and gives.”

The Critter Cafe survives on donations, adoption fees and Bishop’s savings — including her retirement fund. She admits her personal funds are running low and she might have to find a part-time job. Still, she is amazed at her good fortune at having the Critter Cafe.

“It’s given me a purpose and a focus. I know I’m making a difference. God has his hand on this rescue,” she said.

For more information visit or call Bishop at 231-865-6021.

Janet Vormittag is a Chronicle correspondent.

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