An organization that began two years ago with a small group of volunteers and lost, abandoned and relocated cats has now grown into a permanent shelter facility with nearly 100 volunteers and more than 200 rescues.
CATS – Cat Advocates Teaching & Saving Society began as a grassroots organization with a mission to not only educate cat owners to resolve behavioural issues and provide resources available to assist with re-homing, but to rescue cats abandoned or dumped within the Comox Valley.
On Oct. 1, 2020, CATS officially took possession of their own shelter, with a space at 863 Knight Rd. in Comox. Five months later, with the assistance of volunteers and community members donating funds, time and supplies, they have officially opened their doors to the public.
“It’s been buzzing every day,” explains Michelle Cunningham, president of the organization. “People drive by with donations to the thrift store or wanting to volunteer. There’s just been amazing support.”
The thrift shop – officially open Thursday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – is just one part of the volunteer-run new facility. To assist in raising funds, there is a bottle-sorting area as well, and CATS will accept donations for the thrift shop (no clothing, books, CDs or large appliances) or bottles, with 100 per cent of proceeds “going to the cats,” adds Cunningham.
While the new building has fundraising space, the shelter facility has multiple kennels for cat intake, depending on if a cat is social, has seen a veterinarian or has just recently been rescued.
“In our isolation room, sometimes the cats are not so happy to come in that have just been trapped,” explains Cunningham. “Within 24 hours, you can see they change – they are so grateful and just won’t stop meowing. It’s really satisfying to see.”
Sue MacKay, vice president of CATS says they worked with the large space to maximize the square footage to design their kennels.
“Every room has its own kitchen and fridge because we don’t want to go from room to room in order to avoid cross-contamination … we put a lot of thought into how we want to grow.”
Due to COVID-19, CATS has changed its adoption process, but due to the success of the program, the process will remain in place, she adds. Cats who are ready for adoption have photos and a description online, where potential ‘fosters’ can find their fit.
If someone is interested in adopting a cat, McKay notes they must go through CATS’ ‘Foster to Adopt’ program, where once approved, a potential adopter meets their cat at the facility and takes it home for about two to three weeks to see if it is a good match.
If it works out, the organization then completes the adoption process; if not, the adopter can bring the cat back.
Additionally, the organization offers support, and education on every aspect of feline life from socialization, integration, behavioral tips and even how suggestions on how to build a ‘catio’ – a cat patio.
“Teaching is in our name,” notes MacKay. “Our goal is to ask ‘can we find a better way, together?”
With a growing number of volunteers on various teams including trapping, foster facilitating, adoption, fundraising and admin, Cunningham explains their goal is to grow both the shelter and organization with their team by listening to suggestions and always being open to change.
“It takes a village to make this work – it truly feels like a family.”
Last year, CATS rescued 120 cats; within the first three months this year, the organization has already rescued 45 cats, and MacKay says they are on track to surpass 200 by the end of the year.
On Saturday, March 6, volunteers from CATS will be at Bosley’s in Comox (2-2225 Guthrie Rd.) for a food drive to fill their cat pantry.