Home provides shelter, but shelter is not home. Home evokes a sense of belonging, of permanence. Home is waking up to your furry friend purring and joining you for coffee. Home is relaxing at night while your kitten pounces on its toys. For all sweet cats, home is a place where they are a member of a family who loves them.
The cats and kittens who reside at CAT, or Cat Adoption Team located in Sherwood, Oregon, have shelter. They have a strong community of support: vets, volunteers, and non-profit leaders. They also receive the support of personal and corporate donations. The community comes together to provide them care until the day when they are adopted into their permanent homes.
There is some debate as to how long cats and humans have enjoyed each other’s companionship, but whether it is 8,000 or 12,000 years, cats and humans have a long history of coexisting together. In about 34% of American homes, our furry friends live, and studies have shown numerous times that those who have pets live longer lives.
Yet, not every cat has a home. The cause is many, but the number one reason is due to not spaying and neutering our pets leading to overpopulation.
CAT is a non-profit organization dedicated to finding homes for cats and kittens. When you enter into the shelter there is a large sign that indicates how many adoptions have taken place for the week and month. There are volunteers everywhere; they care for the cats, give them attention and play time, clean, do laundry, file, make phone calls, and assist the leadership and staff. There are the vets who are responsible for the health of the entire cat population. There are also the people who operate behind the scenes and are necessary for the community development and to oversee the organization. Everyone, with the community’s support, is committed to the well-being of the cats with the end goal of placing them into homes to live happy and healthy lives.
The Lead Vet: Dianne
“The coolest thing is when they send out the list on who’s been adopted. These are cats that I’ve treated or spent time with. I think, I know that cat. It’s really neat to see the cats that have been adopted,” Dianne said. Dianne is the lead vet at CAT and is responsible for both the individual cat’s health as well as ensuring the entire cat population is healthy.
Dianne always knew she wanted a career in science and medicine. She was in particular attracted to becoming a veterinarian because the discipline afforded her the opportunity to treat and learn about medicine holistically, versus specializing as is the practice with human medicine.
Dianne worked as a vet and even ran her own practice before making the decision to further her skills in shelter care. She worked in San Antonio focusing on herd health before making the transition to CAT as the lead vet. Herd health is specialized as she has to be concerned about how to keep an entire population healthy. This means that if a cat is sick, she has to consider how to prevent illness from spreading. This often means isolation rooms to prevent the contagion from spreading.
CAT has recently undergone a remodel to improve the isolation spaces. Dianne’s next project is to find ways to keep the cats who are in isolation enriched through entertainment and stimulation. She is working on seeing if cat videos or music, in addition to play time help reduce stress for these cats and kittens.
One of the biggest challenges Dianne faces as the lead vet is trying to find ways to make the environment at the shelter less stressful and shares, “the longer they are here, the more chance there is for disease because despite everything we do it is stressful to be in a kennel.”
Of the many things that people can do to help, Dianne says that volunteers who foster are always needed. Foster homes for cats get the cat into a home environment and provides a more relaxed safe space that they can be nurtured and socialized. All volunteers are important to the non-profit and Dianne says, “we cherish our volunteers, they do so much.”
Over 400 people volunteer with CAT. Without the volunteers, the organization could not provide the care needed for the cats. The volunteers contribute in a myriad of ways. Volunteers at CAT are directly involved in the saving of the cats lives. Over 34,000 cats since the beginning of CAT have been adopted, which would not have been possible without the volunteers.
Ocean glanced at me when I entered Heather’s office and then stretched out, aware that he looked quite handsome in his bow tie. Heather is the Communications and Development manager for CAT, and she explained that sometimes when a cat has been at the shelter for awhile the CAT team will have the cats spend time in the shelter’s offices. This way the cats are given a more stimulating environment and personal attention. This will hopefully help the cats find their permanent homes as they relax and their personalities come out.
Heather, an animal lover, is responsible for the communication internally within the organization and externally with the community. Additionally she develops relationships with community partners and is currently organizing the annual fundraiser. The entire organization is funded through donations and the Whisker Wonderland Dinner and Silent Auction is one of the many ways the community can support the non-profit.
Heather shared that the organization has grown since it began in 1998 to become the largest non-profit adoption guarantee shelter in Oregon. The shelter goes beyond saving the lives and giving a second chance to the cats and kittens who come through from other shelters and individuals. CAT is also the founding partner to Animal Shelter Alliance of Portland, which has reduced euthanasia in Portland’s shelters by 87% over the last eight years. Additionally, the shelter operates a full-service veterinary hospital for the homeless cats and kittens that come into the organization. The non-profit also has partnerships with off-site partners such as Pet Loft and Purringtons Cat Lounge that house cats and kittens until they find homes.
The Cats and Kittens
As I walked through the shelter and met the cats and kittens I was struck by how sweet and personable so many of them were. Shelter life is hard on a cat and many cats are not used to being around so many other cats, sights, and sounds. For many cats, it is difficult for them to let their personalities show through. These cats take longer to get adopted and are at greater risk of becoming ill.
Many of the cats, however, meowed and wanted attention. The shelter has several rooms that help give the cat more space and allows visitors to interact with the cat. I met Hank, a handsome and sweet young feline. He rubbed his head on my leg and we played with his catnip-filled sock. When I made to leave, he meowed at the door so I stayed with him petting his head and telling him I hope he would adopted soon.
The hard truth is that because of the volunteers and people like Dianne and Heather these cats are cared for, but they are still homeless. Home means a lot to many of us, and these cats and kittens are all waiting to be adopted into their permanent home.
Here is how we can get involved:
Foster: The kitten foster program is one of the best in the county and is a model for other organizations. CAT states, “In foster, there’s socialization for young kittens, space for mother cats to raise their young, and time for sick or injured cats to heal. Without these foster homes, many of these cats and kittens would not survive. Foster homes also free up space within the shelter, which means more lives are saved!”
Volunteer: The organization needs volunteers to help with everything from the food bank that provides cat food in partnership with meals on wheels to being a cat adoption counselor.
Thrift Store: The CAT Thrift store located on 4838 SW Scholls Ferry Rd, Portland, OR 97225 accepts donations of clothes, furniture, and other household items with all proceeds directly going to support CAT.
Donate: Make a tax-deductible contribution to CAT. CAT accepts monetary donations as well as new items for the shelter and hospital. The wish list is available on their website.
Adopt: When you adopt you are giving a cat or kitten a home and life long companionship.
Learn more about CAT and visit here.