Story and photos by Colleen Keefe
PAWSsitively Cats No-Kill Shelter held its first annual Pop-up Cat Café this summer and let’s just say the event was purrrfect.
The purpose of the event was to bring community awareness to the non-profit, generate donations, and cultivate potential volunteers and prospective adoptive and/or foster homes for the felines. And according to Sheryl Campbell, executive director of PAWSitively Cats, that is just what they did.
The organization began nine years ago in July of 2010 at a low-income trailer park where Campbell worked as rental manager. Campbell started rounding up strays to be spayed and neutered, and the shelter has grown substantially from there. “It was tough going that first year, I didn’t think we were going to survive, but we did,” Campbell admitted. Then in 2012 while seeking assistance for 60 cats, most of which were kittens, Campbell took on 450 cats from another rescue. For more information on how PAWSitively Cats began, read the September 2017 issue at www.thetucsondog.com.
The Pop-up Cat Café brought friends of felines together who gathered at the shelter on Tucson’s eastside at 1145 N. Woodland Ave. The non-profit boasts 2,500 square feet of free-roaming felines. Currently, 175 furry occupants reside there and can be found on sofas and chairs, tables and countertops, perches and posts.
Five foster families provide homes for 27 kittens. An additional four foster homes take adult cats that are not likely to be adopted due to age or a medical condition. “All foster homes are volunteers. We pay all the expenses, they just have to do all the work,” Campbell said. Adult fosters agree to keep each cat for the remainder of its life, assuring the feline a stable, loving and final forever-home. Cats like Happy Cat who outlived her 90-year-old person.
The 21-year-old cat came to PAWSitively Cats with only eight or nine teeth that all had to be pulled due to a severe gum infection. She was considered “high risk” and not expected to live through surgery. But she did, and Happy Cat will be celebrating her 23rd birthday later this year. “She chases a laser pointer and crickets, takes over her foster dad’s life and lap, and outdoes her 13-year-old [feline] foster sister,” Campbell reported.
The event hosted by Grumpy’s Coffee Truck brought approximately 150 cat lovers to the shelter. Together, felines and friends became acquainted with each other. As guests sipped on coffee and meandered throughout the venue, cats took advantage of the opportunity to be pet, held, cuddled or scratched. Seriously, who doesn’t love a good head scratch?
Many of the attendees came out to support the efforts of the shelter, while some simply came to pet and swoon over the cats. Other patrons came with a more serious mission in mind – searching for that special connection with a cat or kitty to bring into their family.
Travis Teeter, whose cat of 21 years recently passed, “was testing the waters for adoption.” He spent a great amount of time with a velvety black cat. He wasn’t alone in his quest. Brittany Garcia and her 8-year-old son Damian Burrell came in search of a cat or kitten they could call their own. The pair introduced themselves to many of the feline friends at the event.
Approximately 40 volunteers donate their time and efforts to the shelter. Some of their tasks include brushing cats, reading to cats, changing kitty litter and sweeping and mopping – a never ending job. Campbell said that three or four of her regular volunteers routinely spend half a day at the shelter “working themselves silly”. The sanctuary also works with DES and Workability, a program designed to help special needs adults learn valuable work skills in order to eventually gain employment. The program participants occasionally arrive at the shelter ready to volunteer with their one-on-one attendant. Campbell said she is grateful for each volunteer that helps the cats.
Samantha Olchard, who “came to look and pet cats” helped her 5-year-old daughter Elise and a reluctant kitty to overcome their fear of the other. Within a short amount of time, the two were enjoying each other’s company. The encounters were beneficial to all – feline or human. Seven cats found their forever family, two were placed in new foster homes, and “attendees were generous,” Campbell reported.
“It’s very difficult to keep donations coming in,” Campbell admitted. We always need to bring in new people, even if they are just donating small amounts of money. And that’s ok, the more people that do that, the better. It’s better than getting one or two people who will give you a $1,000. I’d rather have ten people give me $10 dollars, because maybe they will give the shelter $15 one month,” Campbell explained.
The shelter spent $47,000 on veterinary care for the month of June. That figure included the discounts they customarily receive. PAWSitively Cats has a Facebook following of more than 3,000. “If 500 [followers] donated $10.00 a month, that would be an awesome gift,” Campbell said.
PAWSitively Cats has rescued thousands of cats over the years. But the need for help continues. “I’m in it for the long haul, long term,” Campbell said. “We made a commitment to them.”
For more information, or if you would like to donate, volunteer or adopt, go to www.pawsitivelycats.org or on Facebook at PAWSitively Cats No-Kill Shelter.