A HOME FOR EVERY CAT
Text by Nancy Marano and photos by Cindy Richards
Circle March 16th in red on your calendar. It's a special day for cats because the Albuquerque Cat Action Team (A.C.A.T.) was founded on March 16, 2000 with the idea of helping cats and their people.
A.C.A.T. has more than lived up to their motto. In two years they've placed more than 700 homeless cats in new homes.
"We realized we were the only no-kill, animal group registered in New Mexico that worked only with cats," said Cindy Richards, A.C.A.T.'s President. "It just took off like wildfire. We had no idea how great the need for a group like ours was. There's a greater population of cats out there that need help than people are aware of. Dogs are adopted more easily so many rescue groups take larger numbers of dogs. If people were willing to do fostering, rescue groups would be able to take in more cats, but foster-based groups are limited by how many people volunteer to foster."
Little Joe was born in one of A.C.A.T.'s first litter of kittens.
He was the smallest of the bunch and so adorable (and he knew it!).
He has been re-named "Guido" and loves his mom, dad,
two cat siblings and beautiful dog friend too!
As Richards and I talked at her home, some cats she and her husband, Craig, currently foster wandered over. In seconds we each had a cat in our lap and several more on the table between us just to keep us honest. More watched from their beds or lounged on various levels of the cat trees.
"A.C.A.T.'s mission is to help cats," Richards explained. "Our aim is to enhance the quality of life for cats, primarily in the Albuquerque metropolitan area. That means keeping them from being euthanized unnecessarily, taking them off the street, and getting them out of abusive situations."
Most cats come to A.C.A.T. from the public. Some come from trapping done in the feral cat program and a few by veterinarian request.
"We ask people to take the cat to the veterinarian for us and have it tested for infectious diseases. A.C.A.T. will pay for the tests, but we don't accept cats with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline infectious peritonitis (FIP.) These infectious diseases are dangerous in multiple-cat environments," Richards explained. "We also make sure the person with a stray has tried to locate the owner."
Babykins was a sweet, big all-white stray cat.
He was really clumsy and very loving;
he was adopted by a wonderful family in December 2001
who just love him immensely.
Once a cat is accepted a decision is made about who will foster it. "We determine whether the cat is spayed or neutered, do the basic shots, and have it de-wormed. The foster brings the cat to our Saturday adoption clinic at Petco as often as it takes for the cat to find a new home," Richards said. "There’s a home out there that is right for every one of them. We just have to make the connection and given enough time we make that connection."
The clinic isn't just a place for adoptions, though. One of A.C.A.T.'s main goals is to educate people about cats. The hope is that the more people know about appropriate cat care, how to live with cats and how to keep them as part of the family, the more apt they are to make a lifetime commitment to their companion cat. To further this goal, volunteers hand out information sheets on subjects such as declawing and spaying or neutering. Volunteers even teach people how to clip a cat's claws or will do it for them.
The adoption process is detailed and stringent. A.C.A.T. wants to be sure that person and cat are well matched. This gives the cat its best chance of fitting into a new household, and cuts A.C.A.T.'s return rate down to an enviable 6%. But, if a cat doesn’t work out for any reason, A.C.A.T. takes the cat back and finds another home for it.
When a cat is adopted, the person signs a contract and pays an adoption fee of $75. The fee guarantees the cat has a blood test to check for FIV/FIP, shots that are current for its age, has been de-wormed, spayed or neutered, and has received any other necessary medical or surgical care.
Mouzy was a semi-feral cat who was semi-socialized
when A.C.A.T. took him in. After several months of TLC and fostering,
he found a wonderful home with an understanding family.
A.C.A.T. succeeds because of its strong, dedicated core of approximately 45 volunteers, with 15-20 foster homes operating at any time. Usually 40-50 cats are fostered during the winter. Kitten season, in June and July, sees a dramatic increase in that number when as many as 135 cats and kittens are in foster care. Many other volunteer opportunities are available for those who love cats but aren't able to foster them.
Fundraising is an ongoing A.C.A.T. activity. Tireless volunteers run yard sales, bake sales, and a gift table at the adoption clinic among other things. The organization's visibility was enhanced recently when it was chosen to present the weather cat of the week each Thursday on KRQE's (Channel 13) early morning show with Bill Wood.
"We are amazed at the overwhelming support and public appreciation for what we do," Richards said. "We've been blessed with great good luck. Our adoptions are way ahead of what we expected and we've achieved a good reputation in the community. This work takes a toll on individuals, though. A person has to be careful to not neglect other parts of their life or their own animals." A.C.A.T.'s vision for the future includes:
* a desire to focus money and resources on free or subsidized spay and neuter programs to cut down on pet overpopulation,
* greater emphasis on educating people about living with cats,
* a larger, more-effective feral cat program, and
* a permanent facility with a caretaker living on site where cats could be seen and adopted in a normal living situation; there also would be a separate facility for FIV/FLV (feline leukemia virus) positive cats to live out their lives.
If you want to contribute your time and talent to make life better for homeless cats and help A.C.A.T. achieve its vision, call (505) 323-ACAT (2228) or visit their website at www.albcat.com for more information.
Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who lives in Albuquerque and is owned by two cats, Sammy and Rocky, and a Westie named Maggie May.
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