For years, as a volunteer and board member at Project Hope Humane Society, Tish Lewis noticed something, to the point it began gnawing at her.
“I just kept seeing all the cats coming in and they weren’t adopting as fast as the dogs were. I got to thinking there’s got to be something else to do,” she said.
She began talking about it with friends who also have a love for animals and came up with the idea of Cash for Cats — a non-profit group of cat lovers who raise money to have cats spayed or neutered to reduce their number in Metropolis and Massac County with the end goal of adoption.
“I went off kinda on my own with (Project Hope’s) blessing and said I was going to try this,” she said. “My point of doing this was to cut down on the population.”
That was about nine years ago.
With the new year, Cash for Cats is kicking off a fundraiser to keep its work progressing.
While volunteers with Cash for Cats have changed over the years, the late Glenda Sullivan started the group with Lewis.
“We just started out, doing it very slowly. We didn’t know what we were doing,” Lewis recalled. “I don’t even remember how we caught the first cat. I know at one time we walked around neighborhoods and put flyers on doors. And we started getting calls. Little by little, we’ve really grown. We’ve spayed and neutered a lot of cats. But it’s not cheap.”
In addition to spaying or neutering, cats caught through the program also receive rabies shots and are helped as possible with other medical attention, such as a flea treatment or worming treatment. “We’ve had a couple that needed an eye removed. That’s expensive, too,” Lewis said, noting they try to get them in the best shape possible with the goal of adopting them out. “We don’t want to send them out sickly. But we can’t afford to do all their shots. If we can find them a home, people are usually willing to take care of the other stuff.”
While the group tries to help people who can’t afford to have their cats fixed, the majority of cats the group works with have been dumped and/or are feral. Those that have been fixed are designated with a clipped ear that’s either been divoted or cut crosswise.
“We go out and trap them. There are several colonies in town we feed. We’ve been trying to get those cats spayed or neutered and find homes for them. It’s very expensive to feed them. The more money we can turn toward spaying and neutering is better,” Lewis said.
The group recently completed spaying and neutering one colony, a project that took several years. “There was one colony staying in a house that had been condemned. I don’t know how we ran up on those cats. They really lived in horrible circumstance. That house was awful. The grass was so high you couldn’t see the house. They were on their own. I guess they stayed warm under the house. They were just living in really bad circumstances. Some looked sickly; others looked good. A lot of them disappeared down there — I don’t know if another animal had killed them or what. As the years went by, different cats came along, and we were down to one cat, and we could not catch it — there’s been a couple like that over the years — but now that colony is completely done now; we’ve caught all the cats and found homes for them.”
Lewis said the group is working in other areas of town where there are cat colonies. In one area, “we’re wanting to trap them, but they’ve been very hard to catch. Sometimes it takes us two years to catch one cat.”
It’s seeing the animals in those living conditions that has made the goal of Cash for Cats important to Lewis.
“I’ve always been a cat lover and had lots of cats. You just hate to see them suffer. When you get out and see the suffering they go through, and if you’re a cat lover — sometimes they can drive you crazy — but you know how loving they can be,” she said. “I keep going back to Project Hope, but there were so many cats out there, especially at that time — there were so many and so many wanted attention and so many had had so many litters — that it was pitiful.
“It’s not good for cats to have litter after litter after litter. It wears them down. If they have a litter, especially if they’re out and about, you don’t know if they’re going to live, if an animal’s going to kill them, they don’t get the right nutrition,” she continued. “It’s actually a healthier situation for them to be spayed or neutered. Really, there’s no reason for people not have them fixed because it’s going to cost less to do that than to let the cat have kittens and you either keep them and feed them or you go dump them somewhere. And people do that all the time — letting those little animals suffer. It got me going on it. I don’t think you realize it until you see some of the situations — it’s the idea of how uncared for they are. They are very loving animals.”
There are numerous ways to help Cash for Cats accomplish its goal of decreasing the cat population in Metropolis and Massac County.
• Monetary donations toward spaying or neutering and other medical needs can be directed to Flanary Veterinary Clinic.
“We’ve moved around to different vets throughout the area over the years trying to get the best price and seeing who’d work with us,” Lewis said. “We’re mainly now working with Dr. (LaNita) Flanary, and she helps us out on the cost on the boys. That has helped a lot.”
Donations should be designated for Cash for Cats and can be mailed to Flanary Veterinary Clinic, 200 Eagle Nest Drive, Paducah, KY 42003 or call 1-270-898-9738 to donate by credit card. Donors are also asked to leave their information so Cash for Cats knows who made the donation.
• Cat food donations for the feeding of the colonies can be left at 1815 North Ave. in the back under the carport. “We try to keep cats on the same food as it is better for their digestion,” Lewis said, noting Meow Mix dry food, Friskies or 9 Lives wet food is preferred.
• Volunteers to help feed or trap cats. “Some cats are friendly enough we can pick them up and put them in the carrier,” Lewis said. “Others, not so much; but they’re just scared. You have to be careful.”
• Volunteers to transport cats. “We really need a few designated volunteers once or twice a week to transport the cats to the vet, that way the vet knows who they are,” Lewis said. “We usually take them early in the morning and then pick them up later in the afternoon. And they would need a bigger vehicle to transport the cages. We try to do several at once.”
• The group is always open to fundraising ideas. “We’ve certainly made progress, but more money means more cats not having to have litter after litter and that means healthier cats,” Lewis said.
• Providing information. “If anybody knows where there’s a group of cats not being cared for, they can notify us of that. We usually come up on them by chance,” Lewis said.
Those interested in assisting Cash for Cats can call Lewis at 618-638-5301 or contact her or the group on Facebook.
“Cats have kittens several times a year, but you know in spring, babies are going to come,” Lewis said. “We’re trying to get this fundraiser going because come spring, it’ll be kitten season.”