Despite a reputation for fierce independence and relatively easy care, cats can be difficult to place in permanent homes if they've lived in a shelter. Compound that with a missing limb or eye, advanced age, or a fear of humans, and a cat's chances of being adopted decrease even more. Shelters are often forced to give priority and funding to cats deemed more easily adoptable, which means those with extreme challenges are euthanized at a higher rate. Fortunately, for cats such as these there is Look What the Cat Brought In (sometimes referred to as the Feline Rescue Network), an adoption-guaranteed organization that takes in cats facing more obstacles than the average feline.
The limited-admission shelter was the first of its kind in Colorado Springs when it was founded in 2008. Board President Jennifer Nosler established the nonprofit with a mission to help cats and provide the care they need to be healthy and pain-free. The shelter's first cat, Buster, arrived needing more than $900 in dental work. Problems with dental care or other non-obvious pain points are often the triggering factors for a cat with difficult behavior. "He turned into such a wonderful cat after treatment," says Nosler. "It really reinforced our idea that medical assistance and pain relief can make such a difference."
Today, a large number of the organization's charges are harder-to-place cats: older animals, those with medical needs, cats rescued from hoarding situations, etc. "We get a lot of cats that have mouths that have been neglected, if not seriously neglected," says Nosler. "It's only been in recent years that dental care has been recommended for cats."
Like many nonprofits, one of the greatest difficulties the shelter faces is finding funds sufficient to fulfill its mission. Nosler says she's a careful steward of the budget, and has been successful in attracting funding and donations for supplies such as food and litter — although she says the shelter can always use more towels. But, medical care can be much trickier.
Look What the Cat Brought In does not have the benefit of a full-time, on-site veterinarian to perform the sometimes-extensive procedures necessary to help a cat become healthy, which means it seeks outside services. Many local veterinarians offer the shelter a generous discount, but the cost of care is still high — reaching up to $45,000 per year. Participation in campaigns like Give! helps secure more funding for these expenses, allowing the rescue to help more cats with this much-needed veterinary care.
The organization's move to the former Hamlett Spay and Neuter Clinic on East Boulder Street in 2014 has improved awareness and its ability to serve the cats of Colorado Springs and nearby areas. The building had been designed to house animals, but Nosler invested in remodeling to make it more cat-friendly. She also installed specialized exhaust systems to prevent the spread of disease. This allowed the rescue to create a room for cats with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), which is easily transmissible in cats through scratches or bites and affects infected animals much like HIV impacts humans.
The nonprofit also opened the Kitty Love Cat Café and Gallery, which gives visitors who may not have a cat of their own the opportunity to snuggle and pet a variety of shelter cats and kittens for a small fee, which in turn supports the animals' care.
"We get a lot of students because they can't have cats in the dorm," says Nosler. "Or people who have a family member with allergies." The café also features a cat-themed art gallery with works from local artists.
Nosler says it's hard work, but she hopes that someday, with proper awareness and education, her organization won't be so vital.
The 2015 Give! Campaign features 88 area nonprofits. To learn more, volunteer or donate, visit indygive.com before midnight on Thursday, Dec. 31.