Castaway Cats

The cats of the Animal Rescue League

Black Cats Rock!

It’s been an awful summer at the shelter.  We had almost 1000 cats and kittens surrendered in August alone.  And, trust me, many of them are not up for adoption.  With nearly 800 surrendered each month since May – well, you do the math.  The really tragic part is that many of these cats are being surrendered because their owners moved to a place that doesn’t allow pets.  I understand that some of these folks really do not have any other options.  But I think the majority just don’t try.


Someone I know posted a link on her Facebook page to an article written by a shelter director on the Cause for Paws Utah website about what really goes on in the back of a shelter.  “I think our society needs a huge Wake-Up call,” she says. Send this alarm to everyone you know – maybe it will get passed around enough so that maybe, just maybe, some of these selfish people begin to understand.  Maybe. Someday.


My mission tonight is to introduce some of our cats who have made it to the adoption floor, but who have been there a long time – partly because they are black.  Spread the word – please.

Harley is a loving middle-aged lady who is with us because she “accidentally” scratched her owner’s daughter.  If people were sent to jail for every accident we had, we would all be in real trouble!


Viero is a beautiful exceptionally soft young cat who has been with us all summer.  She was dominated by her sister, who commanded all the attention and was adopted first.  Now Viero is blossoming into a real charmer herself.

Genovia was adopted as a kitten, but is back with us because the children in the family she lived with kept letting her outside.  So it was felt that it was in her best interest to be returned.  She’s 4 years old.


Annie was found stray and is terrified of the shelter.  She spent a short spell in foster care where her foster mom found that Annie cheerfully greeted her first thing in the morning and loved to play with her young cat.  She has to return to the shelter in a few days and will close the door to her true personality again until someone who understands rescues her.  Annie is only 2 years old.


Oprah came to us half-starved, trying to support six babies with her depleted body.  She’s playful and happy now, and just as loving with humans as she is with kittens.


Treat is just that – a real treat.  Very sweet and unassuming, she loves to be petted and to play.  She will live happily with a couple other cats as long as there is a reasonable amount of space and no one is a bully.

Rosey says G'Night. This black kitty is all mine!


September 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 7 Comments

A Very Short Vignette – Kitten Love

I love my brother...

But he was messing up my glam shot.

August 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Store Cats – Less is More

I was just tidying up Petfinder – removing the cats who have been recently adopted.  It’s interesting that most of them were from stores, and most of those were at the shelter for weeks, sometimes months before being transferred to a store.  Then they were adopted within a week!  Why?

Javier is a loving, cuddly 3-1/2 year old orange boy waiting at the North Hills Petco.

We have some great adoption counselors at our offsite Petco locations at Robinson, Bethel Park, North Hills, Waterfront and Waterworks.  And that is certainly a good part of the reason.  They really get to know the cats they have at the stores and are able to help people zero in on the right cat for their home.  Also at some of our more outlying stores we have a different clientele – people who do not want to come into the main shelter and the store cats are the only place to shop, so they’re motivated.

But the ASPCA has an interesting theory that might also explain a good part of why the stores do so well.  An article by Dr. Emily Weis, VP Research & Development for the ASPCA tells the whole story, but the bottom line is that research seems to show that if customers have fewer choices, they adopt more cats!  How cool is that?

A shelter in Colorado found a spiffy way to cover some windows into their cat areas, blocking 40% of their adoptable cats from view.  For two weeks they collected data on the transition rate – the number of people who visited and actually adopted.  They found that the transition rate doubled over the rate for the previous two weeks.  Research is ongoing and more shelters will be involved in testing in the future, but results look very promising.

Zack is a sweet, slightly shy 7-year-old tabby waiting at the Waterfront Petco.

At our Cat Adoption Center, visitors are invited by the adoption counselors to look around.  By the time they’ve visited half the cages in the main room, read a half dozen kennel papers, their eyeballs start spinning in two different directions.  And they still haven’t seen the kitten room or the two colony rooms!  If volunteers are there, we step in to help them narrow down their choices.  But over and over I hear “I’m just overwhelmed.  How do you choose?”  It can take a lot of finesse to help people decide and not just go home and “think about it.”  I’m sure this is happening at shelters all over the country, especially this time of the year.

At the stores, potential adopters are looking at maybe a dozen cats at most, with some of the stores having fewer.  It gives the shy cats a way to be seen right alongside the outgoing cats.  It gives an opportunity for one black cat to shine, instead of competing with a dozen black cats at the shelter.  A number of the recent adoptions have been black cats.

Even though the numbers are fewer at the stores, the variety is great.  The counselors make an effort to select both genders, different colors, sizes, ages and temperaments for their stores.

And yes, they have kittens!  We all have kittens.  Piles and piles of kittens!

August 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

Are We Up to the Challenge?

All we have to do is adopt or return to owner 300 more cats and dogs August through October than we did for the same period last year and we have a chance to win $100K!

Adoption numbers have been climbing over the past decade, so no big deal – right?  Wrong!  It’s a very big deal and with the economy the way it is, it’s going to be very hard.

Prove me wrong, please! 

So what is this Challenge?  What are the prizes?  In a nutshell:

 $100,000 Grand Prize – for the biggest increase in lives saved over and above the qualifying goal of 300.

 $25,000 Second Place Award – self-explanatory

 $25,000 Community Engagement Award  – YOU will have a chance to vote for us in this one the last two weeks in October.  Stay tuned!

 $20,000 Best in Region Prizes – to the shelter that exceeds the goal the most in the four regions that are not home to the Grand Prize winner.

 $5000 Fast Start Grants – to the shelter in each of the five regions that achieves the biggest increase in lives saved in the first month as compared to last year

 $1000 We Did It! Grants – crunching all those numbers from 2010 and 2011 is hard work.  Someone in those shelters who get it all done gets to go to the Shelter Welfare Administrators Annual Conference in San Francisco.

Remember – the name of this Challenge is Save More Lives.  So whether we win a cash prize or not, the animals still win.  You’ll be hearing more from me about the Challenge in the weeks ahead.

Meantime, check out the Animal Rescue League’s Facebook page and blog.  You’ll be surprised by a lot of what you read  – the shelter does things for the community that I’ll bet you didn’t know about!

Learn about all sorts of interesting ways you can support the ARL like having fun at a local happy hour.  Find out where you can meet some of our animals in a location near you.  You will read numbers that will amaze you.  Would you believe that in three days over this past weekend we took in 146 animals, 81 of whom were surrendered by their owners?  Geez, and here I thought people signed an Adoption Contract not a Rental Agreement.  Silly me.

Did you adopt from us during the month of August?  Add your adopted pet to the ASPCA Challenge Gallery!

P.S.  Kit Kat was adopted a few days after I posted her.  Pure coincidence – or was it all that positive energy again?

August 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kit Kat – Tick Tock

The clock moves slowly for a cat like Kit Kat.  Totally crushed by the shelter experience, once she was a normal, friendly, fun-loving family cat.  Then the unthinkable happened.  Her owners moved to a place that doesn’t allow pets.  Kit Kat now spends her days hiding in her litter pan, hour after hour.  She’s so frightened that she figures those 2 inch high sides might actually protect her or make her invisible.

In order to try to take photos of Kit Kat, I removed her litter pan from her cage. I honestly didn’t know what to expect.  What I found was just the sweetest little kitty who broke my heart.  Kit Kat wants SO badly to be a normal kitty again.  If you gently pet her, after a few minutes one of her back legs starts to go up and she struggles against the complete symbol of kitty trust – the tummy rub!  But she gets there halfway, and right now, that’s wonderful.

Kit Kat also has the most amazing “butt button.”  Scratch her just forward of her tail and she just can’t resist – the butt goes up and the head goes down in classic kitty surrender.  It only lasts a few seconds, but it’s a start.

One day, with luck, Kit Kat will live with a family again.  But it’s taking a long time for her to find one.  Things are not good for shy kitties like Kit Kat right now in the shelter, not with the sheer numbers who have come through our doors this spring and summer.

The Animal Rescue League took in 776 cats and kittens in May, 712 in June, and, as of the middle of this month, we’re at 395 Almost 2000 cats in less than three months. What’s one frightened cat in the face of all that?

But panning for gold or digging for diamonds isn’t always about the numbers.  Sometimes it’s about that one shiny nugget, that one beautiful gem that ends up in your hand.  That’s the special one.  That’s Kit Kat.

Kit Kat is only 3 years old and she is declawed.

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 5 Comments

…and more kittens

Just in case you didn’t see enough kittens with my last post, here are some little faces that greeted me yesterday at the shelter:

Pick Me! Pick Me! Pick Me!

Our sister makes a great pillow!

Pretty Little Angel Eyes...

Such a handsome little man

Add a little color to your life!

I love my Stuffy and my Stuffy loves me...

But, Lady, if you don't mind....Let me OUTTA HERE!!!

June 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Don’t Feel Guilty!

I'm not just a statistic!

I’ve been saying that a whole lot more than usual this year to people who tell me they “feel bad” because they want to adopt a kitten “when there are so many adults.”  Yes, there are more adults than ever before.  But there are also more kittens – and kittens, and kittens, and kittens and more kittens.  So adopt a kitten – PLEASE!

I don’t know what happened this winter, but the felines were definitely not living a virtuous lifestyle.  And 63 days later they find themselves single moms.  And about a month after that people are lined up at our intake desk with baskets, cardboard boxes, carriers, shoe boxes, Tupperware containers, and even trash cans full of squirming, mewing little bundles of joy they found under their porch, in their garage, in a window well.  In the first 25 days of May, 634 cats and kittens crossed our threshold; 234 were adults and seniors.  That means 400 kittens – from blind, unweaned little creatures totally dependent on mom, to two months, to juveniles.

And after the first 25 days in May, they just kept on coming.  I don’t have the current count.  I’m not sure I want to know what it is.  We have at least 350 cats and kittens out in foster care right now.  There are about 150 cats and kittens in the Cat Adoption Center all ready to go home.  There are over 100 more in the main building  in holding areas and isolation.  Many of these are all ready to go home, too – they’re just waiting for an open cage in the Cat Adoption Center.  And we have dozens at offsite locations such as Petcos at Waterworks, Waterfront, Bethel Park, North Hills and Robinson.  We even have cats at Petland in East Liberty, Animal Nature in Regent Square, Platinum Pooch, a grooming salon in Verona.  Anywhere we can find a kind-hearted merchant who will take in a cat or two and hopefully find them homes amongst their clientele. In my 14 years of volunteering at the ARL, I’ve never seen it quite this bad.

Proud first-tiime mama

As one customer said today at the shelter, “When are people going to learn to take better care of their animals?”  I don’t know what the answer is, but the theorizing is a topic for another day.  Right now, my objective is just to get through another kitten season with my sanity.

Most days I go to the shelter with blinders on.  I deliberately try to focus on the adults.  But then there they are – the babies with their bright little eyes and hopeful faces, waiting for someone to pick them up and love them.  It truly is a miracle how a tiny animal, a totally different species that has only been on this earth for about 10 weeks, can understand that human beings mean safety and comfort.  Some of them cry and cry – like a human baby, all they want is to be picked up and held.  The minute we do, they quiet down and start purring.  What thoughts go through their little brains?  How do they know?

Screaming Rita in a rare moment between pleas.

Last week we had a kitten affectionately called Screaming Rita.  She had pulled all her stitches out after spay surgery, so she was wearing a soft surgical collar, which, of course, she hated.  She also hated being alone, and from the minute she was placed in her crate, she started to bleat in a pleading voice that sounded more like a baby goat than a kitten.  The next afternoon a young girl of about 12 came in with her mother.  Rita’s protests increased in volume and urgency.  She knewSomehow she just knew.  A few minutes later, Rita was sleeping soundly on the little girl’s chest and mom was filling out the adoption papers.

There are many sayings about cats and kittens that I love.  One of my favorites is ‘Kittens are God’s opinion that life should go on.’  I think my favorite this year and the one that applies best is ‘Blessed are those who love cats, for they shall never be lonely.’   

You don’t hear about us on the news like Animal Friends.  When we take in 25 cats from Butler like we did this week, you don’t hear pleas to the public for donations.  Why?  Because we do it every day, every week, every year.   But we do need your hands and your heart.

It's not my mom, but it will have to do.

Would you like to not be lonely this summer?  Be a foster parent!  If you have a spare bedroom, laundry room, bathroom, you can help!  Dozens of little miracles are still arriving daily.

If you think you can help, contact our foster coordinator:

Cleda Klingensmith at

Phone:  412-661-6452  x231

Direct Dial:  412-345-0343

Redheads are the best!

I'm not a criminal, honest!

June 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Elliott’s World

This very handsome fellow is Elliott.  To be perfectly honest with you, Elliott has not been a good boy since coming to live with us and has almost been considered “unadoptable” twice.

But Elliott isn’t a bad cat – he’s just had a really difficult time.  He lost his home because his owners simply moved out of their apartment and left him.  Imagine his fear.  Then he found himself in a 2 x 2 cage and while he wasn’t very happy about it, he was dealing.

Then he got an upper respiratory virus and found himself in isolation for a couple weeks with no cage breaks and not much human contact except for someone squirting medicine down his throat.  So by the time Elliott came back to the adoption floor, he was not a happy camper.  He thought the shelter was some kind of torture chamber and everyone was out to hurt him. When volunteers took him out for a cage break and tried to put him back in his cage, he resisted and let people know he did not want to go back in no uncertain terms.  Even when he was out of his cage he was moody, probably anticipating correctly that he was just going to have to go back.  As Elliott saw things, his world was now a 2 x 2 cage.  He was living a nightmare.

For the past week Elliott is living in a colony room with 7 or 8 other cats.  He’s not thrilled about it, but he’s coping.  At first he carved out a corner of the room and hissed and struck out at the cats who tried to go past him.  But he has calmed down considerably and isn’t causing any problems now.  When I went to visit him to take his photos, he was really happy to have someone pet him and play with him.  When you talk to him, he seems to really enjoy the interaction.  There is a world of intelligence and a thousand questions in his eyes.

Elliott is an active normal cat in the prime of his life who just wants his life back.  That’s not so hard to understand, is it?  And to top it all off, Elliott is black.  The Magnificant Seven in my last post were only the tip of the iceberg.  It’s amazing how many black cats we have had at the shelter this past month.  And they just keep coming and coming and coming and coming…..

Can someone out there take Elliott home and make it one less?

May 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Magnificant Seven (Revised)

OK – so I hit the “Publish” button on that last post before it was really finished.  The really should put a lot more space between Preview and Publish!


I was reading a blog that I stumbled upon earlier today that is by some employees at an animal shelter in Kentucky.  They call themselves the Black Cat Society and one line jumped right off the screen at me:  Why is it that black cats have to sit at shelters until they either get sick or go crazy?  Think about it.  How long could you sit in a cage with nothing to do for days on end until you went stark raving mad?  It is a miracle that so may cats remain loving and sweet for so long at the shelter.  And right now there are so many magnificent black cats who are just waiting and waiting and waiting.

Between my photos and those taken by foster moms, I have seven photos to show you, but there are many more.   Why are black cats the last to be adopted?  What is it that our supposedly educated and enlightened society is afraid of? Black cats are not bad luck, folks!


One of my favorite quotes is by Groucho Marx:  A black cat crossing your path usually signifies that the animal is going somewhere.  That’s it!  All summed up. If businesses are supposed to run in the black, they why not cats?  Are not black diamonds more rare and more beautiful than white?

All cats are wonderful mysterious creatures and black cats are made even more so by their single coloring. Unlike other colors of cats, even the bottom of their paws are black!  The inside of their mouths are darker than the usual bright pink.  They are created by nature to be perfect creatures of the night.  And now these magnificent creatures can be ours! They can live in our homes and sleep in our beds. If we choose to indulge in chocolate cake or Oreo cookies while our black cat sleeps on our lap, no one will even see the crumbs!

Here’s the lineup – come visit and see for yourself what nice cats they are:


Temple the ‘tin can kitty’ was found with his head stuck in a can (see my original post, Temple’s Nightmare).  His wounds were infected and he was half starved.  He’s been back from foster now for over two weeks.  This kitty has struggled so hard to live – he deserves someone to love him.

Batman is a beautiful bundle of playful energy who has been waiting for weeks for someone who wants a happy, lively companion. And this Batman is a girl!

Lewyboo arrived way back in January.  He’s waiting at the North HIlls Petco for someone who will appreciate his shy, gentle, loving ways.

Paco is a stunning young fellow who lost his home because his owners moved.  He’s a happy, playful, gentle guy who would love to go home with a nice family.


Boots (with no white feet to earn his name) is a total cuddle bug who just wants somebody to love.  He’ll give you kitty kisses and purrs galore.

K.K. with her larger in life personality, is waiting in a foster home for a forever home where she can be her human’s only one true love.

Michael is a 5 year old kitten at heart who was found homeless.  He’s waiting in a foster home for a human who wants a loyal, loving companion.

K.K. (Kitty Kitty)



April 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

What Are Shelters For?

I irregularly read an interesting and provocative blog called Pet Connection that is written by a number of different professionals of one type or another in the world of animals.  They have a variety of opinions about animal related topics and whether you agree with them or not, they make you think.

A couple months ago the topic was “What Are Animal Shelters For?”  You might think that’s an easy question to answer, but is it?

Read what Christie Keith has to say and let me know what you think.  Once I get past my emotions about some things, I think for the most part she is spot on.

Here’s the link:

April 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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