The Owl House (formerly Wildrun) helps senior and low-income landowners catch and spay/neuter their resident outdoor cats. We find homes for friendly cats and kittens who are adoptable into great homes, and occasionally other cats hat other shelters were unable to accept.
Cat guardians know cats will rotate their favorite sleeping spots now and again. Oliver will sleep on a particular chair for several weeks--I'll know to look for him there first. Then suddenly he has claimed the top spot on the cat tower and that becomes his home for the next few months.
Perhaps I model my behavior after cats, with them living all around me. As a remote worker, I can set up my "desk" anywhere I like. Sometimes it will be on the actual desk. Othertimes, I camp comfortably on the couch for a few weeks. Today, I moved back to the kitchen table, which I purchased and repainted specifically because it was large enough to accommodate at least two laptops and keep my coffee well away from either one of them.
The table was a $50-buck-side-of-the-road purchase off my neighbor. Unfortunately my paint job on the top was not impervious to the idle digs from claws of walking cats. I had some adhesive vinyl planks kicking around when I purchased them as a possible backsplash for my kitchen sink area (I decided they were too dark). Now they are the cat-proof surface of my table. Like most of my cheap fixes, I'm sure I'll regret it one day when they start to curl and I have to peel them off. But replacing them with new planks will be far easier than sanding and repainting a doomed table top.
All of this is my long-winded way of saying that once again I'm trying to blog. Despite the day-to-day activity in my life, and a large number of really great virtual friends, daily life has become rather mundane. I couldn't put my finger on why I was so uninspired, shadowed by a tinge of loneliness. It occurred to me that I used to have the same life, with a feeling of fulfillment, back when I blogged daily, and read the blogs of others. You'd think I'd have more time when I don't blog. Sadly---not. Because I blog in my head throughout the day, and then have a fog of guilt hanging over me that I haven't put it in writing. I'm guessing there are quite a few bloggers like myself that always expected they'd one day write a Great American Novel, so writing in their head is a fact of daily life--even though that Novel never came to be. Suspending the habit is simply not an option.
Cats and kittens are also a habit that, fortunately or unfortunately, a cat person cannot suspend. Unlike writing in your head, however, the cat habit has outside influences---people call and say "help!" I've exercised "keeping my head down" any number of times when I've had to accept that my resources were tapped, but when friends of neighbors call, saying "no" really isn't an option. Chances are good, those friends and neighbors have helped me in the past, and will again in the future. There are top-of-the-list folks in everyone's life.
Therefore, the Mountainview kittens came into the Owl House via a neighbor's son (also a neighbor) who had that worst of all scenarios, the death of a child, at the same time as a little spitfire of a stray calico bore kittens under his home. The kittens moved into my den. Taking in feral kittens during work-travel season is a recipe doomed to fail. Feral kittens need constant attention during their socialization period so they grow up friendly. These kittens must have really good "friendly genes" because they have been a delight--taming up sweetly despite my distraction.
Two were adopted as soon as they were neutered, by the family of a man who was once a student worker (!!!!) in the Biology Department at Ithaca College where I once worked. We hadn't seen one another in about 18 years. We are Facebook friends. He saw the kittens, and they made the three-hour trip here...twice! Once to choose kittens, and once to pick them up after they were neutered.
These three are left:
One black-and-white female has learned how to flummox the home-made coyote-roller at the top of the half-door, so my temporary fix is an aluminum foil door extension. I may need to purchase a real commercial roller in the future. I can't imagine the short piece I need would be that expensive (relatively).
Many time I wish I'd discovered rats are the amazing animals they are, before I started a cat rescue. A rat rescue would be much easier to manage, I think!
Debra and I punched the online submit button a few weeks ago, and The American Cat Project is now officially a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.
Why did it take so long? I've told the story before, but my cat rescue work (when I was all alone-io) was part of my wildlife control work, decades ago. I preferred to do the work for free as an individual, because that put the landowner or business I was helping, and myself, on the same level. "I'm willing to do this for free for you, and in return, you need to invest time as well, or be willing to allow shelters on your property, or feed the cats." This worked very well, and it was a model I liked. I wasn't a "rescue," I was just a person willing to shell out personal funds to help neighbors.
The wildlife control work ended when I left my job at Ithaca College and I no longer had the flexibility to check traps before and after work, and on my lunch hour. Cat rescue went on. The adoption of Dude to Debra and her family in Waverly brought the two of us together. Debra began tackling the cats in her area, and we began overlapping our efforts.
The negative impact of being a "rescue organization" is that part of the public (not all!) has expectations that the organization is now responsible for fixing things--and they themselves do not. "Don't you care about these cats? If you did, you would do something. It's not my responsibility at all--it's yours" Honestly, I would have preferred to just keep working as a "neighbors-helping-neighbors" effort because that made it clear from the start that our work was a partnership.
NYS, however, passed regulations (good!) that require anyone who is placing rescued pets in new homes--even if no fee is charged--to be registered with the state. To register, the group has to be a federal 501(c)(3), a NYS incorporated organization, and a NYS charity. All of this is good. It will help the state get some sort of handle on so-called rescue groups that seem to be selling pets rather than adopting them, or who are not providing adequate veterinary care. It will also dissuade people who want to set up less-than-reputable rescues from doing so, and it will encourage new reputable rescues to set themselves up legally, up front. And quite honestly, people like myself really do just need to buck up and get all their ducks in a row, instead of flying by the seat of their pants.
NYS's step does mean that a "neighbors-helping-neighbors" non-incorporated TNR (trap/neuter/return) group is no longer legal, if some of those rescued cats and kittens are being placed in new homes--even if the kittens are land-owner surrendered, and even if those kittens are adopted out without a fee.
Personally, I had to really sit down and decide if I wanted to do this any longer, if I were going to have to be part of an incorporated charity and the additional responsibilities that come along with that. I did call NYS Ag and Markets and ask if I were just a land-owner, and people dump cats on my property, and I get those cats vetted and find them homes, if I had to be registered as a rescue. They said "Yes." Since ignoring abandoned cats and kittens isn't something I can do, and I'm not going to be leaving this property for an apartment anytime soon, there really was only one option.
So here we are! Debra, Bill, and Lori are officers, and I am a director. Because I work in the pet industry, I felt I ought not be an officer, to prevent any conflict of interest in where AmCat might head in the future. The American Cat Project was state-incorporated almost two years ago, mostly due to Debra's hard work, but due to illness in both Debra's and my families, things stalled. Debra and I finally got together on St. Patrick's Day and got everything organized and submitted for the 501(c)(3). Now that it is freshly in hand, we can submit the state charity form and the rescue registration, with their associated fees.
To clarify, "The Owl House" is not an organization. It's the name of my farm. I moved the cat-housing space in from the barn to my renovated upstairs of my house to help meet possible future care requirements the state may set.
The name of the organization is the "American Cat Project" which is a spay/neuter group composed of several foster homes. We will shortly be setting up a PayPal link for AmCat (the link on this blog in my personal PayPal account) and all future donations in the new AmCat account will be tax-deductible, to be used for veterinary care for cats. I also will be sending in-kind donation receipts from The American Cat Project to anyone who ships food or gifts for the cats here to my address, going forward. If you are a friend or family member and you send me gift money via my own PayPal account, I will be checking with you directly to check to see if you actually meant it as a donation to AmCat.
I don't see us listed on the IRS charity search yet, but the last time I checked with them by phone, they said it can take up a to a fiscal quarter for that to happen.
Here's to a brand new step! Thank you, Debra, for getting us going!
I have a GoFundMe campaign going, to help with the non-renovation costs of the new cat rooms, since I can't bring over things like carpeted cat furniture, beds, etc. that are in the old facility. There's no sense in taking the risk of moving any viruses, spores, etc that might be hitching a ride. Obviously the same things could have come along in the fur of the cats, but it doesn't make sense to overload the new rooms with those potential nasties. The cat facility is 15 years old and it has wood walls and lots of crevices, not to mention dust flying around.
I already posted one of the cat trees I purchased at Home Goods --- a surprisingly affordable place for large cat trees...about $40 cheaper than big box pet stores. I also picked up a second one so each room has one. Pepper and Timea are somewhat offended that they didn't get to keep one after trying it out, but then, they get all the "human" furniture in their room.
Normally I don't like to buy used things online for the cats, but I'm always on the lookout for affordable "bright" things that make a room look homey, that can ultimately be re-covered or thrown out if needed, without breaking the bank. I couldn't resist these two cushions, and the seller arrived at the hand-off spot with her dog as back-seat driver, and turned out to be a total animal lover.
I also bought two very large, heavy-duty and scratch resistant totes as room litter boxes. The standard Rubbermaid type I normally get end up with deep claw-grooves in the edges in just a month or so, and those scratches hold nasty things like worm eggs, etc. These seem to be working quite well---we'll see how they hold up! In addition, I picked up four extra-large standard cat boxes for use in the two cages that are now upstairs---one cage in each room.
I also ordered very cheap non-slip socks for visitors, since shoes can't be worn upstairs until the vinyl floor is down...the painted floors won't hold up to a lot of boot traffic. I've discovered the calming pheromone collars seem to work on my fractious pet cat Oliver, so I purchased more for the three "attitudinal" cats. Timmick is now sporting one. I'm not sure if he's being low-key because the collar is working or because he's not sure what to make of wearing a collar. I also ordered ComfortZone pheromone refills and a few more plug-in dispensers to help with the initial stress of the move.
I discovered the shy cats preferred to be hiding low rather than sitting in the cat tree, so I purchased two felt cubbies (the blue items in the photo). I also hoped to have a speaker for music upstairs, but despite being advertised for 100', the speaker I purchased did not reach into the cat rooms--probably due to the thick wall (for only $25 I should have known) so I'll be taking that off the cat account. Perhaps once I get some sort of additional bluetooth transmitter it will reach, but I'm not going to invest in something like that without some research. Unfortunately, there aren't enough electrical outlets in the rooms to support plug-in radios, so I'll need to come up with something to deal with the total quiet upstairs.
Hard floors without carpets echo and are frightening to shy cats. Since these are smallish rooms, I figured just small 4' round rugs would do the trick. They can be cleaned easily, being small, or replaced affordably if they are totally ruined or if some illness gets in the place. I ordered the rugs from Overstock, and also picked up new cats beds from TJ Maxx, another place you wouldn't expect to buy affordable pet beds. Once the cats have stopped moving everything around, I'll be adding some of the wonderful handmade round blankets Handmade House in NJ sent us earlier and I'll be sure to post a photo of those.
I'm really enjoying have rooms that are bright enough to take photos! What a change from the roomy but dark barn. It may have had tons of windows, but the dark walls inside always sucked up the light. Video is even better. When I switch from photo mode to video mode on my iPhone, the screen grows even darker. Now, video is quite bright! If you follow us on Facebook you will have already seen this video of Eve, Heidi, and Pitter, checking out the new rug and bed in their room.
Pitter, Heidi and Eve check out new gifts in the new cat room in the house - YouTube
I still have more things to include, but this is enough for one post. I also have some before (scared!) and after (OK, this place isn't so bad I guess) photos of the cats to add. I can't thank people enough for their donations and online "shares" of the fundraiser!
The cats are in the house! I'll be adding more stories and photos of them. But this weekend's project, including hilarity, was wallpapering the ceiling in the far back room. Gretchen had helped me paper the first room a few years ago, aided by wine and lots of laughter. Nancy volunteered to help with the second room (wine and nearly incoherent laughter was also included this time). The ceilings are quite low, and are easy to reach with just a footstool, but sticking up those long sections of gluey paper is a challenge, and it's even harder when two women are frantically trying to keep one section up while pasting up the rest.
The rooms have those small insulating tiles that no paint can improve, therefore I chose paper to hide them until the day when the entire room is gutted and re-done. You can see the obnoxious unattractive tiles peeking between two papered sections here:
Once the ceiling paper has completely dried for a few days, I'll paint them the same white as the two white walls (the purple walls are featured in the photo). Even unpainted it is a huge improvement.
The wallpaper is pre-pasted, so it just needs a soak in the tub to activate the glue. You wouldn't think just some wet paper would add much humidity to the room, but indeed it does!
I purchased two small circular rugs to "warm up" each room, with money raised from the GoFundMe campaign (more reports on those funds coming up).
I also picked up some cat beds at the Ithaca TJ Maxx store, as they often have really nice beds for good prices. They did not disappoint, and even are carrying a line of beds marketed by HSUS. They were under $15 each, and really cute, so I picked up two.
As usual, I'm behind on posts. I have so many people to thank and so many changes and cat stories to add.