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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Shelters give cats second chance

    These adorable kittens are just two of the 200 residents of Casa de los Gatos, one of Tucsons no-kill cat shelters. Casa de los Gatos provides shelter for cats with disabilities and incurable diseases, as well as a home for healthy cats.
    These adorable kittens are just two of the 200 residents of Casa de los Gatos, one of Tucson’s no-kill cat shelters. Casa de los Gatos provides shelter for cats with disabilities and incurable diseases, as well as a home for healthy cats.

    Otis is a frisky peaches-and-cream-colored tabby kitten with a white spot in the middle of his back. He bounces around the room, arching his back anxiously, hoping for a loving pat or a scratch behind the ears.

    It’s hard to believe that anyone would euthanize such an adorable kitten, but most animal shelters in Arizona would.

    Otis was scheduled for euthanization by an animal rescue group after he was diagnosed with feline leukemia. Casa de los Gatos, one of Tucson’s two no-kill cat shelters, rescued him after receiving a phone call from the group.

    “”He’s a doll-face,”” said Barbara Osborne, volunteer and facility manager at Casa de los Gatos, as she held the squirming kitten in her arms. “”He loves people; he loves attention. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with him right now.””

    Otis lives in a separate area of the shelter, along with other cats that have been diagnosed with feline leukemia. Cats with this disease generally have a life expectancy of anywhere from a few months to three years, according to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He is adoptable, provided that he is either the only cat in the household or lives with other cats with feline leukemia.

    The Hermitage is holding a fundraiser Dec. 10 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Sweet Tomatoes’ two locations, 4420 N. Stone Ave. and 6202 E. Broadway Blvd. Sweet Tomatoes will donate 15 percent of the proceeds from every meal to the shelter. To participate, download and print a flyer from their Web site,, and bring the flyer with you to the restaurant.

    If you’re looking for a little wildcat to call your own this holiday season, instead of going to an expensive pet store or a fancy breeder, why not give a cat like Otis a chance?

    Safe haven for “”unadoptable”” cats

    Casa de los Gatos, a privately run organization that is in the process of applying for nonprofit status, houses 200 cats in three locations: a sanctuary in Sabino Canyon, an adoption center at 3131 N. Chapel Ave. and a PETCO location at 9640 E. 22nd St. It was opened by former business owner Beth Montes in 2005.

    Casa de los Gatos is home to many different kinds of cats, including wide-eyed kittens, cuddly orange tabbies, a few troublemaking tortoiseshells, black fluffballs and cats with feline leukemia and feline HIV.

    The shelter is currently full, with 100 cats on a waiting list. It survives entirely on donations from the community, the help of 60 volunteers and monetary support from Montes.

    Both of Tucson’s no-kill shelters refuse to euthanize otherwise healthy cats that are considered unadoptable or cats that do not find homes within a certain period of time.

    Euthanization is a common practice used by animal shelters to curb overpopulation. Cats considered to be unadoptable are frequently “”put to sleep,”” as the practice is widely known. This includes cats that are feral (domestic cats that have become wild) and cats that have disabilities or an incurable disease, like feline leukemia or feline HIV.

    “”The purpose of starting (the shelter) was to provide a home for cats that would otherwise be euthanized,”” Osborne said. “”The Hermitage does not euthanize them and we don’t, but every other group in town will.””

    Cheryl Campbell, a volunteer at Casa de los Gatos, observes an archetypal curious kitten.

    A cat lover’s dream

    The Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter, a nonprofit organization, is located in a large house on Tucson’s east side at 5278 E. 21st St. It was started in 1965 by Sister Seraphim, a Russian Orthodox nun.

    The facility is home to almost 400 cats. It is also currently full.

    There are cats in the sink, cats sitting on the table and cats sleeping in the cupboards. There are tabbies and Persians; jet-black Halloween cats and cats as white as snow; curious kittens, calicos, black and white “”jellicle”” cats; maine coons; and several siamese. It’s a cat lover’s dream.

    Twelve paid staff members and 70 volunteers help to keep the shelter clean and functioning efficiently.

    “”It’s like having a lot of kids,”” said Katy Heck, a shelter technician. “”Usually everybody gets along, but occasionally there are some (fights) back and forth and adjustments have to be made.””

    Both shelters house “”special needs”” cats in separately enclosed areas. These include cats with feline leukemia or feline HIV, cats with behavioral problems, cats with kidney disorders, cats that were paralyzed in car accidents and a few cats with epilepsy, like Homer, a skinny, twitchy brown tabby with enormous eyes. He’s a favorite at the Hermitage and even appears on one of their T-shirts.

    “”He’s figured out lots of little tricks, like how to steal the kittens’ food,”” Heck said. “”He wobbles and people think ‘oh, poor kitty can’t do anything.’ But he works it.””

    Cats frolic and play at the Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter, a safe haven for Tucson cats in need.

    Adopting a new feline friend

    Potential cat parents must go through a rigorous screening process before they can adopt from Casa de los Gatos. The screening process includes an application, a home visit and a $99 adoption fee. The fee includes spaying or neutering, age-appropriate vaccinations, testing for diseases and the insertion of a tiny, permanent microchip for identification purposes. The shelter will adopt to students, although management is wary to do so.

    “”We do screen students very carefully because one of our biggest problems is students graduating and they want to bring their cats back home and their parents say ‘no way,'”” Osborne said. “”We have to make sure that they have a plan and they’re going to be able to keep these cats.””

    Both shelters will only adopt to applicants who agree to keep their new feline friend inside.

    “”We make sure the right cats go with the right people,”” said Mary Jo Spring, executive director of the Hermitage. “”We want them to keep the kitties and have them be part of their lives.””

    Osborne has seen firsthand how cruel the outside world can be to cats. A friend of hers learned this the hard way when her beloved pet went missing.

    “”Her cat got out and when they found it, someone had cut off its legs at the knees,”” Osborne said. “”It was dead. There are some really sick people out there, so there’s another reason to please keep your kitties inside.””

    The Hermitage also requires applicants to go through a rigorous screening process, which includes a home visit, a thorough application and a nonrefundable fee ranging from $45 to $85. Every cat is spayed or neutered, vaccinated, treated for parasites and microchipped.

    If students can’t adopt a cat at this time but still want to help, both shelters are always looking for volunteers. The UA’s Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity recently volunteered at Casa de los Gatos for an afternoon, mopping floors, cleaning crates, doing yard work and playing with the kitties.

    “”It was just a brand-new organization that needed a lot of help,”” said Stephanie Jacques, Phi Alpha Delta philanthropy committee chair and a sophomore majoring in political science and French. “”The cats who had nothing left – they gave them a home.””ð

    Casa de los Gatos accepts donations online through its e-mail address, To find out how you can help and view a “”wish list”” of items, visit For more information, call 881-0900.

    The Hermitage can always use more volunteers and donations to help the cats live long, healthy lives. The shelter encourages UA clubs to help out for a “”holiday project.”” For more information, visit or call 571-7839.

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