Virtually Pets

Pandemic-related public closures and fewer volunteers and staff have given Long Beach Animal Care Services and other shelters across the country enough to deal with without the daily deluge of cats coming in. Shelter manager Staycee Dains said that this year’s kitten season, the period roughly between late February and early October when it rains cats and cats, is a little better than in previous years, but most kittens are still being born and a few still enter.

If the season’s any easier, it might be attributed to residents and groups engaged in trap/neuter/return (TNR) and the shelter’s Return to Field program to prevent births. For the ones that are born, though, there are rescue groups whose volunteers open their umbrellas and turn them upside down to catch every cat they can. One of them is Helen Sanders CatPAWS.

CatPAWS is one of the rescues that maneuvers the lifeboats through the kitten storm every year. Back in April, they joined other local rescues to help empty Long Beach’s shelter and place the pets with fosters. CatPAWS has probably had cats of all ages with all issues—many with none, of course—and has found homes for most of them. The few that remain stay with their fosters until death do they part or the right someone finally comes along. All cats deserve the best life possible for them, the group strongly believes.

Volunteers Erica Elliott-Castillo, Deborah Felin and Eden Amans explained the Catmalion transformation of unwanted and sometimes broken felines into the best possible cats they can be. The first step is pulling from the shelter, where all the CatPAWS cats come from. When shelter staff receives kittens and nursing mothers or is notified about them, they contact Elliott-Castillo, who is CatPAWS’ foster coordinator. She occasionally calls in herself as well. After first identifying possible fosters, Elliott-Castillo goes to the shelter and pulls cats based not on how cute they are—and they all are, each in their own way—but on which fosters are available and their capabilities to handle medical issues or behavior problems, if any. If litters are available with or without the mother, one foster usually takes the entire family.

CatPAWS fosters each have different preferences relating to cat care. Some love to bottle-feed newborns and watch them go from hanging on to life to hanging on to their pants legs.

black newboarn kitten, only a few hours old, held in someone's hands
Grace, for instance, is hours old in this photo and resembles the baby in “Eraserhead.” Photo courtesy of Helen Sanders CatPAWS.


little tortoiseshell kitten on white blanket, with tongue sticking out
And here’s Grace at 10 weeks old, hale and happy and soon to be socialed for adoption. Photo courtesy of Helen Sanders CatPAWS.


Others take great joy in turning a sick cat into a beautiful, healthy one or drawing the inner purry housecat out from a frightened, hissy creature.

“Sometimes, I’m pulling for a particular foster, and then I see another kitten or another litter—I’ll start texting fosters to see if they can take them,” Erica said. “I sometimes go with the intention of pulling two or three and leave with eight!”

The shelter generally has a vet assess the cat, and the paperwork and documents go home with the animal, to be reviewed by CatPAWS’ medical volunteers.

“We check them out once we get them into foster, but issues aren’t always present right off the bat,” said Felin, a CatPAWS board member. “Our medical team works on whatever illnesses that arise. We have a cadre of vets, most of them local—we use different vets for different things depending on need, and we work with specialty vets such as ophthalmologists and with surgical specialties such as orthopedics to mend and save limbs when possible.”

When assessment is complete, the cat goes to the appropriate foster. The ones who check out just fine go enjoy being cats at someone’s house.

Adoption photography starts about a week before their spay/neuter appointment.

“Seeing an adorable 3-day-old kitten is great, but that is not what will be going home!” said Amans, who does the purr-folio shots. “We want to best represent the kitties as they will be when they get adopted. Fujifilm donated an amazing camera that we use for photo shoots with the kitties.”

Headshots that show off markings and action shots of the cats playing with toys and lying down in all kinds of silly positions are made public after the spay/neuter surgeries. Volunteers counsel with potential adopters to find personality matches; masks and social distancing, and sometimes gloves and booties, are requirements for meet-and-greets and the final adoption photos.

That’s it in a nutshell, from rescue to what it’s all about—going home forever. At this writing, CatPAWS has completed 225 adoptions since Jan. 1, which equates to more than one homecoming a day.

They still have a few left…

black kitten with collar sits up on a striped blanket staring at the camera. A guitar sits in the background.
Cosette. Photo by Eden Amans.


Colette. Photo by Eden Amans
Cosette and Collette are adorable sisters who came to CatPAWS small and scared. They’re getting bigger, cuter and friendlier by the day. True to their francophilic nature, they love pastel-color puff balls because they remind them of macarons, think Edith Piaf is the cat’s pajamas, and wish that kitten food came in brie flavor, with chunks of crouton.


Kitten with speckled nose, gray ears and eye mask, white muzzle and chest, and white paws sits up on a colorful bed with cat supplies in background, looking at camera.
India is searching for her perfect dream—a forever home with a loving family, a comfy bed and lots of fluffy toys! She has a wonderful personality that shines through when you gain her trust. She’ll shine beautifully in her new home!

Gamers already. The City Babies— Berlin, Havana, Florence and Sydney—at their tender age are already lost in video games. Sydney has lost his chance on the continue countdown. Sydney, by the way, has an identical sibling, Dublin, who’s off somewhere, probably reading a book. Foster Lori would like them to see a little more of the world. You game? Video by Lori Caputi


Helen Sanders CatPAWS doesn’t operate on love and energy alone. They would appreciate donations, which you can make here. Donate on their Facebook page or by clicking the yellow button on their website.

 If you find kittens, please be sure the mother is with them before you bring them into the shelter. Mom may be out finding dinner. It may be a challenge, but Alley Cat Allies has an informative article about how to do it.

Pet Projects

If you can see the bottom of the kibble bag:

West Coast Toyota of Long Beach bought $3,000 worth of pet food last month to deliver to people in need in our community. If anyone you know is in this position, take a photo of the food you give to your pet, and include your name, contact information and a brief description of your work situation to [email protected]. Fix’n Fidos will deliver the food to you or arrange for you to pick it up.

Helen Sanders CatPAWS offers, through specific private donors, e-gift cards for people struggling during the crisis to buy food for their pets. The CatPAWS Spay/Neuter Fund, also privately funded, has vouchers available for anyone not able to go to the shelter for them. They also accept donations.

Pets of the Homeless‘ home page gives a self-description as the only organization focusing only on providing food and care for pets belonging to homeless people. Businesses and other organizations across the country receive in-kind donations of food and other needs that the dogs’ and cats’ human families can pick up at outreach locations. The following Long Beach businesses will accept your donations:

Trendi Pawz, 3726 E. Seventh St., Long Beach

Belmont Heights Animal Hospital, 255 Redondo Ave., Long Beach

Paw Shoppe Pet Center, Inc., 6416 E. Spring St., Long Beach

Food and supplies are available at Beacon for Him Ministries, 1535 Gundry Ave. Long Beach, Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon and Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m.; and at Christian Outreach in Action, 515 E. Third St., Long Beach, Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m. Donations will be gratefully accepted at these locations as well.

Just fur fun

Benny’s 3rd birthday celebration and fundraiser: Monday, Aug. 24, 7 p.m. Register online here.

Last year, The Scratching Post published a story about Benny, a little cat who, at a year old, had apparently been through some awful abuse and yet kept his sweet disposition Benny was brought to Long Beach Animal Care Services in 2018 with a shattered jaw and other trauma-related injuries. Long Beach resident Beverly Leifer’s heart went out to him when she saw him, and it wasn’t long after that her arms also reached out and brought him home, forever. Last year, Benny and Bev both vowed to give back to the community and had a birthday bash like no other to raise money for the shelter and to Helen Sanders CatPAWS, the feline rescue that paid for Benny’s surgeries. This year, undaunted, the two have planned a virtual celebration that’ll be virtually awesome. This year, funds will go to CatPAWS again and also to WISEPlace, an Orange County center that empowers homeless and abused women. Benny hopes to help abuse victims across species lines. More details are available here.


Help wanted, help given

It’s kitten season—the time of year when cats give birth. It starts in the spring—sometimes before, depending on the weather, peaks in midsummer, and ends in autumn. It occurs because so many cats are not spayed or neutered, and soon, kittens flood our shelter. It isn’t unusual to find nests of young, seemingly abandoned kittens during kitten season. If you are interested in obtaining a Kitten Care Kit made possible by Helen Sanders CatPAWS, please email [email protected].

Long Beach Animal Care Services has spay/neuter vouchers available. They’ll take a healthy nip out of the cost of a procedure. Residents of any of the five cities served by the shelter can telephone the general number at 562-570-7387 to request a voucher.

The Spay/Neuter Project of Los Angeles (SNP/LA) is back in business for free and low-cost spay/neuter services, and they’re extending the hours of their vaccination clinics. Beginning June 18, the San Pedro clinic, located at 957 N. Gaffey St., will give shots every third Thursday between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Call 310-574-5555 to see if you qualify for services.

Adopt, adopt, adopt

No-contact kitten-adoption event: Saturday, July 18, noon–4 p.m., Pet Food Express, 4220 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach, adoption fees apply.

The Little Lion Foundation has a plan to cure the summertime I-got-nowhere-to-go blues: kittens! The cats that the volunteers rescue will provide companionship and entertainment for you, and you can do the same for them! Join the team at Pet Food Express for no-contact adoptions, and find your best friend. And remember your mask!

 Helen Sanders CatPAWS adoption center: Daily, store hours, PetSmart, 12341 Seal Beach Blvd, Seal Beach.

Window-shopping’s a neat pastime and likely has become more common during the pandemic. Helen Sanders CatPAWS has applied window-shopping to cat adoption; you can peer at several of the fine felines through the windows of the PetSmart adoption center in Seal Beach. Sadly, no ear scratching or chin rubs at this time, but volunteers can answer questions and provide you with adoption information! Be sure to wear a mask. You can find adoption applications and all the kitties here.

The following pet-related businesses regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions, but as of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list.