No catnaps for CatPAWS: Feline-oriented nonprofit uses creativity to keep adoptions up

Lance Smith volunteers with Helen Sanders CatPAWS, a cat-welfare nonprofit that primarily focuses on adoption. But as founding member Deborah Felin said, the focus has many prongs—“rescue those we can, prevent unwanted litters, engage and empower the community to be part of the solution through resources and tools such as kitten-care kits, covering the cost of spay-neuter, even providing gift cards to help people care for community cats, cats they find and their own pets in times of crisis.”

CatPAWS provides DIY kitten-care kits through Long Beach Animal Care Services to assist people who find newborn litters and want to help them stay alive. Through private donors, the CatPAWS Spay/Neuter Fund offers vouchers to cover spay/neuter procedures to anyone living in the five cities in the Long Beach shelter’s service area—Long Beach, Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Signal Hill and Cerritos—and e-gift cards are available for people struggling during the crisis to buy food for their pets.

Lance is the guy who pulls it all together with his skills as CatPAWS’ database manager. In between dealing with analytics and communicating them to the rest of the membership, he cares for and plays with his fosters.

During the pre-pandemic times, Lance volunteered in one of the adoption centers at the Petco on Pacific Coast Highway and PetSmart in Seal Beach. He’d caravan twice monthly to one of the assisted-living facilities, bearing cheer, companionship and kittens for the residents. Because of social distancing regulations, particularly for the facilities’ residents, these efforts have been temporarily discontinued.

man in white CatPaws T-shirt smiles at camera while cuddling a huge orange cat

CatPAWS volunteer Lance Smith interprets data for the membership and most importantly fosters kitties. Here he is with Sam, a glorious orange fellow who’s since gone home! Photo courtesy of Lance Smith.

CatPAWS has always pulled cats from shelters, particularly from Long Beach Animal Care Services. When the kittens from The Long Beach Little Paws Project, a joint effort between CatPAWS and The Little Lion Foundation, are old enough to survive on their own, they go to CatPAWS as well.

The nonprofit still pulls a few remaining cats from the Long Beach shelter, but that’s almost completely empty, so CatPAWS can now pull from other shelters that haven’t had the good fortune of the type of community effort that Long Beach has had. All of the more than 50 cats are now with fosters, often with more than one kitty per capita.

Because CatPAWS’ adoption centers have closed, fosters are more vital than ever. Teachers will foster in the summer when they’re off work, and others adjust their fostering to travel plans. That’s changed for now, of course, but one of the few benefits of the stay-at-home order is the extra time you have (yes, you) to give a foster cat attention until they’re ready to go to a furever home or we’re all let out, blinking like cats in the sudden sunlight. And all you’ll need is your hearth and heart.

Lance described different levels of fostering—bottle-baby feeding, pregnant moms with litters, kittens old enough to wreak havoc on their own, seniors, medical cases and regular ol’ adult cats.

“We have good foster support,” Lance said. “We provide food and any medicine and veterinary care so that people will be more willing to foster for us.

Adoptions, even during this pandemic, remain successful.

“People are home, and they want some companionship,” Lance said. “Cats are not the aloof creatures people think they are—they’re affectionate and need companionship, too.”

So far this year, about 120 cats have gone home or have been ready to go home from CatPAWS—about a cat a day. Since the cats were all evacuated in mid-March, 37 have been adopted or are ready to go home. This can be chalked up to CatPAWS volunteers applying creativity to present adoption methods.

“We do adoptions through social media and adoption websites,” Lance said. “We’re on 1,023 websites—mainly Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet—and the database sends them to other smaller ones as well. We also use our website—we started a blog there—our Facebook and Instagram pages, and word of mouth. Just now, the daughter of our volunteer coordinator Clare Cusato, created TikToks of the adoptable cats. 

Lance attributes the number of adoptions not only to social media but also to client service, which remains firmly in place during the pandemic.

“We rely on our reputation of matching the right cat to the right person, providing them with healthy, well-adjusted cats,” he said.

Lance looks at the future of rescue as a slow climb to normal.

“We won’t have as many fosters, but we will be able to take in additional cats,” he said. “Eventually, it may get back to open events. That may be slow.”

And, it is hoped, the visits to the assisted living centers, which Lance and the volunteers miss tremendously, will resume.

If you can’t support Helen Sanders CatPAWS through fostering, you can talk up the rescue, network their photos, and donate on their page. And adopt. Of course.

Shenandoah is Lance Smith’s foster buddy. She’s a retired mother, having raised some of the cutest babies CatPAWS has seen. She’s now spayed and ready to settle down in a forever home. She’s affectionate, chirpy, loves other animals and particularly enjoys indoor bird watching. She plans to continue to watch them indoors after the rest of us are back outside.

Portia is about 4 months old and is completely gorgeous. Portia’s passing her time delightfully until she goes to a forever home. She loves chasing toys, skidding around corners, and did love crashing into her brother Bentley (whose ears you can see bombing the video), but he’s gone home! Portia can easily switch it down a gear and curl up at the foot of your bed while you read, watch TV, or defrost your umpteenth frozen dinner in the microwave. She’ll be happy to share.

Chompers (pronounced shom-PAY, if you puh-lee-uz), is a 10-year-old tiny girl. She was abandoned at the shelter by her owners, frightened and with a case of stomatitis, an inflammation of the gums that necessitated the removal of all her teeth but the fangs. She quickly recovered and is playful and affectionate, but still needs more time to gain trust. She doesn’t, at this point, enjoy being picked up, but despite her disease, loves a scratch under the chin. She now eats all her food, including kibble! She’d be a good companion to someone who either likes to hunker down with a quiet companion or is obliged to do so now.

CatPAWS likes to theme-name kittens in any litter they get. This is Charmin. Her siblings were called Cottonelle and Scott. No explanation needed, I guess, but Cottonelle and Scott were adopted. She rolls everywhere, as you can see in this video (check out the accidental nose boop from a Mylar toy, which embarrassed the foster terribly but didn’t phase Charmin). Charmin is the last roll on the shelf, so come get her quick so she can roll on your rug, your floor, your clean laundry and over on your lap!

Support for the community

If you want to support the rescues and shelters, click on the link associated with the organization to donate (see end of article). Most of them, including Long Beach Animal Care Services, will do social-media or telephone adoptions.

Make sure that your animals have their food, meds and all their immunizations in case of a disruption of medical-supply delivery for anything they might require. It’s also a good idea to protect yourselves and any other human companions by not petting any animal that isn’t your own or allowing others to touch yours.

Stay current with the latest COVID-19 developments on the Long Beach Post’s live blog.

If you can see the bottom of the kibble bag:

Fix’n Fidos is a nonprofit established by KTLA reporter Kacey Montoya to provide free spay/neuter to Southern California residents who can’t afford the procedures.

Since there’s been a crimp in the mobile clinics, Montoya has shifted focus to people who may have trouble finding food for their friends. 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 at a local pet-supply store. Monetary donations made on the organization’s page will help the effort along.

The Dog Bakery, remaining open for pooch pastries and doggie desserts, will also help people who have lost their jobs and are in financial distress to give their dogs a basic meal. Health-care employees and other essential workers can apply for this. During the stay-at-home order, the owners, Rocky Kanaka and Kelly Hannaford will deliver dog food to people who are struggling with joblessness, can’t leave their homes, or deserve appreciation.

Access this link to fill out a form if you need food for your dog or wish to donate to the effort. Check out this video for further details.

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, offers vouchers to cover spay/neuter procedures to anyone living in the five cities in the Long Beach shelter’s service area—Long Beach, Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Signal Hill and Cerritos.

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.

Pets of the Homeless’ home page gives a self-description as the only organization focusing on providing food and care for pets belonging to those who find themselves homeless. 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. 7th 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. 3rd St., Long Beach, Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m. Donations will be gratefully accepted at these locations as well.

Why not share some joy and get bragging rights about how talented you are?

Fix Long Beach is hosting a virtual chalk-art contest with the theme “Special Pets.” Put on a mask and mark up your little patch of cement (that mask’ll keep the chalk dust away as well), take a photo, and submit your art in the comment section on this link on this post between now and 8 p.m. Sunday, April 19. Fix’s amazing volunteers will choose a winner, who will receive a $25 Amazon gift card and a Fix Long Beach T-Shirt.

Please follow all of the stay-at-home guidelines, and only create your art in a safe place. If you make a submission, please be advised that Fix Long Beach reserves the right to use your images at our discretion. Chalk On!

Support for pets and rescuers
gray pit bull with pink splotch on muzzle and white chest gazes happily out car window on ride home.

Rufus, a longterm resident of Long Beach Animal Care Services, enjoys his ride to a foster home, thanks to Live Love Animal Rescue.

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.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.

Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”