Animal Shelter of the Week: Episode 26 – Connecticut Cat Connection in Connecticut

Connecticut Cat Connection estimates that on average they helping over 500 cats each year with the help of their volunteers. This is a tremendous success, however, it comes with much effort and with high financial costs, including high medical expenses associated with a no-kill policy. In 2015, they moved to their new adoption center, which gives them hope to expand in the future and will allow them to keep growing and helping more animals and to better support their community. Listen and learn what their future holds and see how you can help!

To learn more about Connecticut Cat Connection, check out their website & Facebook today!

“Welcome to the ARPA Animal Shelter of the week podcast where we introduce you to incredible organizations around the country that are focused on helping animals. We’re proud to be sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport.  Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.

 Connecticut Cat Connection was started by one person in the 1980’s by taking in one stray animal at a time. Due to the increasing number of cats and the expenses associated with rescue, the organization became a nonprofit and officially changed its name to Connecticut Cat Connection in 2007. In 2010 they expanded yet again and opened their first brick and mortar adoption center in Windsor, Connecticut. Their mission is to find forever homes for every cat, a little bit easier.

 Hey, Shelby, welcome to the show. Hi. Thanks so much for having me. Yeah, I’m so excited to have you. You are from Connecticut Cat Connection. And so why don’t you kick us off and tell us a little bit about you and how you got started with the organization? Connecticut Cat Connection is in Windsor, Connecticut, and, um, I actually grew up as a dog person. My family only had dogs. I guess, my for way into the cat world was when I was in college, I moved into an apartment where I couldn’t have a dog and I needed a pet. So I adopted my first cat. Um, and he totally converted me and got me really excited about how much I could be involved in cat welfare. Um, so then I started researching my options in the area and started volunteering with Cat Connection. And I do our cat care shifts, feeding, cleaning litter boxes. And I also run our social media and events. I want the background in that, right. I love that you were a dog lover to start, and you made the conversion, which is really cool. It’s not something we hear very often, right? Most people are either, you know, dog or cat or from a very young age, right? They like, they love both. And so I love that you’re able to make the conversion, um, and the conversion was by necessity. Because, whatever happens, happens, right? But the fact that you were like, I need this in my life and you were able to find a way to make that happen, by any means necessary, I think is pretty cool. You did research. You found this great organization. You started volunteering. And then just over the last couple of years, it sounds like you’ve kind of morphed into taking on more responsibility. And it really sounds like you love what you do there. Yeah, I do love it. And that’s kind of the awesome thing about Cat Connection is you can get as involved or as, like kind of lightly involved, as you like, And we always have room for you, regardless of if you want to be there five days a week or two hours a week. I’m excited to learn a little bit more about the volunteer side.

 But why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you guys do there at Connecticut Cat Connection? We are a nonprofit that’s dedicated solely to the welfare of cats. We have a no-kill policy, which means we don’t euthanize cats based on space or temperament. We only euthanize if they are severely ill, with no chance of recovery. We take in stray cats, abused cats and cats that are abandoned or surrendered to us. And we are 100% volunteer-run. We don’t have paid staff. The only paid person is our veterinarian. Okay, so you guys are actually a shelter because you have a physical location. But I know you started off as a rescue. So and you guys have been around for how many years? Oh, gosh, I think our director started rescuing cats in the 80’s on her own. Just one at a time, as she could. It became an official organization in the 2000s and started under the name Cat Haven. And then in 2007, it became Connecticut Cat connection. And in 2010 we opened our first brick and mortar store. So it’s definitely a lot of changes, even from the 80’s. But even since 2000 that’s a lot of progression. So that tells me actually, that there’s a lot of need for help in Connecticut with cats specifically. So what made the transition to a brick and mortar location? Why was that necessary? We moved to a brick and mortar location, because of the quantity of animals that needed help. It just wasn’t feasible to do it on an at-home basis. You know, you begin by taking in a couple of packs and then they ask you, Can you take a couple more or maybe a couple more and there’s only so much space for that. So the next step board for us was, Well, what can we do to help as many cats as possible, at one time? 

So tell me a little bit more about who’s coming to you and asking for help. Is that other shelters? Is it the municipal shelters? Is it people? Is it your community? Give me a little bit of background and history on why that need has gotten so great and how you’ve been able to grow, in really such a short amount of time. Yes, I think there’s a couple places I can touch on here. I think the plate of cats is kind of unique and that jobs, in our area at least, are a little bit more well regarded as pets. Some people keep a better eye on them. They bring them to the vet more. They get them spayed and neutered. In our area, there are a lot of people that don’t get their cats spayed and neutered and let them go outside. And then, of course, that results in lots of adorable kittens. But that’s a problem in and of itself, because then the people that couldn’t really handle the financial and medical responsibilities of the first pet, certainly can’t handle the responsibilities of six more pets. And then when it kind of reaches that point, will come to us and say, Hey, we have these six kittens. I have nothing I can do with them, so we take them on. And then we also take on, when people move to housing that doesn’t allow pets, which is a big problem in our area, there’s not a lot of pet-friendly housing. They’ll say, Hey, I’ve had this pet for eight years, but I’m moving to an apartment and I can’t have a pet, Can you take him? I don’t want to bring him to the mini municipal shelter, I’m worried about what will happen, so we take in cats like that. In general, there’s a lot of community cats in our area that were never raised in homes but aren’t true ferals, because they’ve been fed by a lot of people in the community and they’ll go on porches and let people pet them. But no one’s really taken ownership or responsibility for those pats. And then once those cats start having a medical issue or someone in the community starts feeling bad for them, they’ll contact us and say, Hey, can you take this cat? He’s been hanging around for a year. Yeah, it definitely sounds like quite a few pieces to the puzzle, for you guys. Really.

 I want to touch a little bit on each of them. The outdoor cats, I think is an interesting piece for me. I think everybody in some regard has community cats and the outdoor cats, you know, having them as personal pats and allowing them to go outside and then come home at night. That’s an interesting piece for me. Yes, I don’t want to say it can come off as though I’m really opposed to having cats that are allowed outdoors and months now you don’t know. I just, I think there’s concerns that need to be addressed, when you’re having a cat that’s allowed outdoors, and not just to prevent future attacks. Like, of course, if you have a cat that’s outdoors, that’s fixed and vaccinated, that’s a great step. But there’s other concerns there, because cats are actually an invasive species, and they’re killing our natural wildlife. And then there’s a risk to the cat because if they’re close to the road, they can obviously get hit by a car or people might not recognize that it’s a pet and then they take that cat in themselves. Yeah, there are so many pieces into that, I can’t even put into words, really. What is the question that I want to ask? Yeah, there’s so many facets to it, and a lot of the issues with pets we see, come from actually the inner cities in Connecticut. That being said, I also ran a barn rescue in a really rural town last year. So tell me about that. Tell me about that program. So we have a program for feral cats and community cats. And we have a couple different levels to that, as a kind of seems to be with everything, in animal welfare. I’m sure. We have our sanctuary cats, that live at our cat shelter. They are crated or enclosed like our other cats because we anticipate that they will be with us for many years, if not their whole life span. And that’s due to either medical issues or temperament, where they can’t easily be placed in a household. So we do keep them on location and give them a safe, happy place to stay. Um, and then there’s the issue of feral cats. And the solution oftentimes, is TNR, which it’s a trap neuter release program, which is really awesome. Basically, you trap cats that have somewhere to go. And are well cared for where they are, meaning that there’s someone that feeds and manages the colony. But you trap them and you get them fixed, and then you return them to their community, where they know where all their resources are. But that way they can’t continue to create new cats and kittens, and eventually that colony will fade out, but in a very humane way. So that’s something we’re big advocates for. But an issue we run into a lot of the time with TNR is that in the pharaoh colonies, there’s no one managing the colony to feed them or their colony has manifested an unsafe area where people are actually harming the cats. There’s a local weather forecaster, and he had written on his Facebook page that he had moved into this building and there were tons of cats living in the barn. But people that were working in the barn were throwing rocks at the cats.. And while he was feeding them, he didn’t have the resources to continue feeding them so, there’s just, kind of, a lot of factors there. So, um, I went down there and kind of talked to him and figured out the situation. And what we found out was, a lot of the cats had been abandoned there by previous owners. So they were home to cats at one point, and then they continued to reproduce until it grew into this, about a 25 cat colony, that no one was taking care of and was  in active danger. That wasn’t a good situation for a TNR program.

So because we couldn’t release them back, it wasn’t safe. So what I did there instead was I reached out to probably 20 shelters in Connecticut and to say, you know, I have 25 cats, can you take one? Because the prospect of anyone taking on 25 semi-feral cats was daunting. Regardless of the size of any organization. And I got success. I went to about four or five organizations that were willing to each take a few cats. So I worked with someone who lived locally and could help trap the cats. And we transported them together to different shelters across the state, where they could be, work on being socialized or placed into safe barn homes. You actually took it upon yourself to cold call, in a sense, right? Other organizations, to say, Look, we’ve got a problem, right? One specific problem at hand and I need your help. How can you help? As much as I hear we want to work together and we’re reaching out, we’re talking to people. The broader picture is that that’s not happening as much as it should be, and building relationships and working with other groups, I think is so important. And it’s so key that you just took it upon yourself to make those calls, and that’s really hard for people to do. I absolutely agree with what you’re saying. We have a tendency to silo ourselves in rescue organizations, that’s not our thing and say, Well, that’s not in our area or I can’t take that on right now. But the reality is, if everyone can take on a little, the project becomes a lot easier for everyone involved. Like, there’s no way Cat Connection could have taken on 25 cats. We took five. Uh, and that wasn’t easy. Those cats stayed with us for a while, because they weren’t ready to be placed right away. But I totally agree. I think getting different shelters and rescues to work together is the solution to so many problems. It’s making those initial calls is the trickiest part. Yeah, it definitely is. 

And so I’m just gonna ask the question. It sounds like that was really the only option for you, right? You couldn’t take on 25. You had to reach out to those other organizations. How many organizations did you call versus, how many helped? I’m just curious. So, I want to say I probably reached out to about 20 organizations. I probably heard back from 10. 5 saying Yes, they could help and 5 saying they’re really sorry, but they didn’t have the bandwidths to take me on. Yeah, I mean, that’s still really good. With five yeses out of 20 in my opinion, right? That’s what, 25%? I was more than satisfied with that. I was, like, kind of aiming wide, and I knew I’d get a few. Yeah, Yeah, it’s hard to do. And so we’re all of those organizations within Connecticut, or did you reach out to surrounding states as well? They actually were all in Connecticut. And the reason for that was, I didn’t want to get into interstate licensing with these cats. They’d have to pass they’re medical exams and be vaccinated before they moved across state lines. And that just wasn’t something we had the time to do! Yeah. So when you went to the executive director of Connecticut Cat Connection, and you said there’s this problem and I want to help, but there’s 25 cats. What was that, What was that reaction? I have to admit our director is probably the most compassionate person in the world. So maybe not the answer you get from every director, but her answer was Okay, what can we do, what’s your plan? And then when I ran my plan by her, I want to reach out to these people. She’s like, OK, let’s do it and then we’ll figure out the rest. Whoever can’t get taken by someone else, we’ll figure it out. Yeah, that’s hard. It’s a hard thing to do, to know that that’s a good plan. But not often does a plan shake out in the way that you think it will. Yeah, you have to plan for the worst and hope for the best, in a situation like that. So I love that, she said. Yep, let’s do it. But tell me what your plan is first, cause I think that’s important. Without a plan, you find yourself overextended. And it becomes really difficult to get out of those, out of those positions. It does. I feel like, you know, there’s a moment there. I was worried I was gonna have to call her and say, I’m bringing you 10 cats and while I think she would have said Okay, we’ll make it work. That would not have been ideal for the organization over the other half-year housing, right? 

One of the other things that you mentioned, that I was intrigued by, is you guys had mentioned that you kind of have a problem with pet-friendly housing. We get, a lot of our surrenders, are simply due to the fact that the people are moving and their housing isn’t pet friendly. I myself was looking for a new apartment this year, and I have said 80% of potential apartments were weeded out because I couldn’t bring my cats and I’m not gonna move anywhere they can’t go. Right.So is that a, is that a statewide thing? Is that a community thing? And are you guys doing anything to kind of help with that? Are you reaching out to management? Are you having conversations about the pet-friendly housing? I think it’s a statewide problem. I can’t say we’ve taken any, any really impact into changing it, although that’s something I think we absolutely can and should do. We do have a directory linked on our website of pet-friendly housing in the area, so if you are looking specifically for that, we can help you access it. But there’s probably more we could do to kind of help mitigate those situations that people don’t get stuck in a house, that they can’t have their pet in. I have heard of this in one other organization, and it’s fascinating to me, because I just, it’s not a common problem, but I have heard it. And so that’s why I was just curious about what kind of resources you have. But I like that even though you haven’t made the steps forward, right, to do much more with it, I like that you’ve at least linked on your website, some opportunities or some options for people, who are looking for housing who have their animals, and the animals have to go with them, right? It’s not an option to give them up. So I love that you at least have the resources available to people for that. Yeah, and I can say if anyone in Connecticut is looking for pet-friendly housing. If they reached out to us ahead of time, that Hey, can you help me find something? I’m sure we’d have five volunteers on your team helping you find somewhere you could go with your pets. Yeah, I really, I really like that. The overall feeling of the entire team wanting to help people in your community. I think that’s really, really special.

 So I want to spend a few minutes then talking about, you know, the volunteers and the staff with your organization and what that looks like for you. Yeah. So, um, I was around for the big transition from rescue, um, to full shelter, because that happened before I got involved with Cat Connection. But we do have a large team of volunteers, and we are constantly recruiting for new volunteers because it seems like as many phenomenal volunteers as we have, we never have enough. Um, and we do have a large foster network, particularly this time of year with kitten season. Sure. Our fosters are full. They’re at capacity with kittens. And we’re in the process of recruiting new fosters. Yeah. So give me an idea. If people are out there listening and they say Yep, I can foster. What does that entail for you guys? Is there an orientation? Is it bottle babies? Is it like, medical? Tell us. Tell us the gamut of that. If you’re interested in fostering, the first thing you can say is, do it, do it with us. Do it with any organization in your area. You are saving a life by fostering. Our foster programs have options for kind of everyone. You would come in, meet with our director, fill out an application, and then we talk with you about what your home life is like and what kind of capacity you have to care for foster animals. We do take in the only neonatal bottle babies that need feeding, um, up to every two hours. But we also have hospice fosters for senior cats and everything in between. Um, a cat that just needs medical care more often than we can manage it in our volunteer shifts or a cat that just needs a few weeks to recover from a surgery. And they just need somewhere safe to recover. Um, we take in moms and babies. You have the tiny baby kittens, with all the work of having to bottle feed them. So a little bit of everything with fostering, we’re willing to work with our fosters on what works for them. We’ve had a diabetic cat in foster for eight months now. I think she is going to end up adopting him because, after eight months in the family, she can have it. But we also have fosters that will foster for a week. Well, so the kittens were adopted, but their adopter can’t pick them up for a week, and we don’t want them sitting in the shelter so they’ll go into a home for a week. The one thing that really stands out to me, there is, is that you guys are willing, so one you have a process right? But two, you’re allowing those volunteers to say to you, I want to help, but here’s my capacity, right? And you’re saying, Okay, we can work with that. Let’s find you one or two that fit within your parameters, with your lifestyle, so that you can take them and we can take more animals right, to help. We want to set people up for success so that they’re encouraged to foster again. If you set someone up with an animal they can’t handle, they’re not gonna want to help again. Very true. Do you supply the things that are needed for when they are, when they’re fostering or do you request that they go out and pick those things up? So it’s a little bit of both. We request that if they can handle providing the food, that’s fantastic. But if they can’t handle it and they still wanna foster, we’ll provide the food. All the medical care is provided through our center. They come in for bi-weekly wellness visits with our vet, depending on age and for all their routine examinations or vaccinations.

 And you actually mentioned that you have a bet on a vet on staff and so being a rescue transition to a shelter right with the adoption center, that’s something really unique. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about how that works and how that partnership came about? Yeah, so it’s a really cool situation. We do have our only paid employee are vet. She’s part-time for us. She actually does live on our property, which is really cool. We have four houses on our property, in addition to our Adoption Center, our director lives in one. Our vet lives in one, and we have plans for the other two that maybe it could get into later. Yeah, but our vet comes in at least once a week for wellness visits, for our cats that are housed in our adoption center and for fosters to bring in cats for wellness visits. And then she’s kind of on-call when any medical situations arise. She’s the first person to be called to come to take a look at the cats. Um, we don’t do any surgeries on our at our adoption center, but she refers us to other vets and lets us know when it’s something that needs to be seen by a specialist. Actually works out for us that it helps keep costs down, in the sense that we aren’t paying for wellness visits for 60 cats a week. It also helps because she has a great eye for knowing when something’s beyond our capacity at our center and the resources we have there. And so she can really quickly refer us to a vet that can help the cat. Yeah, I definitely think that is one of the things I’m always looking for, what makes an organization unique, and I think there are a couple of things honestly, that stand out to me in this conversation already, but the fact that you guys have a part-time vet on staff and partnerships with other vets, I think it’s just a really cool piece and tells me a lot about the community and in the place that you’re located. I’m always intrigued by that. I just think partnerships and community is such a huge piece that I love hearing those stories, right. Those connections, to how it works.

 You did mention that you have four houses on the property. In addition to the adoption center. So let’s talk about that. Tell us what those, sounds like you might have future plans. It sounds like you have an idea of what you want to do, so anything that you can share about that would be wonderful. Yeah, so they are our down the road plans when we can get the resources to take care of it. But our ideas for those two houses are, an idea for each house. We take in FIV and FILV cats. And for anyone that’s not familiar with that term that’s pets with the feline immunodeficiency virus or the feline leukemia virus. There are many shelters that will not take in FIV cats. I think we’re one of the only ones in the state that will, most won’t take an FELV. I think that’s even harder to place an FIV. So an FIV cat has a weakened immune system, so they can get sick a little bit easier and viruses affect them more. However, they can live a full life. They can live the full 18 -20 years of your regular house cat. You just have to kind of be on top of things with them. Make sure when they get sick they’re treated quickly, because it can spread a little bit faster in them. So another thing people don’t understand is that FIV cats can live successfully with non-FIV cats. The virus is transmitted, primarily through deep bite or scratch wounds, which don’t happen in normal domestic house cat life. Particularly the cats that have already been fixed, so we oftentimes find that people aren’t willing to take FIV cats into their homes if they have another pet. That’s something we’re trying to educate people about. The FELV cat problem is a little bit different, in that it can be spread a lot easier. And FELV cats do have a shortened life span. Um, we’ve heard of FELV cats living a couple of years to, um, some have lived successfully 15 years, but it’s kind of anyone’s guess. You don’t really know what’s going to happen, and it can go downhill really quickly. But our belief is that those cats deserve a safe, happy home, regardless of how much time they have left. So our goal would be to have housing where we can have one for FIV cats and one for FELV cats so that they can walk around and have their own area and not be in crates, because they are adopted with the same frequency we don’t want them sitting in cages in our adoption center. So that’s kind of our plan for one house. 

And then our plan for the other house would be to have a full intake center, where we can do more medical care on cats when they come in, to make sure that no viruses, fleas, parasites have any chance of being entered into our regular adoption center. Yeah, those were really cool, big plans. Really cool. I love that you think they’re focused on the FIV and the FELV. I think that’s really important. And I do hear and see that more organizations, right rescues, and shelters are kind of, they’re paying attention to that, and I think it’s slowly coming around. But I think the understanding is that they deserve a chance to live a long, healthy life as well. Here are the most problems, is education. The more you know about what these viruses actually mean for cats, the less scary it seems and the more willing they are to take it on. Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. So I love that. That’s your plan for the two other houses on the property. I think that’s very cool and very smart. So I’ll just ask the question. Is it a fundraising issue for you guys, to get those up and running to the vision that you see, or is there something else in play? Fundraising is our primary concern there. We have so many other things happening. Just struggling to maintain the cost of a shelter on a regular basis, let alone the cost of rehabbing those houses and creative it’s we want them to be. That’s really the biggest hurdle we’re facing with that.

 So we’re talking kind of about what the future plans are looking like for you guys. So let’s talk. Let’s take a chance. Let’s take an opportunity to kind of talk about the fundraising and the event section of your organization. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about what that fundraising game looks like for you? Um and then I want to talk about future events. Absolutely, so on the beautiful things I have a hand in. So I get very excited about them, um, for fundraising. We’ve kind of been approaching it a certain bay in the past two years that we’re trying to modify, but it’s tricky. So when we have a cay that has a desperate medical need, they need a surgery very quickly or something else is going on that we need immediate funds for, we often find our social media fundraising is really where that money comes in through. When we’re able to really tell a cat story and get it out there quickly and get it easily shared, we’ve been able to make up the medical costs for a lot of the surgeries we’ve needed. But we’re trying to take a more long-range approach that we aren’t just kind of putting a band-aid on the wounds, but we’re able to have some, some resources moving forward, to do those exciting things we were talking about. So where we, last year we launched our first capital campaign, where we’re trying to actually get donations throughout the year, not on an as-needed basis. And we’ve been slowly acquiring some monthly donors, which is really exciting for us people. People that will just take a little portion a month, $20-$50 dollars and send it our way, which is awesome. And we’ve also been trying to encourage people to use the Company Match Programs, where they’re employed, because in Connecticut we have a lot of insurance companies, a lot of businesses, and many of them offer matching donations for your gifts. So if you were to get Cat Connection $100, they’ll give us another $100. That’s something I think people don’t take advantage of as much as we could, so we’re trying to spread the word on that, too. But yeah, mainly, I’d say we’re trying to stop just putting a bandaid on the wounds and start building a really long term plan. Which is not an easy thing to do. The social media aspect does play such a huge part in, not only asking for those emergency problems that come up, right, the medical and taking in large numbers of cats and things of that nature. But it really is an opportunity to get the word out about your organization, about the great things that you guys are doing and to recruit more volunteers, right?

 I just think the Social media platform, in general, does so much for you, and I love that you’re finding success. Our social media community is amazing. Um, we have so many active people in our pages and active in the sense we’re not only will they send us money or food when we ask for it, but they’ll share adoptable cats on their pages and really spread the word about our upcoming events on there. They are so engaged in every aspect, and I’m not sure they realize how big of an impact that has for our organization, but it is huge. That’s how we get people to our events. That’s how we get donations and that our really engaged audience, that wouldn’t be happening. It’s great that you guys are in a community that is surrounded by wonderful people who want to help. You know, that doesn’t often happen with organizations. There are some organizations out there who really struggle with it. So I love that your passion is the social media and the events and talking to people and learning and asking for help, because that doesn’t happen with every organization. So I think they’re pretty lucky to have you and your dedication and focus on that. We definitely count ourselves lucky. Also to have them and their willingness to learn and engage. It’s phenomenal.

 And so the capital campaign that you guys launched, tell me a little bit more about that. Is that still ongoing? And how can people really just get involved with that? Yes, so I have to say it didn’t go as well as playing last year, but we’re learning from it. So I think we’ll begin marketing for a new annual campaign this year. I’m kind of providing more resources for people so they really know where that funding is going. We do have an option to donate on our website, for our regular annual campaign or specifically to our medical fund. And then the other thing we’re trying to encourage people to do and kind of spread the word on, it’s kind of a weird subject approach, but it’s leaving a legacy in your will. Find that that could be a huge support for a lot of organizations, is that people leave a portion of their will, to a charity that they believe in, and that could just make such a significant impact in the long run. Yeah, it is one of those difficult things to think about and talk about, but that’s an important piece to organizations, and I think there are so many people out there, who are extremely dedicated to a specific organization, and I think it’s a great thing for people to think about. So I love that you’re having those hard discussions and you’re talking to people about that. I again, I agree with you. It’s a really, really difficult conversation, but I think it’s an important one. Yes, I think it’s a little bit of both, and it has to be really, really done at the right time. You don’t want to just brush this on someone. You have to really have a relationship with them before you even get to that kind of discussion. Yeah, and relationships take years and years, don’t they? So it’s that it’s not something that is gonna happen overnight, but yeah, I do. I agree with everything you said on that.

 So let’s talk a little bit about any events coming up. Any fundraising that you have going on in the next couple of months, why don’t you tell us about that? Some of our, so last week actually, we did a really fun event, and I’m mentioning it, because I’m sure we’re going to do it again. We did Kitten Yoga. So we got in touch with the local yoga studio, and they let us bring in five adoptable kittens and taught a beginner’s class in yoga, and the kittens ran around and played with everyone. And the next day they were all adopted. Yes, that was a really, like, kind of low key, fun outreach event. I’m just trying to get our name out in the community more. In the fall, we do, this will be our third annual event. The last two years it’s been Wine for Felines, but this year we’re doing Pints for Paws, and it is a beer tasting, where the proceeds all benefit Connecticut Cat Connections Medical Fund. And we’ll have live music and food and tours of the brewery and pint glasses to take home. We also use the opportunity to kind of engage with our community and let them know what’s going on at Cat Connection. What our staff been for the year, about the adoptions we’ve had and to share some what we call, happy tales of adoptive cats in pictures of them in their new homes. Just particularly exciting when it’s a cat that’s been through the medical procedures with us. Some that were with us for a long time, and we get to share really happy outcomes like that. So I’m really excited for that event. Um, and we’re also planning a spring or I guess summer now, clean up day soon. Very cool. So I love that. Are these ideas coming from people within the organization? Are these just other programs that you’ve maybe seen at other organizations? How did you come up with these? For the yoga with kittens, I had actually done goat yoga, locally. I heard about a farm, Um, and it was so fun. And I was just like, you know, even better, yoga with kittens. Um, so again, finding a yoga studio that was excited about having kittens run around, could be a little tricky, but actually, one of our former adopters runs a yoga studio and was excited to help and then ended up adopting one of the kittens from the session. Nice. So that was a kind of a win-win. And then, for the wine tasting, we had a contract with a wine label, where we’re selling Connecticut Cat Connection wines. They actually went out of business, which was a big bummer. And then we were kind of rebranding it and thinking of how we could make it different and exciting. So we’re cooperating at a brewery this year with a tour, and I’m really excited about I think it’s gonna be different and bigger than our previous years. Yeah, I love that you’re kind of taking, taking things and spinning them and finding different ways, right? And what you enjoy in your personal time, you’re saying, How can I use this to help the organization? Right. How can we save more cats? And so you went from goat yoga to kitten yoga, and I just love the evolution and the thought process in coming up with those ideas and putting those new ideas in place and then implementing them. It’s not easy to get things like that off the ground. No, no, but I find that the more we engage with our community, the more they engage with us. And they might be a little more hesitant to walk in the doors of the shelter and say, Hey, I don’t know anything about you guys, but maybe I’d like to volunteer. If they go to a community outreach event and they just take home a brochure on what volunteering entails, and they have a great time at the event, they might feel more comfortable reaching out saying, Hey, was that Pints for Paws? That was really cool. Is there another project that could work on in the future with you guys similar to that. So I feel like it brings in a volunteer audience. And then, um also, when the doctors are looking for cats, they’ll say, Ah I remember I went to that Cat Connection event or they could refer their friends to us. So things like that are, you know, kind of like our grassroots outreach there, but it has a big impact for us. That’s the business side of animal welfare, is I think sometimes really people get focused on the task at hand, right? Saving that one or that two were those five cats. And I think with what your background is in the social media and the fundraising, I think it’s important to constantly be looking outside the box and coming up with new ideas. You’re looking at it very smartly from if I can engage the community if we can make them feel a certain way right, it opens up the door for possibilities, whether it’s volunteering or actually adopting or fostering. And so that excites me, that thought process of thinking outside the box and really creating that emotional connection. Thank you. Yeah, we’re really proud of our events and the impact it’s made in our shelter and in the community. Yeah, that is very cool. 

So one of my favorite parts, Shelby in these conversations is memorable stories. And so I have a feeling you’re a person who probably has dozens and dozens and dozens of them, but I think maybe it’s hundreds. But I’m looking for one that just really made an impact on you that you want to share. Can I compromise and give you two of them, they’re both short. But they’re, Absolutely, absolutely. It was last yea,r someone reached out to us on the Facebook page, letting us know that you know, their cat had passed away and they were looking to adopt a kitten. And can we let them know when we had an orange kitten available for adoption? And that’s something we get a lot. So of course, we let them know, we posted some adoptable kittens and they came in. They came in to meet the orange kitten, and they left with two black and white senior cats. Oh, that’s so cute! Yeah, she met Kleb and Cheerios. They won her over and instead of adopting that orange kitten, she brought these two black and white senior boys that really needed a home, brought them home with her. And that was so exciting for me because I feel like our senior cats can get overlooked. Having someone meet the kitten and then meet them and say, Actually, these guys are awesome. Such a cool experience because, yes, the kittens are awesome. And so much fun. We’re gonna find homes for all of them. But it is the older cats that take a little bit longer.

 So I have a favorite cat and I shouldn’t have it. But there’s a cat that’s come to our rescue that I am obsessed with. His name is Jasper. Jasper came to us, and he got returned three times. Each time he was aggressive with his owners, which was, I found really weird because when he was in the shelter, he would kiss me and let me pet him and play. I fell in love with this cat and actually, I was on my honeymoon in Mexico, the last time he got returned. And I was like, Oh, my God, like what the heck is happening here? He went to a home with someone who is like, you know, I’m gonna foster him before I commit to adopting him, because I want to make sure this is gonna go okay. And she loves him. He had gotten returned because he hated men, which was a weird thing that we didn’t realize. But after it happened a few times, you realized his aggression was toward men, but he was fine with women. This woman who lives alone adopted him, and a month later, she came in. Um, it filled up the full adoption paperwork, and I had honestly been messaging her, every week, saying, Hey, how’s Jasper doing? Trying to feel it out to see if I’d be seeing Jasper again soon. And I’m working on a backup plan. Um, and every week she’d be like, you know, I’m watching a lot of My Cat from Hell with Jackson Galaxy. We’re redirecting some of his energy and anxiety over there, and I said, Okay, this is I’m excited. She’s really giving it a good effort here. Yeah, I’d like she was like, I’m coming in filling out the forms, and I talked to her a few days later and I was like, How’s it going? Are you really excited? Is Jasper happy? And she was like, I think he knew that he was finally here for the long run. He looked so much more relaxed when I came home and she’s like, I’m probably just making that up, I think. But he looked more relaxed, so that was a huge success story for me. In terms of when a cat’s returned for aggression, many shelters are forced to euthanize them, because they don’t have the resources to kind of delve into what’s really happening there. And I’m big into cat behavior and what’s been triggering the reactions we’re getting. So finding someone that took the time to really learn about him and his needs and how she could help him with his anxiety and aggression. It was just so exciting for me, finding that, like one in 1,000,000 adopter, that’s willing to do that. Yeah, taking that time to really understand what’s going on is key. And I love that you didn’t give up on Jasper, after three times, right. And oh, I was close to bringing him home myself. Which happens, right? I mean, that’s how we always end up with more than one cat in the house. You rarely ever see a household with just one cat. Yeah, I completely agree. Those are beautiful stories. And I particularly love the one, where they walked away with the two senior cats. There’s something, Yes. I mean, we all have an idea of what we want, right? What we’re looking for. And sometimes you have to go in with eyes wide open, with, with an open mind as well, and just be present right? To really let them speak to you. And sometimes you just need to let them choose you. Yes, absolutely. That’s kind of what I tell people when they’re like, Well, I want this specific type of cat. Well, why don’t you come in and meet the cats and get a feel for who works with your personality and then oftentimes end up leaving with the cat that’s not at all what they described as their future cat. Yeah. Yeah, there is something really special about that. Definitely.

 So we actually talked a lot about different things. Shelby, Is there anything else that we may be missed that you want to talk about before we start to wrap this up? One thing I want to say about our shelter is something I’m really excited about. And the reason I chose to volunteer with Cat Connection and it is our no-kill policy. But I don’t mean to belittle any shelters that don’t have that policy. Everyone in the animal welfare world is doing the best they can do with the resources they have, and that’s not something I ever wanna kind of pit people against each other. But what makes me so excited about Cat Connection, is when we have a cat that comes in sick and matted and covered in dirt. And they live with us for over a year, and then when we find a home for that, adopter, because we gave a medical chance or we took a chance on a cat with medical needs and we house that cat for a year, Um, that that’s really what I would say shows the true heart of all the volunteers at Connecticut Cat Connection. That’s something that’s so meaningful to all of us and seeing the names on the adoption board of cats that have been with us so long, going home because we gave them a chance and we didn’t have a time limit on them. That’s something I think is really special about our organization. Yeah, I don’t think I could have said that. Said that any better. It takes a lot of love and time and attention, you know, to take in those special needs cats, and, yeah, there’s not. I wish there were more organizations like that, but I understand the challenges right. You have to have the space. You have to have the resources. You have to have the partnerships and the volunteers. There’s so many things that play into that. And so, the fact that you are able to do that, and that is something that you guys were extremely proud of, makes me really excited for the future and what you guys have to come. You know, including the two houses that we talked about in your future plans. I think that’s only going to enhance the program that you guys currently have. Thank you so much. I’m really excited too. I think we’re only going to continue growing and being able to help more cats. Definitely.

 So what is the best place for people, Where’s the best location for people to get in touch with you guys? Is it your website? Is that your social media? Whether they want a volunteer or just learn more about you or donate, give us the quick layout of that. So on our website, which is CTCatConnection.org, you can find our adopting applications, our fostering applications and our volunteer applications. We also provide some resources on things we were talking about before with FIV and FELV cats, kind explaining what those are. And that’s where you’ll find a list of our adoptable pets and our donation needs. Really active on Facebook. That’s where you’re going to see all of our cats that are up for adoption or get alerts on the programming we’re doing. And upcoming events, and we also have an Amazon wish list that we encourage people to send some supplies through. And that is a bit.ly/CCCneeds. That’s excellent. We’ll definitely be sure to connect those links on the podcast post as well so that it’s easily accessible for people. Um, Shelby, I just I’m so grateful that I was able to connect with you today and learn a little bit more about what you guys were doing, and I’m a huge fan, we’ll make sure to follow you, and we encourage other people to do the same. Thank you so much. It was really great speaking with you and thank you for giving me the opportunity to kind of spread awareness about what we’re doing. Absolutely. Thank you so much. Thank you. 

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