HOBART – Not every cat is perfect.
Jabba was abandoned at the doorstep of a local veterinarian at 5:30 a.m., left with a note that said, ‘The shelters won’t take me, I have no other option.” He was found declawed and fully matted.
Walker was near death when he was found under a crawlspace. The cat was a victim of a fan blade accident from a truck and had to have his tail amputated.
Rosemary was a New Year’s Day call. She was found alone, starving in a garage during the arctic cold.
Not every cat is perfect – or comes from the most ideal background – but every cat deserves a safe, forever home, rescue workers say.
The Feline Community Network in Hobart works to give those elderly, injured and neglected pets a second chance.
“They are delicate flowers,” said Michelle Duca, founder and executive director of the Feline Community Network. “These cats that come in here are either set to be euthanized or they are released from another shelter’s care for a medical reason. We work to get them healthy and to the right adopted family and home so they don’t have to go through all of this again.”
Since opening in 2011, the feline rescue and rehabilitation center has worked with local animal control agencies, humane societies and rescue operations to provide medical care and rehabilitation services to sick or injured felines.
The small center, located at 154 S. Illinois St., houses an average of 100 cats at one time, and that’s on the low side, Duca said. Last year the organization had 297 cats, 95 percent of which were adults.
As more cats come in with medical issues or as a result of pet owners not spaying and neutering, the space becomes even more limited and there are times the center has turned away cats.
“A lot of people are realizing that we take the medical cases and so we're tagged constantly all day long on Facebook or we get phone calls. We wish we could take every cat that needed a home,” Duca said. “Right now we're in the situation where, because we have so many, the only ones we are accepting is the ones that are injured off the streets. If it's just an average stray, I can't. I don't have the space or the capacity to do it.”
Because of that, the Feline Community Network will be moving into a larger building in May. The new location, nearly triple the size of the current building, will be at 1601 W. 37th Ave. in New Chicago.
After a successful first round of fundraising to secure the new building, the network is now working to raise funds to afford the renovations. Renovations will include free roam and bonding rooms, a retail shop and new 5x5x6 foot condos for the cats to stay in, rather than small cages.
The shelter is asking for donations of supplies ranging from cat food, litter and carriers to plywood, paint and shelving that will be used to “retrofit and build everything” for the building, Duca said.
As of Sunday, the Facebook fundraising page has raised $4,000 of its $10,000 goal.
“We need help. We’re always needing volunteers, board members, donations, community support as in business sponsorships, things like that,” Duca said. “For the eight years I’ve been doing this, we have been completely community driven. We get no grants, no funding government wise – nothing. It’s all possibly through donations. We are small but mighty.”
The new building will allow the network to host more community outreach events. The network hopes to host educational programs on topics like proper home care after adoption and the importance of spaying and neutering, an issue that has “caused a population explosion,” Duca said.
Between 6 to 8 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters every year, according to The Humane Society of the United States. Of that number, approximately 3 to 4 million are euthanized due to lack of available homes.
Organizations like the Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana offer assistance programs to Indiana residents who may not be able to afford the surgery for their pet. The Low-Cost Spay-Neuter Assistance Program is available for individuals receiving services that include food stamps, section 8 housing, social security disability and supplemental security income.
“We need education, we need more spay neuter or trap neuter programs. We need to make people aware of how important this is,” Duca said. “
Those who may not be able to afford to donate items or money to the shelter for the new building are encouraged to donate their time. Volunteers help socialize the cats, keep the shelter clean and assist with adoptions.
Kathy King has been volunteering at the Feline Community Network since November.
She started working with the group simply because, she loves cats, “even the ones who scratch at my face as I walk by.”
“It’s a rewarding job and you do get attached,” King said. “Shortly after I started volunteering, there was this one cat that came in and I absolutely feel in love with her. She had to be my cat.
“I came in one day and everyone was acting like she was getting adopted out, making me think she was going to someone else. They all tricked me. I was about to cry and then my boyfriend came in and paid for her and she came home with me. It was a great Christmas surprise.”
Until the big move, the feline network will remain open for adoptions.
The shelter will host a special Valentines Day adoption event starting 11 a.m. Wednesday through 3 p.m. Sunday.
Select adoptable cats will have a reduced adoption fee. With each application, participants will draw from a jar with various discounts written on them. Prices will vary based on the drawings, which include a free, half-off, pay the weight of the cat, 10 percent off or 20 percent off adoption.
All cats will be spayed or neutered prior to adoption.
“I don’t know if I’m crazy or stupid, seriously,” Duca said. “But these cats are my passion. It's what I'm fortunate enough to be able to do. I'm not wealthy by any means, but it's what drives me is to make sure that they're being cared for. They need to be cared for properly. Every cat deserves a good life.”