Endangered cats get local love, comfort, care

Friday, August 2, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 31

Consider this an enthusiastic thank you to the Nashville Humane Association, which is helping to find homes for 80 cats and kittens rescued from deplorable conditions in Killeen, Texas.

If the number seems mind-boggling, consider this:

“When they originally reached out to us, they were looking for placement for 140 cats,” says Laura Chavarria, executive director of the association.

And this: In all, about 200 cats and kittens were involved in the rescue, plus about 10 dogs.

News reports providing specifics about the Killeen situation are readily available, if you care to dive into Google. Here is my advice: Don’t.

Instead, reflect on this bit of compassion from Chavarria:

“Hoarding is a mental illness, and sometimes people have good hearts and good intentions but they just get overwhelmed,” she explains. “People aren’t intentionally trying to live with 200 cats.”

Photographs courtesy of the Nashville Humane Assoc.
Lady Bird is one of the cats rescued from a hoarding situation in Killeen, Texas. Other rescued cats are shown with this column.

-- Photograph Courtesy Of Nashville Humane Association

And yes, when hoarders stockpile animals, cats tend to be the critter of choice. Part of the reason, Chavarria adds, is that dogs require a level of attention that hoarders are un able to provide.

“It’s natural for them to take in cats, because they are more independent creatures.”

Cats are also, she notes, able to get pregnant at a young age. Their litters can be quite large, and frequent. If you’ve seen the original “Star Trek” episode “The Trouble With Tribbles,” you can appreciate the multiplication factors at work.

Plus, since cats also seem equipped with cloaking devices, it can be hard to know just how many are around, when things get out of hand.

As things clearly did in Killeen.

In normal circumstances, Nashville Humane focuses its efforts locally, “because we know in Tennessee there’s a huge need,” Chavarria says. “We serve about 4,000 cats and dogs a year” – I like that word “serve” – and “we only do cats and dogs.”

The breakdown, she said, is roughly 2,500 dogs and 1,500 cats. About half are what she calls “owner surrenders,” from people who for one reason or another can’t keep their pets any longer. Others come from nearby public animal control facilities that find themselves in a bind.

“This past week we took 41 cats from Cheatham County, and 20 dogs from Maury County,” she says.

Some of the rescued cats from Texas' hoarding situation. Nashville Humane Association brought them to town to treat and take care of them.

-- Photographs Courtesy Of Nashville Humane Associatin

In addition to those situations, “we are considered partners with the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA,” Chavarria points out. “They will reach out to us sometimes on a monthly basis where there’s a need – a natural disaster, or hoarding or cruelty. When we have the bandwidth and space to help national organizations, we do step up.”

The 80 cats from Texas are not even the largest number taken in during her two years with the Nashville Association, Chavarria says. Around 100 animals were accepted from Puerto Rico, “but that was not one household. That was from one source shelter,” which was still suffering from fallout from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Upon arriving here the Killeen cats landed first in foster care, then started moving to the shelter 10 at a time to be examined by veterinarians.

“We have some less-adoptable ones in this batch,” Chavarria says. “Cats missing eyes, cats that have some underlying medical issues. We’re devoted to giving them the medical care they need. Then to finding a home that’s devoted to continuing that care.”

Since the adoption numbers for cats are generally lower than those for dogs, “we knew it was going to be an uphill battle,” Chavarria adds. “But we knew we have a very animal-loving community, and that once we told their story that our community would step up and help.”

If you want to step up and help, you can call the association at 615-352-1010. You can also start the adoption process online at nashvillehumane.org.

And if adoption isn’t an option for you, well, money makes a nice thank you, too.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville.