Answering cats’ cries for help

The Scratching Post

The Scratching Post is a no-kill shelter that saves cats’ lives. (Photo by Jathan Fink)

CINCINNATI — A small girl watched from across the street as the teenage boys stood in a circle. They laughed as they poked and prodded at something that she could not see. Finally, one of the boys stepped aside and the girl spotted the orange bundle of fur, cowered down close to the ground, mewing.

Unable to ignore what had happened, the girl cried out, “You leave that animal alone or I’ll call the police!” After the boys fled the scene, she scurried over to the orange tabby. The kitten lay on the ground in a heap, motionless and wounded where the boys had stamped it in the head.

His story is a common one,” said Linda Rilea as she recalled the day the girl brought the 6-month-old kitten into The Scratching Post, a no-kill shelter for cats. “But most of the time, we don’t know anything about where these cats come from or what they’ve gone through.”

Rilea and 10 other animal lovers founded the rescue organization in June 1990. Within a few years of opening, however, it became apparent that the old house originally used to keep the cats awaiting adoption was too small.

“We receive 20 to 30 calls per day from people needing us to rescue a cat,” Rilea said. “Unfortunately, we usually have to turn them away because we are at full capacity.” The Scratching Post typically holds upwards of 100 cats, which exceeds the limit imposed by the city of Silverton.

The Scratching Post recently moved to a new $900,000 facility at 9484 Plainfield Rd. and opened to the public on May 18, 2008.

The new structure has been properly outfitted with accoutrements the previous building never had such as a separate room for mothers and their kittens, three isolation rooms to prevent the spread of illnesses among the animals, and 12 large cat dens with plenty of room for the cats to roam, windows for sunbathing and scratching posts to flex claws.

“Now we have a big wash room where we can wash litter boxes and shelving for them to air dry,” said Steve Brown a Scratching Post employee. Before moving, the litter boxes were all washed in a small sink in the same bathroom that the employees used. “It’s much more sanitary now,” he said.

Other features of the new facility include special paint on the walls and a central vacuum system, both of which make the building easier to maintain, three outdoor fenced runs so the cats can play outside, and a special recycling area.

“We’ve really tried to go green with the new place,” Brown said. GBBN Architects designed an environmentally friendly building and installed special skylights throughout so the lights are rarely turned on. The staff also takes extra care to recycle cans, cardboard, and even cat litter. “Instead of the traditional sand, we use pellets made from recycled paper. It’s better for the cats and for us,” Brown said.

The move to the new location did not occur overnight, however. “Ten years passed before enough money had been accumulated to make this new building happen,” Brown said.

Donations, memberships, adoptions and money raised by The Meow Mart, a small store attached to the shelter and managed by Nancy Darenkamp, fund the Scratching Post. “We sell anything relating to cats,” Darenkamp said, “including crafts, t-shirts, and cat toys sold and made by volunteers.”

The Meow Mart also sells deluxe cat nip bags that sell in local veterinarians’ offices around town. “The vets say they sell the bags almost as soon as we deliver them,” Darenkamp said. “We made $25,000 last year from the cat nip alone.”

On the weekend of the grand opening, The Scratching Post received $55,000 in donations, which will go towards the mortgage on the new building. “Our donors have been good to us,” Darenkamp said. “Now we only owe about $250,000 on the building.”

The Scratching Post managers want to pay off the loan as quickly as possible so funds can be spent on the cats rather than on interest rates.

When the shelter accepts a cat it is immediately tested for feline leukemia and FIV (the feline AIDS virus). Other medical costs are sometimes incurred too, such as surgery.

Not long after The Scratching Post opened in 1990, a cat named Molly arrived that needed emergency surgery. “We received a private donation that paid for her medical expenses, but there was some money left over. That’s when The Molly Fund was born,” Darenkamp said. The staff set aside the remaining cash for future surgery expenses and a portion of every donation received thereafter.

Another program The Scratching Post initiated was Cat S.N.I.P., a program that helps cats get spayed or neutered, a surgery vital to a cat’s health. “With Cat S.N.I.P., we gave cat owners certificates that reduced the cost of spay by $35 or neuter by $20 at local veterinarian clinics,” Darenkamp said. “We put the program on hiatus until the loan is paid off.”

Despite the opening of the new and improved shelter, Hamilton County felines still need help. “We really need 50 more places like this,” Rilea said. “The sad fact is that the cat population is so great, every person in Hamilton County would have to own seven cats in order to take all the strays off the streets.”

According to Rilea, many kindhearted people think they are helping simply by putting food out to feed strays. But feeding a stray is like slapping a bandage on a gunshot wound. It does not solve the problem and oftentimes makes matters worse.

Cats can get pregnant up to four times per year, and may have anywhere from one kitten to more than ten. “If you really want to help a cat, you’ll get them spayed or neutered,” Rilea said. “If you do that, you’ll not only reduce the cat population, but you reduce the risk of that cat getting cancer by 80 percent.”

Generous corporate and private donations help save hundreds of cats’ lives each year.

Over 900 members, 75 volunteers, and a small staff of five employees all contribute to the success of The Scratching Post.

Yet the shelter’s staff knows that no matter how much they accomplish many of the cats and kittens that reside there will never leave. “Only one or two cats are adopted out each week,” Rilea said, shaking her head. “Cats are just too easy to come by. So the real message here is to spay or neuter your cat. It’s the only answer.”

© 2008 Jadeworks Entertainment. All rights reserved.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to Answering cats’ cries for help

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