Love in the time of Covid
Koda and Mr Kitty had a lot to teach us in 2020. About the time the pandemic really hit in April, these two youngsters were left in a Westside parking lot in a cubby-style cat bed, paralyzed with fear.
Lucky for them, some children were riding their bikes and spotted the bed. By evening, their family realized no one was coming back and the kitties were sitting ducks for predators, so they brought them to us.
Within days, they were purring and reaching out for pets. We got them fixed and not long after that, their new cat dad Kevin appeared. As he says, “These two would make anyone a cat person!”
But 2020 still had a few more challenges for the siblings. Kevin found his own cat lady, who had 3 cats of her own. Then they had to move across the country.
Not all cats would roll with those changes, but Koda and Mr. Kitty did! They are now one big happy family in New York, still cuddling each other and their humans.
In a world with fewer human hugs than ever before, with months of isolation behind us and the hope of renewal ahead, Koda and Mr Kitty are just two of 688 adopted cats and kittens who helped their families survive with purrs and headbonks intact.
2020 was the year we were all safer at home. Who better to help us through our isolation than the masters of social distance, our feline friends?
At first we feared we might not be able to keep up with all our homeless cats with all the Covid restrictions. But everyone in our Happy Cats Family—from staff to volunteers to adopters—helped us rise to the occasion. We finished the year with 4% more adoptions than we had in 2019!
It was also a banner year for making sure cat families stayed together. Under our Friends & Family program, 55% of all adoptions—380 total–went to siblings or best friends like Koda and Mr Kitty.
This was a 5% increase over last year and included 10 triples and one quadruple! Over and over, our adopters remind us their bonded kitties not only adjust better but usually stay friends the rest of their lives.
Unfortunately, 2020 also saw 111% more hardship surrenders and rescues like Koda and Mr. Kitty being dumped outside. This included people who lost their cat friends because of forced moves or being unable to afford them.
As usual, adult cats made up nearly half of our adoptions. This includes seniors, whose number doubled from last year, as well as many special needs cats. We are proud to work as hard for our more vulnerable cats as we do for our easily adopted kittens.
Even though our adoptions became as touch-free as possible, it wasn’t touch-free for the cats, as we rely on them to tell us who they connect with.
And connect they did!
Thanks for doing such a great job getting them ready for adoption.
–Charlie & Tango’s adopters
She is literally my best friend in the world and is extremely spoiled!
Quarantine is definitely better with some furry friends.
–Sheeba & Kismet’s adopter
I could not be happier taking this baby in.
They are adjusting very well. I love them as if they have been with me forever.
–Tucker & Finn’s adopter
Infection control 101
Homeless cats don’t know there’s a human pandemic raging. As an essential service, we moved quickly in March to adapt to what has become our new normal.
Our solid disinfection protocol has been in place for years, as have years of experience with infectious cat diseases like ringworm and upper respiratory infections. A little additional disinfection of all surfaces was already in our skill set. Our creative army of crafters quickly pitched in with masks so we could ensure our humans stayed safe too.
Our new building gave us the space to maintain the recommended 6 feet for distancing, which would have been impossible in our old space. Our move to appointment-only adoptions only improved our already handcrafted adoption experience.
As the Colorado Covid dial moved up in response to higher numbers, we also ramped up, moving our visitors to separate rooms when we could, and doing adoptions on the other side of screen doors.
As a last resort when we escalated to Level Red, we sadly sent home most of our volunteers, retaining only a handful under stringent protocols.
Through all of 2020, our staff were rock stars! We couldn’t have kept up without their commitment and flexibility to make up for our volunteers. They worked from home when they could and filled in when needed, cross-trained and adapted to new positions.
We had a few possible exposures but each time we used the same solid protocols we use to keep our cats safe: isolate, trace, quarantine and treat where needed.
2020 did one thing for sure: it made us appreciate our amazing, loving staff and volunteers even more!
Building a stronger bond
The animal rescue world made three big changes in response to 2020. One was a movement called Human Animal Support Services (HASS), a push to keep animals in their homes.
Nationwide, this has been mostly efforts to reunite lost animals with their owners. This is most successful for dogs, though, leaving abandoned cats still trying to survive on their own outside or at risk of surrender for behavior issues.
Fortunately for our cats in the Pikes Peak Region, we have been committed to keeping cats in their homes since 2011. We have always offered online articles, classes and referrals to help people with their cat behavior issues. Every cat who stays happily in his or her home keeps our doors open to rescue the next homeless one.
When we get a call asking for help with a surrender, the first thing we do is find out if we can provide support to help the cat stay with his or her guardians.
Our Ask Ms Kitty program continued to be our biggest support for human-feline bonding, even for those not yet at the Haven. A volunteer-supported public service, we have offered it for the past 4 years without charge for issues that don’t require a home visit or substantial counseling.
Last year, our requests for help with cat behavior increased 52%. Carole Galloway of Colorado Cats Boarding continued her work as the lead behavior consultant behind Ask Ms Kitty.
She trained several new people to help with simpler behavioral issues. Some of these volunteers also became our Onsite Behavior Team, working in the Haven directly with kitties who needed a little (or sometimes a lot!) of extra help. These are cats who would likely not survive a conventional shelter.
She also continued donating her expertise and facility for 12 special needs cats at Colorado Cats, dedicating hours of daily behavioral modification to overcome such issues as misplaced aggression, biting and litterbox avoidance.
We also published monthly Ask Ms Kitty articles on everything from whether Covid can affect cats to how to medicate them in Life After 50 magazine by Carole, our other behavior consultant Melissa Shandley of Play & Treat Pet Service, and our Director Sara Ferguson.
The pandemic forced us to suspend our public classes in 2020, focusing instead on offering small, safe Shy Cat Handling classes to our volunteers. They learned the time-tested techniques we use to help shy kitties get back their mojo, continuing to ensure that every save is a cat who stays.
Another promotion by the HASS movement is keeping bonded animals together in shelters, with a large Arizona shelter piloting this as a new program for HASS. Of course, we are happy to lead the way with our Friends & Family Program, which grows stronger every year.
One happy Planet
We were especially grateful in 2020 to be in our spacious new building, especially after being in our previous cramped quarters for years. And with our new sign, our visitors now know who we are!
With a grant from the Freda Hambrick Fund at El Pomar, we made great progress upstairs, including our squeaky clean epoxy flooring and our beautiful hexagon boxes for catification.
We also finished cabinets and countertops for the upstairs kitchen as well as interior colony doors. We will be applying for grants to help finish the final components of the second floor: the catio screening, the stair railing and the dumbwaiter.
Thanks to volunteer help, the Manitou Springs Women’s Club and Rocky Top Resources, our gardens got weeded, mulched and tidied up nicely. We even had a volunteer sunflower that shaded the front and fed our birds in the fall!
Covid health hardships
With the help of our generous Partner Clinics, we kept our spay and neuter costs to only 12% over the year before, even though we did 498 regular surgeries and 227 TNR surgeries for our community cats.
We remain grateful to Dr. Lynch and her staff at the Humane Society clinic and our partner vet Dr. Staus of Furry Friends, who performed most of our spays and neuters, as well as our other partners Dr. Sperry, Dr. Pierce, Dr. Volz and Dr. Rose. Not everyone has the expertise to perform pediatric spays and neuters, so essential to our adopters and adoptions, and we are in awe of their skills.
True to form, 2020 slammed us with an odd range of medical challenges. As always, we work hard to bring these special needs kitties back to adoptability and just as hard to match them to their kindhearted adopters.
Last year we had a prolapsed kitten rectum, 3 eye injury kittens like Clara above, 3 diabetic cats, several FIV+ cats and one FeLV kitten, several seniors with chronic kidney disease, several with skin issues, two benign tumors, two with heart issues, a score of seniors needing dentals, and our sweet Smoky who got the trifecta with heart and dental issues and FIV! These included many visits to Animal ER Care averaging over $400 per visit.
We are so grateful to our donors, especially our Facebook Friends who always pitch in to help raise funds for these vulnerable kittens and cats. We could not afford to help them without you, as their costs totaled even more than our spays and neuters at $29,772.
We are also happy to partner with the Colorado Academy of Veterinary Technology. We had to reduce the in-house demonstrations of our Fear Free handling for safety, but the students contributed their own hands-on exams, vaccinations and spays or neuters, even with pandemic restrictions. They also contributed several treasured volunteers and two employees!
Our volunteer clowder
We’ve said before it takes a clowder to keep a cat shelter going, but 2020 was the year we realized how true that was. As Covid numbers worsened, we kept cutting back our volunteers and their orientations to keep them safe. When we reached Level Red in November, we made the heartbreaking decision to ask nearly everyone to stay home for their own safety.
Even with 75% fewer volunteers, our stalwart staff and a small core kept us going. We couldn’t show off our cats without the help of our Catographer Linda, so special purrs to her safe, gentle techniques and love for the kitties!
We also managed to offer 21 careful orientations in 2020, adding another 106 volunteers. Now that Covid numbers are receding again, we are so grateful to be able to bring everyone back slowly and safely. The cats clearly are too!
Raising Happy Cats
This was the year the animal rescue world got on board with fostering. As the risks of being together in a big shelter increased for people as well as animals, more conventional shelters moved their animals into foster care.
Our Happy Cats Family also pitched in when the call came, with 27% more foster families in 2020. A total of 555 kittens and cats came through our foster program, an increase of 29%. Headbonks to our loving foster families who took on even more animals than last year!
Our foster families are where scared kitties start to become Happy Cats. The love and care they devote to our kittens turns into confident, affectionate companions who have the best chance of never visiting a shelter again. Many of these families also care for our most traumatized cats, giving them the peace and comfort they need to recover into adoptability.
We were again able to give our kittens a great start with another huge donation—a literal ton!–by Dr. Elsey of their Cleanprotein kibble. The excess also went to help feed our community cats.
Our friends at PetSmart at the Citadel Crossing also helped out our kittens with a huge donation of equipment and milk for our babies. Thank you so much, Rory and company!
Reaching for adoptions
Because of the pandemic affecting our outreach partners, Catology Cat Hotel, Pet Supplies Plus and Colorado Cats Boarding, we did fewer adoptions offsite in 2020. We so appreciate the care that everyone takes of our cats and kittens who stay with them. We will be back in full force once it is safe to do so!
Nationwide Trap-Neuter-Return programs got derailed with the pandemic as the shelter medicine world made the decision to suspend the surgeries necessary for preventing community cat overpopulation.
Our TNR team did their best to catch up once TNR surgeries were restored in July at HSPPR. This was reflected in our own 227 spays and neuters, about half the number we provided in 2019.
We are still committed to working on both sides of the feline overpopulation issue by saving adoptable homeless cats and kittens as well as preventing their population from exploding.
As always, our Moms First policy continues to ensure that all momcats are safe and supported so they can take the best care possible of their kittens. We rescued, nurtured and found homes for 52 nursing Teen Moms in 2020, along with all their kittens.
We continue to be humbled by all the donations that come in to help feed our outside cats. These include our friends at Pet Supplies Plus, the PetSmart at Citadel Crossing, St. Paws Thrift Store through the Rescue Bank and WalMart on 8th Street, as well as scores of individuals who pass along food their cats no longer need. Special thanks to Penye and Linda who hand deliver so many of these items to us!
We were sad to have to postpone many of the signature programs that help us make new friends in the community. In 2020, we lost Purr Me a Story, Meowmaste Kitten Yoga and Purr & Play with Seniors. We also missed our time at the Manitou Springs Heritage Brew Festival and Manitou Wine Festival last summer. As soon as it is safe, we will be back!
Covid crafts & gifts
So many of our Happy Cats Family stepped up to fill their time at home with volunteer projects, like making us masks for visitors, cat toys for sale and for our in-house kitties, carrier pads and covers and of course our cuddly Buddy Blankets that stay with the cat all the way through adoption.
We also saw lots of donations of gently used cat equipment that enabled us to provide many of our cats with bonuses for their adoptions.
Special purrs to youngsters Caitlyn, Aurora and Rowan for their donations of food, beds and toys; to Mary for the wonderful rainbow wand toys and to Peggy for her fortune cookie toys; to Haven, Tobi, LouAnn, Jenna and many more who didn’t leave their names for masks for both workers and visitors; to everyone at Comfort for Critters; to Willow for her donation jar at Pet Supplies Plus where she works and to Nikki & Nick and John for donating their cars!
Catching up with friends & funds
It was a big blow to have to cancel our big spring event, the Acatemy Awards. We soon got back on our feet with other safe online events, including our new cooking series, PHC Kitchens, with lessons on authentic Italian lasagna, a steak dinner, naan appetizers and other holiday goodies.
We know what a hard year it was for the restaurant and bar industry but even so, Goat Patch Brewing held a very successful Bleating Heart fundraiser for us, while Bristol Brewing also donated through their Indy Give! support.
Our friends at Rescued Hearts Unique Boutique also came through in the summer with a grant that we used as a match to help raise funds for our Beat the Heat program, going to our spay/neuter costs last year.
By the time fall rolled around, we were ready to go online with our signature event, the Black Cat Ball: Disco Version. Thanks to Tava Truck, The Keg Lounge and Bread Stork, we delivered baskets of great food and drink for our local participants, hosted by friend and Fox21 Meteorologist Emily Roehler.
Our star was TNR specialist Sterling Davis the TrapKing who entertained and enlightened us with his views on culturally conscious TNR work, trading stories with our own TNR Coordinator, Barb Jones. We ended the evening with spirited bidding for our lovely auction items and life-saving programs.
We wrapped up the year with another online event to benefit our Indy Give! campaign, our Spaygetti No Balls family event. This offered a yummy spaghetti dinner with dessert by Pikes Peak Chocolate, delivered locally, as well as a story hour for kids and crafting for the kitties.
Grants & giving
The headliner this year was certainly the Indy Give! campaign, our hometown fundraiser that saved the year for us. Including gifts from our generous donors that covered administrative fees, we garnered $50,000+, which helped make up for our Covid-cancelled spring events. Over 200 individual donors, including our Matching Donors, helped us bring in this campaign as our best year ever!
Our Foster Program was aided by a grant from the Orphan Kitten Club’s Mightycat Grant Program, from Happy Cats friend Kitten Lady Hannah Shaw. It was intended to create teams to provide support of our 24/7 bottle baby feeders.
Instead, we had to pivot because of the pandemic to lending more support to our regular fosters. This grant was a huge help providing kits for all our fosters, up almost a third over 2019.
Just as the pandemic started, we were honored to receive a PetSmart Charities donation initiated by our friends Rory and his crew at the Citadel Crossing PetSmart. PetSmart Charities also continues to support every adoption with a grant that helps us with our Friends & Family Program, as well as their donations of food and supplies.
We are also very grateful for our new Guardian Angels through Colorado Gives Day. They increased support by about 28% for this program, which continues to be one of the best ways to sustain our Happy Cats year-round.
Shop for good
Our small retail shop continues to provide care for our adopters and our community. And as always, our cat tree manufacturer, Michael Chudzinski of Feline Furnishings, provides equipment to keep our cats and kittens from the pain and trauma of declawing. Even under Covid restrictions, he raised almost $1,200 for us by discounting his wholesale costs for the kitties!
Happy Cats friend Diane also offered a fundraiser for us, donating a portion of the proceeds from her handcrafted cards, Unique Cards 4U.
Our King Soopers Community Rewards memberships grew over 200% in 2020! This is perhaps the easiest and most effective way to contribute to the kitties, letting them donate with every purchase of groceries and household goods.
The pandemic saw more people than ever shopping online, and for those who use Amazon, their membership with Amazon Smile also helped the kitties with every purchase. Membership with iGive also supported the kitties through shopping online at both name brand and boutique stores.
Another easy way to support the kitties came through the Colorado Tax Refund Program. Our supporters simply noted our ReFUND CO # 20143029149 on their tax forms and their donations went directly to the kitties.
Huge purrs and headbonks to our extended Happy Cats Family for your support!
2020 by the numbers:
688 cats & kittens found their forever homes, including
twice the number of senior cats
752 total cats & kittens found safe haven at HCH in 2020,
including end-of-year fosters
555 cats & kittens were fostered by loving families, up 29%
380 bonded cat friends & siblings were adopted together,
55% of all adoptions
11% of all adopted shelter cats in the Pikes Peak Region
found their homes through us
122 cats & kittens were helped with behavior
thanks to our Ask Ms Kitty Helpline, up 52%
500 adopted cats & kittens and 227 community cats were fixed in 2020,
for a total of 727 spays and neuters…
preventing thousands of needless cat & kitten deaths
1,800+ followup emails and phone calls were made to help keep cats home
Spay/neuter costs for adopted cats & kittens in 2020: $26,228, up 11.6%
TNR spay/neuter costs: $5,450
Total food & litter costs in 2020: $24,559, up 6%
426,773 website hits for an average of 35,500+ per month
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Genesis Reyes-Martin, Cat Care Manager
Charleen Bader, Operations Manager
Katherine Luce, Foster Manager
Andrea Jones, Adoption Manager
Amber Hagen, Volunteer Manager
Ben Van Til, Medical Assistant
Jasmine Brillar, Cleaning Coordinator
Maria Williams, Development Coordinator
Colby Pavlacky, Cleaning Assistant
Our Veterinary Partners
Healing Path Animal Wellness
Bijou Animal Hospital
Furry Friends Mobile Veterinary Clinic
HSPPR Surgery Center
Our Family Vet
Village Center Veterinary Care
Animal Clinic of Woodland Park
Claremont Ranch Animal Hospital
Animal ER Care
Compassionate Care Veterinary Support
Our IndyGive! Matching Donors
Rachel & Kalan Beisel
Happy Cats Board
Joan & John Leach
Betsy & Chris Miller
Janice & Alan Obye
Lisa & Pudge Pibal
Kimberly & James Sisneros
Vickie & Gaylord Smith
St. Paws Thrift Store
Our Community Partners
Black Bear Distillery
Board & Brush Creative Studio
Breckenridge Hat Company
Bristol Brewing Company
Colorado CATS Boarding
Dr Elsey’s Cat Food
Fierce Beauty by Mimi
Fox21 News with Lauren McDonald
Fur Face Photography
Gettin Crafty Boutique
Goat Patch Brewing
JJ’s Helping Paws
K&H Pet Products
King Soopers Community Rewards
Life After 50
Manitou Brewing Company
PayPal Giving Fund
Pet Supplies Plus
Pikes Peak Bulletin
Pikes Peak Chocolate & Ice Cream
Playtime Pet Sitters
Price-Blake Family Foundation
Rescued Hearts Unique Boutique
Rocky Mountain Goat Yoga
Rocky Top Resources
St. Paws Thrift Store
Status Symbol Auto Body
Tava Food Truck
Vehicles for Charity
Wonderful Animal Rescue Tails
…and scores of awesome individual donors
Our Happy Cats Board
Laura Ettinger-Harwell, President
Bill Daughton, Vice President
Gaye Bosley-Mitchell, Treasurer
Lindsay Weatherford, Secretary
Barb Jones, TNR Coordinator
Ray Ferguson, Building Coordinator
Susi Holmes, Social Media Coordinator
Carole Galloway, Behavior Coordinator
Sara Ferguson, Volunteer Director