Living in an agricultural area such as Richland, Michigan, it’s not uncommon to see wildlife come into daily life. From bats fluttering over the night sky to deer leaping out in front of cars, the connection between humans and wild animals is close. However, letting those animals into warm houses is basically unheard of as many of them carry fleas, ticks and other diseases.
But what about stray animals? Placed in a similar situation, they are homeless, starving, and in most cases, thrown into terrible situations. While some people may glance and pass by the helpless animal, Cat Nap Lodge keeps its doors wide open for stray kittens and cats.
“We used to take strays in ourselves and often fostered for other animal shelters,” said Joni Kelley, co-founder of Cat Nap Lodge. “However we were frustrated with the politics, and my husband and I started our own rescue center.”
It has been three years since Kelley’s 501c3 nonprofit organization opened this specialized cat shelter out of her own home and has since then expanded.
“Each year on average, we take in about 60 cats or kittens, and we place about 40 of them,” Kelley said. “The rest we keep around until someone adopts them.”
However, while Cat Nap Lodge may place a large number of cats, they often are faced with conflicts regarding space. The number of abandoned kittens and cats usually peak during the spring, nicknamed “Kitten Season,” in which the stray cats produce offspring, and slows down during the winter.
“During the spring, we get flooded with calls,” Kelley said. “People find kittens in their garage, in their yard, or sometimes in boxes in parking lots.”
With such a large number of cats on the streets and such a high call volume, Cat Nap Lodge has been placed in uncomfortable situations.
“Since we are in Kitten Season, I’ve had to turn away kittens everyday because we don’t have the space for them,” Kelley said. “That is the hardest part; to tell people I can’t take them in.”
One of the biggest problems the Lodge faces, in addition to capacity, is how fast they can place cats.
“Generally, kittens get placed five times faster than adult cats, and we often are left with unwanted adults in our care,” she said. “During the winter, we often focus primarily on placing those cats.”
However, with all their efforts in placing the adult cats, they only place about five or six adults a year. In addition to this concern, Cat Nap Lodge also has to be careful not to be overcrowded. Having too many cats in such a small space can lead to sickness and can cause even more problems.
“Over the summer, we peaked at 65 cats and now we have 48,” she said. “But we prefer to have around 40 cats at once.”
With all these cats, having enough money to care for them is extremely difficult. Most of their money comes from donations but even then, that just barely covers the medical bills for the cats.
“Most of the money for cat food and litter comes out of our own pocket,” Kelley said. “I spend about $150 out of my own paycheck a week on food and other necessities.”
The Lodge’s most important goal to continue to place cats quickly and efficiently. The faster they can place cats, the more they can take in.
“When you adopt a cat from here, you save two lives,” she said. “The cat you adopt and the one we can take in after.”
While adopting a cat is extremely helpful for the organization, having enough volunteers and foster houses, homes that house cats they can’t keep at the lodge, is also important.
“Many of these cats need to be socialized so having volunteers come over and spend time with the cats helps us tremendously,” she said.
Since their start-up, Cat Nap Lodge has gained attention by many people in the Richland area. They even have a mascot George, who is a blind and acts as the Lodge’s “Spokescat.” He is often seen at fundraisers the Lodge takes part in and shows just how kind and friendly abused cats are.
Cat Nap Lodge is a daring operation. It takes on this huge problem in the rural Kalamazoo and Battle Creek area. Making sure that their cats are healthy, happy and have good homes is the main priority for Joni Kelley and her husband Ed. Anything from donations, to adoptions further helps them to be able to save more innocent kittens and cats who have been abandoned.
By: Brian Hall