PAWS Wakefield offers cats a path to a forever home, thanks to volunteers

Ron Colman
| Special for the free press observer

Sigrid the cat tours the streets of London in her own bicycle basket

Sigrid the cat has traveled 900 miles through the City of London in her personal bike basket with owner Travis Nelson.

Employee video, USA TODAY

For nearly 40 years, PAWS Wakefield has worked as a rescue group with more than 100 volunteers and approximately 30 caregivers to focus on caring for every cat, regardless of their condition or age.

According to its website, PAWS offers a 24-hour hotline that connects the public with their volunteers to help with animal-related questions and issues. The organization also provides low-cost spay and neutering services, wild colony management, and community outreach and education. Another focus of PAWS is the placement of pets and the placement of foster cats.

Nancy Tolleson, the reception and care manager at PAWS, said the organization is working hard to find a home for every cat for the rest of their lives.

“We will do our best to ensure that every cat finds a home forever, and it doesn’t matter if the cat is young, old or has a manageable illness,” she said. “We keep a cat until we find a home for it, or it stays with us until we can no longer care for it.”

PAWS differs from many animal shelters in that it is a no-kill organization and only focuses on cats. An older cat, who may be in serious health, can be euthanized if there is not enough space in an animal shelter. PAWS will take in and care for each cat until it is adopted, but this will also slow and limit the number of cats the organization can accept based on the number of foster homes available at that time.

“Open animal shelters get so many cats. They cannot guarantee that they will all be able to save. I think that’s the ultimate goal for everyone, but when more cats come in than you can possibly space, you have to start making decisions like that, “said Tolleson. “So an older, sicker cat could be euthanized because there is simply no room for it, while we don’t. But that slows down how many cats we can take with us. “

PAWS has a main office that is used for administrative purposes, a pantry and a visiting room where people can meet some cats, but office availability has been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently no plans to reopen the office, but staff are watching the situation as it evolves.

Instead, PAWS offers prospective cat owners the option of organizing a virtual meeting with a foster cat they may be interested in and arranging a face-to-face follow-up meeting.

PAWS relies on its volunteers to help whenever they can. Some people come to the rescue group to help and sometimes a volunteer will notice someone else who looks like they can take good care of animals.

Tolleson said she’s constantly trying to recruit people who look like they are good at caring for animals. She is looking for someone who is responsible, flexible, and resilient as a new cat into a home is unpredictable.

“It can throw up. It can have diarrhea. It can get sick all of a sudden, you know. It may suddenly have kittens that you weren’t expecting and so on. So I’m looking for people with resilience, humor and compassion, ”said Tolleson.

As a nonprofit rescue group, PAWS also relies on adoption fees, donations, fundraising, and grants to fund the organization. Adoption fees often don’t cover their costs, so the organization runs fundraising drives to raise money for the rescue group, such as the annual Giving Tuesday promotion, which will take place on December 1st.

Five-Dollar Fridays is another fundraiser that highlights stories about different cats on their social media and asks for a donation to help a specific cat with their problem. The PAWS website also has a button for donating that can be accessed at any time.

Ron Colman is a media and communications student at Salem State University.