In 2011, I told the story of Pam Miller. She loved cats so much that in 1994 she started housing them in her two-car garage. She turned it into a no-kill animal shelter called Safe Haven for Cats.
Boy, how things changed since then. By the time I wrote about her, the shelter was housed in two buildings, one with a clinic where cats can be spayed and neutered, and another that houses cats for adoption. In 2011, the shelter had found new homes for 5,000 cats.
In 2014 the shelter will mark its 20th anniversary, and I checked back in with Miller to see how they were doing. Great, as it turns out. They’re going strong, having adopted out 548 cats last year. And they’re thinking about possibly expanding in the near future.
“If we can adopt 548 now, can we adopt 1,000 if we get a new building? Maybe,” she said.
Safe Haven expanded the clinic so that it is able to see about 3,000 cats annually. For the holidays, they put out a Christmas ornament. And to celebrate their 20th anniversary, they published a cat calendar.
They had a Christmas promotion where all cats were $25 each to adopt. And they will be open on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, adopting out cats for $20.14. For those of you slow on the uptake, as I was when she told me, that’s 2014. You know, like the year.
“We make them pay the 14 cents – we really do,” she said.
Last year, they adopted out 35 cats on New Year’s Day, so they’re hoping to match or break that this year.
“The cool thing about adopting at the holidays is that it’s a nice way to show your children about philanthropy,” Miller said. “When you rescue a cat, you’re actually rescuing two.”
The shelter has license for 95 cats. And they’re always full. So when you adopt, not only do you save a cat from the shelter, but you also make room in the shelter for an additional cat. And they’re is always a waiting list of about 60 or 70 cats trying to get in.
Business is good, but that isn’t exactly how Miller wants it. She says she is hoping for the day when Safe Haven is no longer needed. The growth of the area has been a good thing for the Triangle, but maybe not so great for cats.
“It’s kind off a two-edged sword because as popular as the area is, it brings more people, and with more people it brings more cats,” Miller said.
And the economic recession was tough on cat owners.
“More and more people were abandoning their animals,” she said.
“In our area, we estimate that we have about 161,000 stray and community cats in the Triangle,” she said. “And those are the ones out there every day that you might not see.”
Over the course of its life, Safe Haven’s success has been profound, Miller said, particularly for kitties, but also for the owners and citizens who care about them. In its lifetime, Safe Haven has adopted out 6,123 cats. And it has spayed and neutered 16,047. That last bit is important, because that’s what keeps the stray cat population down. That and all the kind people who see stray cats and bring them in.
According to Miller, “6,123 people have stopped what they were doing at McDonalds or Bojangles’… and they have rescued a stray or abandoned or injured cat or kitten,” Miller said.
That’s not to mention the 15 volunteers who come into Safe Haven every day and spend 2 1/2 hours cleaning kitty litter and cages. And that’s not the same 15 people every day. It’s a rotating cast of volunteers.
Then there is also the anonymous donor who has agreed to put up a $125,000 matching donation until the end of the year. That means, whatever you donate will be matched up to $125,000. You have a few days left. Don’t hesitate.
“We’re trying to fulfill that match so that we don’t leave any of that money on the table,” Miller said.
As a cat lover, I’m a huge fan of Safe Haven and what they’re doing. If you feel the same, now is the season for giving. Go over to SafeHavenforcats.org, and see what you can do to help.
Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.