A shot of Cat Care's Society's headquarters.
The Cat Cares Society building in Lakewood today has existed since 2001. The original shelter was a house for the first 20 years. Credit: Photo courtesy Cat Cares Society

The Cat Cares Society, a nonprofit Lakewood cat shelter, recently won a four-star rating for its work as a nonprofit. 

Charity Navigator has designated Cat Cares Society, located at 5787 W. 6th Ave. in Lakewood as a “Give with Confidence” charity for “using donations effectively.” The designation is a boon for Cat Cares society, however, the nonprofit’s service to the community over the last 42 years already speaks volumes.

Credit: Photo courtesy Cat Cares Society

The shelter’s Executive Director Erin-Claire Michaels explained that Cat Cares Society has been serving Jeffco felines and their owners since 1981.

“We initially were founded by a veterinarian and a colleague who really just saw the need for additional outlets for cats,” Micheals said.  

She went on to say that in 1981, there was a significant gap in outlets with knowledge about care for aging cats and those with medical issues. 

Michaels said that the illness FIV, or feline immunodeficiency virus, was one of the illnesses that made cats ineligible for being sheltered.  

The Cornell Feline Health Center defines FIV as a virus that compromises the feline immune system and leaves the cat vulnerable to a host of illnesses.

Credit: Photo courtesy Cat Cares Society

Michaels said that the stigma attached to FIV left cats and their owners without much in the way of care options for decades. Cat Cares Society was a place that took in and treated cats with FIV while educating owners on the realities of the virus. About 40 years later, shelters in the U.S. changed policy to do the same.

“They always say that dog behavior is about 10 years ahead of cat behavior. In a lot of ways that’s the same thing in general sheltering and adoption,” Michaels said.

The shelter works to help other cats with issues that make them unfavorable for adoption. 

“Our vision, our mission is taking cats that didn’t really have an outcome elsewhere, or that people didn’t think were adoptable, necessarily, and just demonstrating that all cats, regardless of their history and their medical needs are adoptable,” Michaels said.

Credit: Photo courtesy Cat Cares Society

In addition to being an open space for cats, the shelter also supports programs such as Nibbles and Kibbles, a food pantry that serves only cat food and supplies, according to Michaels.

Cat Cares Society 2021-2022 fiscal year

Cat Cares Society’s 2021-2022 fiscal year was a busy one.

1,158 cats and kittens came into the nonprofit’s care (an increase from 716 last year).

891 were adopted into new loving homes (compared to 737 last year).

42 cats were supported through the Temporary Care Program (up from 35 last year).

614 cats or kittens were fostered in loving homes provided by amazing Cat Cares volunteers (a significant jump from 411 last year).

2,757 volunteer hours were put in by 198 individuals to help care for the cats and assist at the shelter and at events.

29,528 hours of care were lovingly provided by 221 fosters.

“And then we also have our temporary care program,” Michaels explained. “That’s been around for quite some time where we offer space for owned cats whose owners are in a time of crisis. We believe that every person deserves a pet in times of crisis. Your pet can be your lifeline. And so we have the opportunity to offer space for cats while their owners are going through a crisis. So that owner knows that their child is safe, that their cat is getting excellent care.”

The shelter itself is unorthodox, designed to allow an open space for the cats, their owners, volunteers and people looking to adopt.

“We’re very different than the traditional shelter,” Michaels said. “We are cage-free or an open space. So, the majority of our cats are not in our kennels. They’re in larger rooms that offer them space.”

This also means space for the cats that are in medical need. 

“There are some cats that may need a smaller space,” Michaels said. “So, we can make sure that we’re monitoring, getting the medical care that they need. But cats do not want to be in a small space. And so our offering an open space really allows their stress levels to go down.”

Michaels thanks the Cat Cares Society donors and volunteers for the support to operate in such a capacity for the Jeffco feline community.

A statue of a cat in the foreground of a banquet style event.
The Cat Cares Society shelter in Lakewood is funded by donors, supporters and events. This piece of art is from their latest event Tails of the Painted Cat, held Sept. 15. Photo courtesy Cat Cares Society Credit: Photo courtesy Cat Cares Society

“What I’ve been so amazed by during my time here is the really strong sense of community Cat Cares has, that we have just amazing donors and supporters,” Michaels said. “And that allows us to really adopt some cats that are considered very challenging.” 

She explained how those challenges are not barriers to adoption.

“What we find is that (the cats) are not (challenging cases) because their personalities shine through. They meet their matches with their people. And some of the things that people are sort of afraid of from a medical perspective go to the background because the cat shines through.” 

For more information on Cat Cares Society, its new four-star “Give with Confidence” status and more, go to CatCaresSociety.org

Jonita Davis is a film and culture critic, author, and freelance writer. Her published books include Questioning Cultural Appropriation (2018 Enslow Publishing), Carrying On (2022 Saga Fiction), and the...

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