After a COVID kitten explosion, cats need forever homes

NORTH COUNTY — North County Paws Cause is a volunteer-run non-profit organization with no paid staff. The volunteers pride themselves on the fact that one hundred percent of donations go to the care of their cats and kittens, but after a COVID kitten explosion, they are in need of more help.

The basis of the organization is the spaying and neutering of community cats. The most significant intake of cats and kittens at the County of Animal Services comes from North San Luis Obispo (SLO) County. Spaying and neutering help to stabilize a cat colony for health and prevents unwanted litters of kittens. The Paws Cause volunteers work hard at trapping and taking cats in for surgery.

Paws Cause also has a very successful foster program for cats and kittens. Their foster cats and kittens are placed into foster family homes and are socialized, but most of all, they are loved and cared for until they are old enough to move on to their forever homes. 

Getting through this together, Atascadero

Paws Cause does not have a brick-and-mortar shelter. Most of their volunteers are in North County; however, they do have some individuals in SLO and Los Osos.

“I’m regularly amazed at what this group of volunteers accomplishes on such a tight budget and with only volunteers,” said Elizabeth Gillingham, a Paws Cause Foster. “Spaying and neutering community cats so they don’t contribute to the overpopulation of feral cats, trapping and socializing feral kittens and then adopting them out, rescuing cats and kittens from our local animal services, helping special needs cats that come into our foster care, and helping with cat hoarding situations.”

Gillingham said they currently have “too many kittens, not enough foster homes! I think I can safely say that almost all animal rescue groups had a very tough year. Since shelters were essentially closed last year, many SNR [Spay Neuter Return] programs were shut down as well. We weren’t able to get cats in to get fixed, so this kitten season has been like no other. We’re getting caught back up on SNR, but the spay programs are now inundated with everyone trying to get animals fixed.”

Even for rescues with a brick-and-mortar shelter, trying to schedule adopters to visit so that everyone can remain as safe as possible during COVID has been a challenge. It’s been challenging for Paws Cause as well, with volunteers inviting people into their homes to meet their potential new kitten or taking kittens to visit their potential new homes.

“Now we are starting to see people who adopted a ‘COVID pet’ relinquish those animals, as people go back to work in the office—which is really disheartening,” said Gillingham. “There are great options available for people going back to work! Pet daycare, pet sitters, training—these are all better than relinquishing a pet.”

One of the Paws Cause volunteers has been trying to get the SNIP Bus—a mobile spay and neuter clinic headquartered in Contra Costa County—scheduled to come to SLO County as an additional resource.

Gillingham explained that donations to rescues have been lighter than they had been in past years since so many found themselves with less disposable income during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Donations are the easiest thing that community members can do to help,” said Gillingham. “We accept cash donations via Paypal [northcountypawscause@gmail.com]. Donations are tax-deductible.”

Those wanting to donate can also go to northcounty-pawscause.org/donate-here or drop off donations of food, litter, toys, beds, etc. at these locations: 

  • Foss Farm’s Farmstand, 3300 Traffic Way in Atascadero
  • Petco- 2155 Theatre Dr. in Paso Robles
  • Grocery Outlet- 2800 Riverside Ave. #102 next to Tractor supply in Paso Robles

Another option is to use smile.amazon.com when shopping on Amazon and set North County Paws Cause as their non-profit of choice. Amazon then donates a percentage of your purchase at no cost to the shopper.

Gillingham says they could really use more volunteers in a number of areas.

“Last year, we were not able to do trapping and releasing,” said Gillingham. “There are more unaltered cats in the community now, and they’re all having babies! One of the best things people in the community can do is get their cats fixed. Even if you’re simply putting food out for a random cat, or you see there are random cats, trapping and fixing them, then returning them, is a huge service both to the cat and your community.”

Paws Cause has 107 cats and kittens in foster homes right now, most of which are ready to be adopted into forever homes. Visit northcounty-pawscause.org to see photos and descriptions of adoptable cats and kittens.