Nonprofit Spotlight: Cat Angels Pet Adoptions

A room full of kittens investigate Glenna McMenamin, one of 75 active volunteers at Cat Angels Pet Adoptions.

A helping hand can be a ray of sunshine on a stormy day — and over 25 years ago, Deborah Fox, founder of Cat Angels Pet Adoptions, was exactly that.

“I went to the Cary PetSmart. It was raining hard, and I was parked at the furthest spot from the building,” recalled Fox. “This lady in front of me had two big shopping carts with cat carriers. The cats were meowing, and she was trying to push them all by herself into the PetSmart. I ran up to her and asked if I could help and she said, ‘Oh god, yes.’”

While it might be easy to find someone willing to push a cart into a building, Fox’s willingness to lend a hand didn’t end there. After helping the kitties out of the carriers, Fox noticed that the woman — a volunteer for Second Chance Pet Adoptions — was all on her own.

Cat Angels Pet Adoptions is located in Cary’s Northwoods Shopping Center.

“There wasn’t anyone there to help her at this adoption event, and there were people waiting to adopt,” said Fox. “I said, ‘I don’t mind helping you; tell me what I need to do.”

What followed was hours of unplanned volunteering — Fox had left for PetSmart at noon that day and didn’t make it home until 8 p.m. While her offer to help a stranger cost her nothing but time, it would make a priceless impact on her own life and the lives of countless cats over the years.

“One thing led to another, and just about every weekend, mostly Saturdays, this lady asked for help, and I would meet her at the PetSmart and I would help her do what needed to be done,” said Fox. “At that point I became very engaged and learned a lot about cat rescue in particular. For years I took one of the two weeks of my vacation — I worked for IBM for 26 years as a programmer — and used it at the PetSmarts, installing and setting up Luv-a-Pet centers. In return I got our cats in there a couple of times a month for adoption events.”

After 10-plus years of volunteering with Second Chance, Fox decided it was time to step out on her own and create an all cat and kitten shelter.

“It is so easy to get your shelter or your foster organization set up with cats quickly, because there’s so many that need help right away,” said Fox. “It is virtually like snapping your fingers and you can fill up the spots that you have.”

In addition to shelter, food, and medical attention, cats at Cat Angels get plenty of playtime.

After making Cat Angels a nonprofit in 2005, Fox found a place to rent as a shelter, providing the cats with a place to live and receive medical care.

“So from 2005 to 2012, I was in that first location,” said Fox. “In 2012, I moved into our current location on Harrison Avenue. Our doctors come here, so it’s quiet and soothing and as stressless for the cats as I can possibly make it. Anywhere from 60 to 80 cats are housed there, depending on litters of kittens, et cetera.”

In the current space, previously a doctor’s office, Fox converted exam rooms into brightly colored living spaces for housing and quarantine.

Volunteer Glenna McMenamin holds a purring rescue named Beethoven, who arrived at the shelter battered and bleeding. Since then he has had eyelid surgery.

“I had a Key West theme in mind because I never thought that I was going to do this,” said Fox. “I thought that when I retired from IBM I was going to go live in Key West, but I never made it there. So each room has a bright, Key Westy kind of color.  e yellow room is where the kittens are. I have pink, purple, green, and teal rooms. A blue quarantine, a red quarantine, and now I have a room that I call assisted living, which is for our elderly cats that are pretty mobile. It’s not fancy, but we’ve adopted out well over 2,000 cats, and for us that is a miracle.”

Fox, who has long since given up her office for kitties in need, runs her organization at a plastic table up front, surrounded by sleepy, elderly cats.

“I give my space up to them, and I’m very happy with that. It is just kind of how I make it happen,” said Fox.

Dr. Johnson Russell at Western Wake Veterinary, Fox’s personal vet, has come to treat the kitties at the shelter once a week since 2005. Cat Angels’ adoption fee is $150 and includes a microchip, rabies vaccine, feline FVRCP, leukemia and bordetella vaccines, FeLV/FIV test, deworming, flea treatment, a ringworm culture, and additional medical treatment if needed.

For spay and neuters, Pet Angels prefers using surgical vans, like SNAP-NC.

“I love the vans because we can get in and out faster,” said Fox. “It’s kind of the way things are going now.”

Elizabeth Towns — now the volunteer coordinator, lead adoption counselor, and head of fundraising — began volunteering with Cat Angels 13 years ago.

A poster hanging on the wall shows photos of the thousands of cats that Cat Angels Pet Adoptions has saved.

“I know other shelters do a fabulous job, but I am most proud of how we treat EVERY cat at Cat Angels as if they are our own,” said Towns. “We spare no expense for any veterinary treatment, which can be really hard on the purse strings, but we would never do it any other way. They are Cat Angels cats, which means we love every one of them with all our hearts.”

The shelter always needs help scooping litter boxes, filling bowls with food and water, cleaning the community cat rooms, and assisting with other duties around the facility. Looking for another way to help? Do a little shopping (or donating) at Cat Angels Thrift Store, located on Cary Parkway. Every sale helps homeless, abandoned, and/or abused cats and kittens find safe, loving, permanent homes.

“The thrift store is a godsend to us,” said Fox. “It really helps us financially stay afloat. People donate their gently used things, whatever they are, and we price them, display them, and sell them. It’s in the Parkway Pointe shopping center, and has been open 11 years. The more volunteers, the better.”

For some of the older rescues, Cat Angels supplies soft beds, lots of love, and plenty of cat TV.

Another way to support Cat Angels is by making one-time or monthly donations via their website. Their biggest matching fundraiser of the year is currently in full swing and will continue through December.

“Our long-term goal is to raise the funds to own our own facility and create a real, lasting legacy for the organization,” said Towns. “We have very exciting plans to create a space to help even more cats from abandonment, abuse, and neglect, but also to offer educational programs, pet resources for victims of domestic abuse and natural disasters, and hopefully one day even provide low-cost spay/neuter services. We have big goals but very small coffers, so we need a lot of help to make these important goals come true. I just need a few cat-loving millionaires to make it all possible!”

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