It takes a lot to devote your life to saving helpless cats that can’t fend for themselves. We have shown a little of what we do on a daily basis, but we’ve never fully explained the foundations of our organization. What better way to show that road then to interview the owner and founder of the organization herself, Judith Serafini!
Take a look at what she told us about how she decided to start Cats in Tow and where she hopes to take it in the future.
1. How did you first get involved in rescuing cats?
I did not wake up one day and say ‘I want to be a cat rescuer.’ Instead, a community problem showed in my backyard, my brick wall and my front porch. When I investigated why I was surrounded by cats/kittens, I found out that the neighbor just behind me had thrown out 3 unspayed/unneutered cats and soon kittens were born. The male flame point was a roaming tom who had his territory, took care of his kittens, and roamed his 1 mile radius. Then, when I looked around in April, kittens were under every mobile home not just behind my house. I started researching solutions. I would take cats, put them in traps and run to Golden State Humane Society hospital every morning to get cats/kittens spayed/neutered. I used lots of my money until I found out about OCSPCA Vouchers. But then they needed shots; and they needed homes; I couldn’t support all of them. A friend introduced me to a rescue group and that is when I began taking them to adoption weekend events. Over the years I learned more about TNR; I worked with street cats to transition them to adoptable cats; and, I maintained a feral colony. Several years ago I had to go through the process of retrapping ferals – got 5 of them – and relocating them to a horse farm in Temecula. What a gift since this is such a rare, rare opportunity!
2. When did you decide to start your own cat rescue organization? How did you do it?
In 2011 I began going out on my own to adopt cats but the economy was also sliding downward rapidly. There were kittens; abandoned cats; and owners becoming homeless and relinquishing pets. My inventory went up but I had very few adoptions. I learned that doing shows with cages on the weekend is not a good way to go. I looked for an open store and found Petsmart Brea’s Cat Center had been empty about a year. I then networked to find a reliable nonprofit that I could join and set up a cat program. That’s how I found Jenna Bell the founder of Mutts N Stuff Small Dog Rescue. We joined forces and as an approved nonprofit I was able to go into the Brea Store. The success of a 24/7 day cat center is volunteers. Unless you have volunteers to come in 2x a day -7 days a week, you cannot be successful. For the first 3 weeks I just worked on recruiting, setting up all of documentation (applications, contracts, Adopt-a-Pet, etc.) and then in the 3rd week we moved in cats and started shows on the weekends. I had plenty of inventory! Adoptions started to happen slowly and steadily through mid June.
3. What keeps you motivated to keep saving cats today?
I did not choose this vocation; God saw a need and put me where I could do the job. Everytime I try to step back and think it is time to ease up, He sets a big need in front of me. Whereas many groups take cats/kittens in one at a time, over the past 2 years I have received cats/kitten in groups of 9 up to 14 at one time. I do realize I can not save every cat/kitten. I do not do bottle babies; I do not have fosters so I must keep a small manageable inventory. I hope I am providing an opportunity to change a generation as we have pre-teens and teenagers who work with the cats—maybe even a few future vets—who will influence others to practice spay/neuter and responsible pet ownership.
4. What do you see for the future of Cats in Tow?
The truth is that the adoptable cats support the sanctuary cats so they have litter, food, and vetting. Petsmart Brea is not a big kitten store. I cater more to families and retirees that want one cat or a new buddy for a grieving cat at home. I emphasize cat-person matching and behavior modification. I like the program small and specialized so I don’t see us in lots of stores, but expanding into classroom humane education and, because it is so hard to keep un-adoptables in a residential setting, I hope to have a sanctuary to place them into to live a good life in the future. Gaining more volunteers that specialize in fundraising, social media, and support activities would be ideal!