LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS — Since the cat shelter Safely Off Streets 4 Paws opened back in 2008, co-founders Mark Hannon and Christine Perkins have helped place approximately 340 abandoned and street cats in “forever homes.”
But adoptions have become more and more difficult in recent times. The no-kill shelter currently has 15 adult cats — and one guinea pig — for whom Hannon and Perkins have been struggling to find forever homes for.
When the shelter was overrun with kittens, it was very easy to find people interested in adopting them. But some of the cats there now have literally spent the majority of their adult lives with SOS 4 Paws. For instance, shy Caroline, a black 10-year-old cat with striking green eyes, has been at the shelter since it was opened, Perkins said.
It should be noted that Hannon and Perkins are very picky about who adopts their animals. They believe it’s extremely important for the personalities of the cats and adopters to be compatible.
“We don’t want to have returns, and we don’t want them to give up the cat somewhere else,” Hannon said. “We feel the people that eventually adopt with us are lifelong companions for the animals.”
They won’t adopt out to people with children who are under 8 for safety reasons, nor to anyone who plans to declaw the cats because they feel it’s cruel. Adopters must keep the cats indoors at all times, because they are no longer accustomed nor prepared to live outside, and there are too many dangers with cars and predatory animals.
Hannon and Perkins also refuse to adopt black cats out around Halloween, and they turn away anyone looking to give an animal as a gift.
Not advertising the location of the shelter has had its benefits but it’s also had its drawbacks.
When people know where it is, they tend to abandon cats on the front doorstep, Hannon and Perkins said. They don’t have the capacity to take in any more cats at all, and state animal-control officials have told them they can’t bring any more in at the current location once the cats they have have been successfully adopted out.
But without walk-in traffic, fewer prospective adopters get a chance to meet the cats, making adoption more difficult.
Hannon and Perkins are hoping that they can find another location that is better suited for new intakes.
All of the cats are sweet and very good-natured. Some are more social than others and some take a bit of warming up to people.
Then there’s Jerry, a handsome, alpha-male gray tabby with bright green eyes, who is the first cat to meet anyone who walks through the door. With his warm and friendly personality, Hannon and Perkins can’t figure out just why no one has taken him home yet.
Marie Scruton of Chelmsford wishes she could but said her cat wouldn’t get along at all with Jerry.
Her son, Logan can’t get enough of the kitties.
“He’d have 20 cats if I let him,” his mother said.
Logan, age 11, loves visiting, petting and even playing with the cats. He has also raised more than $300 — and counting — for the shelter.
Logan has loved cats since he was very young. For his eighth birthday, he asked only for cat food, toys and other supplies, which he then donated to the Billerica Cat Care Coalition. Logan will do the same for his upcoming 12th birthday on April 28, this time donating the donations to SOS 4 Paws. He said he does it to show other kids that if they’re passionate about something, they can also make a difference.
SOS 4 Paws is holding a fundraiser all month long at Hannaford supermarket at Drum Hill in Chelmsford. It is selling used books — $1 for soft cover, $2 for hardcover — and all of the proceeds will go to food and medical care for the cats.
For more information about the cats, the adoption process, donation and volunteer opportunities, visit www.sos4paws.org, email Perkins at [email protected], or call 978-726-6102.
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