Caring for over 20 cats is out of the question for most of us, but for Heather, it’s her everyday reality.
That is not an exaggeration either, but it is a combination of personal pets, fosters and community cats. From Frenchie to Squeaks McGee to Things 1 and 2, she cares for every single one of them with the money out of her own pocket and her heart proudly on her sleeve.
“I could stop if I wanted to, but I’m not going to,” says Heather. “I’ve got the funds. I’ve got the time. So I may as well.”
This cat lover, enthusiast and colony caretaker has been a volunteer with us for two years, dedicating most of her hours helping at community clinics and other events. And the time that she doesn’t spend helping pets at SNKC, she continues to do the same in the comfort of her own home.
Regardless of whether they are indoors, outdoors or only temporary, animals have always been a large part of Heather’s life. And it’s not just cats either. She would love to have dogs, fish, birds and even tarantulas if she could, but it is hard to have more when caring for over 20 cats is so time-consuming and, not to mention, costly.
“Bulk buy has saved our lives,” she says.
After the bills are paid, Heather uses the rest of her money to buy pet supplies in bulk at Costco. Dry food, canned food, kitty litter, treats… You name it, she has enough for 26. She also pays for vaccinations, spay/neuter surgeries and flea and tick prevention for all indoor and outdoor cats.
Her personal cats were all adopted or rescued from outdoors or other family members who could no longer take care of them. You could imagine there are some people who might have a problem with having so many regular cats in their neighborhood, but Heather doesn’t receive any complaints. Instead, neighbors come knock on her door with pet-related questions or even sometimes with kittens in their arms.
“My family attracts stray cats,” she says.
Heather lives with her mother, who was feeding the outdoor cats before she moved in. Fast forward two years, and nothing has changed. She has trapped all of the community cats and spayed/neutered them at SNKC, with the exception of two males she is still trying to catch. One of the community cats, Glory, had a litter of kittens that she ended up fostering. She was able to coax the mom into her garage and ensure the kittens would be raised in a warm, safe place.
Glory is the mother of a handful of community cats in her neighborhood, so Heather plans on housing her through winter so that she can get her fixed and release her when warmer weather makes its way back around. Some community cats prefer to stay outdoors and remain independent, and Heather has her own fare of friendly ones and others who, frankly, want nothing to do with her. But out of anyone, Heather understands the importance of TNR (trap, spay/neuter and return) that helps break the cycle of having more kittens – who turn into more community cats, who have more kittens, which only means 100x more mouths to feed.
Though I’m sure there are many moments during her day that are overwhelming and chaotic, she never takes for granted the cuddle piles and battles for attention that continue to remind her every day why she does what she does.
“It’s so rewarding,” she says. “How all pets will give you love.”
Heather says she would love to have her own rescue one day, but some could argue she already does. Saying she is devoted to her job as a cat caretaker is an understatement, and she is driven to always do right by any pet that crosses her path – at home, on her commute, out in the community and here at SNKC.
Some may think of her as just a crazy cat lady, which she doesn’t mind because the looks on their faces when they hear she has that many cats is priceless. But to us and many others who know her, she is beyond amazing and someone we are so incredibly lucky to have as a part of our organization. There aren’t many people out there who would put the lives of so many pets before themselves like Heather does, which is truly inspiring.
Her advice to people who want to follow in her footsteps?
“Try and get the ones off the street that you can. But if you can’t, you’re still doing an awesome thing,” she says. But also don’t become a cat hoarder.
She is definitely one person you will learn from and quickly grow to admire.