June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat month — and the three Hawaii Island Humane Society shelters, Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary and Hui Pono Holoholona/PAWS have the purr-fect pet for a prospective cat owner.
While there are always adorable, adoptable felines at the shelters, occupancy numbers swelled last year because of emergency rescue operations connected to multiple natural disasters — most notably the lower East Rift Zone eruption of Kilauea volcano.
“I was going down to Leilani Estates. I was going down to Kapoho. I was going everywhere to start trapping and let people know they had a place to bring their cats,” said Frannie Pueo, Hui Pono/PAWS president. “We were trying to get the cats that had microchips back to their owners and locate those people who had lost their property.”
“We were able to help around 500 families with their animals from something simple, like sharing food, to taking in and fostering and also helping some families move to the mainland with the animals,” added Mary Rose Krijgsman, Rainbow Friends founder.
Of course, the Hawaii Island Humane Society — which has shelters in Keaau, Waimea and Kona and has undergone a management change since last year’s lava crisis — was also involved in those operations, as Pueo pointed out.
“Here on the Big Island, we have a big issue with a lot of unwanted cats, so it’s important to help find forever homes for these cats in our shelters,” Lauren Nickerson, the humane society’s community programs director pointed out. “Cats are playful and fantastic and will give the kind of companionship that people are looking for.”
For a $65 adoption fee, you can find your forever friend at HIHS or Rainbow Friends. The fee includes spaying or neutering, vaccination, microchip and testing for feline leukemia and AIDS. In addition, Rainbow Friends has a display at Petco in Hilo where kittens can be adopted, as well.
“We would love for people to go to Petco and adopt a kitten,” Krijgsman said. “We would also love for people to come by and adopt a cat. We have a lot of volunteer opportunities to foster litters of kittens and dogs and also at the sanctuary.”
Krijgsman said Rainbow Friends also has a “working cat program.”
“That’s for people who have a large property or a farm or are in a neighborhood where there are rats and need two to four cats to take care of the rat population. So those cats could be semi-feral or even feral,” she explained. “What we do, then, is bring a kennel over to the people and make sure those cats are being fed in there and its clean in there. Then, in two weeks we open the kennel. And if all goes well, the cat sticks around.”
Rainbow Friends and Hui Pono/PAWS are no-kill shelters, the former in Kurtistown and the latter in Mountain View. Rainbow Friends has dogs and cats while Hui Pono/PAWS has only cats and kittens. They and HIHS are nonprofit organizatons.
Hui Pono/PAWS has some adoptable cats, but a lower percentage than the others, according to Pueo, “because we take in primarily the ferals and the hardship cases, but we really do try to get any animal who comes to us adopted out that is adoptable.”
One of their adoptables is Gus, an adult white male.
“He’s such a lovely, loving boy. But it’s hard to get a kitty like this adopted out, because he’s handicapped. He’s deaf and he has to be inside,” Pueo said.
Gus is being fostered by Kristen McCardel Ware and her husband, who also have a blind cat, Roxy, which goes outside — but only on a leash. She described Gus as “a great cat.”
“He’s so loving. He’s very playful,” McCardel Ware said. “But he does have some communication issues with the other cats. He’s going to make somebody a great forever cat. They just have to realize they have to be different in the way they communicate with him.”
Hui Pono/PAWS doesn’t have an adoption fee, Pueo said, and added, “We do scrutinize the home that they’re going to. And we do ask for donations if they can. But there’s no adoption fees. We want that to go to the animal itself.”
“And it’s important for people to know that if it doesn’t work out — no matter the time limit and no matter what the circumstances, it can be years later — we’ll take that animal back. They’ll always have that forever home here,” she said.
All the animal advocates stress that while they want their animals to find the right forever home, the decision to adopt an animal is not to be made on a whim.
“The big thing to think about is the long-term commitment you make when you adopt an animal,” Nickerson said. “A kitten is at least a decade-long commitment. Even a senior animal can live for two, three, four, five years. It’s a longtime commitment. It’s a forever commitment.
“We want our animals to find forever homes, not just a temporary home. It’s a living being and we want it to be in an environment where it’s loved and cared for. We really want people to consider the responsibility that takes.”
HIHS is holding open house on Saturday, June 22, at its Keaau shelter and Saturday, July 13, at its Kona shelter. Both events are from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. And Rainbow Friends is holding its 20th Annual Gala Fur Ball from 5:30-10 p.m. Friday, June 21 at the Grand Naniloa Resort in Hilo. All the organizations constantly raise funds to rescue animals and operate shelters.
All the organizations hold free or low-cost spay-neuter clinics, as well, usually on a monthly basis — and all emphasize the importance of sterilizing both pets and stray animals.
“Please, step forward, get these animals spayed and neutered,” said Pueo, who wants to build a spay-neuter clinic on the PAWS property and is currently seeking a Hilo location to hold spay-neuter events.
“With all these (nonprofits) offering spay-neuter clinics, there’s no excuse not to. Do the right thing. That’s what we need to do to stop the high rates of euthanasia. It’s a community responsibility.”
All the organizations have websites with information on dates, times and locations of spay-neuter clinics, as well as adoption, fostering, volunteering and donation information. Or you can call HIHS at 329-1175, Rainbow Friends at at 982-5110 or Hui Pono/PAWS at 968-8279.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.