Mew Cat Rescue is a foster-based rescue assisting Benton County, Arkansas. They match their adoptable cats with their new forever home and promote and assist in TNR services. They started on 3/19/19 just around a year ago, and they had almost 400 adoptions the first year! They are dipping their toes in therapy cats and have a killer social media team!
“Welcome to the Animal Rescues the Week podcast, where we feature outstanding organizations from around the country that are helping animals and the people who rescue them. This podcast is probably sponsored by Doobert.com. Doobert connects animal shelters with volunteers to do animal transport and fostering. Learn more and sign up for free at www.Doobert.com. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal rescue.
Mew Cat Rescue is a foster-based rescue, assisting Benton County, Arkansas. They match their adoptable cats with their new forever home and promote Assisted TNR services. This organization started in March of 2019 and they had almost 400 adoptions their first year! They’re dipping their toes and therapy cats and have a killer social media team.
Hi, Jennifer. Welcome to the show. Hi, Kimberly. How are you doing today? Oh, I’m hanging in there, taking a day by day during this crazy pandemic. Yeah. So you’re the founder and the Executive Director at Mew Cat Rescue in Arkansas, is that right? Yeah. So definitely, just jump right in and tell me a little bit about your organization and how it just came to you that you wanted to run and find an animal rescue organization. So yeah, we are Mew Cat Rescue. We’ve actually really been operating for a little bit over a year now. We started in 3-19-2019, so we just had our anniversary about a month ago. But we’ve grown really fast. As far as how I started it. The very first thing that happened honestly, when I was working at a TNR colony and I had been trapping the cats and getting spay/neuters done. But I started noticing that somebody else was actually starting to trap my cats and I got a little bit, a little bit of anxiety that I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on. And, of course, I had a little bit of worry that maybe somebody didn’t want the cats there.
So I started contacting local rescues. And so I got involved with the rescue, that way, actually, they started to help me because, you know, I was doing it all on my own. So I guess you’d say, like all my life, I’ve definitely had an interest in cats. Of course at first, I wanted to be a vet when I was growing up. That didn’t quite work out. I was going through the attic today to go through all the stuff about cats. I mean, I brought a birth certificate for a cat. And I was looking through some of my schoolwork, actually, funny that this happened today. I found it like in every subject of the particular paper I was doing and it looked like I was like, this is great, I wrote all about cats. So I realized that, like, I’ve always done this, in a certain way. But, you know, I really thought because it’s really nice to do that. But I said it didn’t really actually go for it. But when I got involved in the rescue, I just found myself getting more and more involved, right.
So I started to foster. And then after that, I started writing adoption, and all of a sudden I found myself just doing so much more. And our director was out of state, which was making things a little bit more difficult. And she was kind of in the transition stage, so I decided to start my own rescue, at that point. I had a lot of different ideas. Things that I wanted to do and implement, and I kind of wanted to take things in a direction anyway, so Mew Cat Rescue was born after that. And there’s room for many, many more of us. There’s just so much for me, that the community here has. You really have that viewpoint of kind of how the process kind of goes, instead of just waking up and saying, Hey, I want to run an animal rescue today, you know? Yeah, it was nice to start. I would say with that. Yeah, I love that. And I think it’s great. And you’ve got that passion for it.
I’m assuming because of the title, you are just a cat rescue. No other animals that you take in. No, we are just cats. Perfect. So just share with me a little bit and our listeners, about what the community is like for your cats, cause some of us aren’t in Arkansas. I know. I’m personally not. So do you guys have, like, a large cat overpopulation problem? Is that why you kind of wanted to go in your own direction a little bit with your own Rescue? We’re in Bentonville, Arkansas, which is in the northwest corner of Arkansas. I think it was 2018. I’m not sure what was put out in 2019 but in 2018 we were one of the top 10 places to live in the United States. We are an awesome community here. Northwest Arkansas is not like any other part of Arkansas. So it’s growing. We have everything here that we need, but not the traffic yet. But, you know, we’re not like a big, big city with paper, but we’re getting all that, But we’re just good enough. Lots to do outside, a lot to do in the community. We’ve got Walmart and a lot of other vendors like that here, that just makes the community very strong. We’ve got the Walton Family Foundation here, that has given us some help.
So I think being the awesome community that we are, here in Bentonville, what we don’t have is an animal shelter, and the community has wanted it for forever. And we’re a community that has everything else they could possibly imagine. We’re building all kinds of trails. I think we’re like the mountain biking capital of the U. S. If not the world as well. And so you know, there’s a $1,000,000 trail here. Fun trails there, cropping up all the time. But we don’t have a shelter. And so the community has been out crying for I don’t know, as long as I’ve been involved in that. We’ve had to rally at the City Council meetings. We show up with signs and we say, Hey, you know, we need a shelter here in Bentonville. They have a process for dogs. They take care of dogs. They don’t have a shelter, obviously, that they have some partnership with other cities, locally. So they will pick up a dog, but they won’t pick up a cat. So if you have, literally a cat, and a dog injured on the road, which has happened before. They will pick up the dog and leave the cat. So that’s kind of what we’ve been up against. Yeah, and so there’s no help for us from the city. There’s no help from the state. The county just put their, you know we’re doing really the dog. We were sitting there taking care of cats, which I love it, you know, we’ve got it going. It’s definitely working and we’re able to get it done. But, you know, we work, too.
That’s another thing about us. I volunteer. So I have a day job. I have a 45 hour a week day job and so do almost all of the volunteers that we have. So we’re all trying to balance that, you know? Yeah. I do have to give credit. But we do have a Best Friends Animal Resource Center that is coming here as of next year. And that has been a partnership between the Lawton Family Foundation and Best Friends to build here in Bentonville.. So our problem is definitely going to be at least somewhat solved, come next year, so everything should look a lot better here. That’s a good thing. I’m actually shocked that you guys don’t have an animal shelter. I mean, that’s definitely not something that we hear of. What is the population, if you don’t mind me asking in Bentonville? Somewhere around 50-60,000. If you look at the whole area, though, I think it’s much larger than that, but we’re not quite a metropolitan area yet. But I think they say that something like 70 families have been moving here or something like that. The job communities are strong. There’s houses being built constantly. There’s apartment buildings popping up everywhere. It seems like there’s one on every corner, so there’s definitely an influx of people coming in and they’re loving everything about it. But then they see that we don’t have a shelter. So I think the community and the people moving here, especially it, is kind of the thing we have to have. You hear, What do you mean there’s no animal shelter? Like most of them are shocked and don’t know until they have a need for it. Until they find a cat or they find a dog or something, you know? And then they start calling around like there’s no place to take them. Yeah, I mean, that is very shocking. To have such a large, populated city and not have an animal shelter.
So are there many rescue groups in your area that kind of help to kind of tie things together for the animals? Or is there still far, few and in between? I would say there are three major rescues in Northwest Arkansas. Cat rescues, with us being one of those. I know that one of them did a volume of like 600 cats last year. The other one probably did around 4- 500. We’re pretty much a part of that, we’re a little bit under 10,000 at the start with our first year. Yeah, we’re all taking a low and honestly, we can only absorb so much, right? Sad to say, But we reach our capacity at some point and we just have to start turning people away. So that’s the sad reality of it. That definitely is news to me. I did not know that. And like you said, how do people really know about that until they have a need for it. So I’m taking it from how you’re talking that you are volunteer- foster-based. Is that right? Yes, we’re totally foster-based. And we have somewhere about 50 fosters right now. So it is a good community. It’s a strong community. And so we had a lot of people stepping up to help. So, you know, it’s not like we have a lack of fosters, but, you know, you’re still relying on the person, just out of the goodness of their heart, that open up their home for the cats. So yeah, it’s a lot to ask of people. But when there’s a need, people step up, that we’ve seen so much support from the community that we’re just amazed every day. Yeah, and I mean to open in such a short amount of time. You know, with you just being shy over a year and still have 50 active fosters. That’s an amazing number of fosters to have, especially with not having shelter and everything like that. I mean, you’re definitely off to a great start. Now it definitely kind of shares with us, to your point, how supportive your community is to have that extra support that you guys need. So well done for that. And that’s awesome to hear that you guys have a good foundation. Thankful. One of the things we are proud of is how much ground hours in that first year. We just, what we have done, a lot within a year that, you know, I thought it was gonna feel a little bit slower, but things just picked up and we hit the ground running. Good!
And I’m kind of curious, before this whole COVID-19, do you, as a rescue put on any type of programs or fundraising events or anything like that to kind of help get more people from your community involved with you guys? Yeah, we do as much as we can. We are Petco partners. So we would do adoption events at Petco, and sometimes we would have our cats in the little crate so people can, you know, come up and adopt from Petco. We also have, like outdoor events that we go to, like a Saturday Farmer’s Market, here in Bentonville. And those are really good fundraisers. We take a cat with us and people will come by and we hand out flyers to tell them about our organization. We’ll try to get volunteers, fosters and most of them will donate too. So it’s a big day. We were planning for a Wicked Whiskers event. Last year, we wanted to do it like a big event at a local comedy club but we got started a little bit late last year and we postponed it to this year. So that would, of course, be a fall event. But yes, like you said, with COVID-19 we’re not quite sure where that’s going to go. Being just a year into it, I would say fundraising is one of the things that we’re probably a hair behind on.
You know I can’t do it myself and we got a core group of people that are really strong. But I think one of the things that helps us operate, we just have to didi the jobs up, right? So we have one person on adoptions. We have two or three people on social media. We have one person doing Microchips. We have a foster coordinator, but we haven’t had a solid person on fundraising yet, so I mean, that’s mainly where we definitely, I think, need to grow. But Facebook is an awesome fundraising platform, so we’re able to use that. Wal Mart has a back grant program that we’re able to use, so that helps us as well. So we’re doing good, we’re definitely able to make it right now. But you know, it is getting harder and harder with the influx of cats. With the shelters being shut down due to COVID-19, we’ve had to take up a lot of that, and it’s kitten season on top of that. So we’ve been pulling from shelters. We’ve been even pulling from local communities around that are kind of outside of the areas, Fort Smith in particular, is a city like 45 minutes or so away from here. They had their shelter closed last year, so they’ve been in a lot of trouble to. So we’ve been taking from them. Everything, you know, coming together, it is hard right now. It was one day about two weeks ago that we took 40 cats in, in one day. That was a massive effort and I was most definitely tired by the end of the day. That’s what it could look like if we took every request in. But we can’t always do that.
How do you guys kind of get your cats in? Do you guys pick up stray cats? Are they more owner surrenders like, where do you get the majority of the cats in your care? Our cats just come from the community. So we intake a lot of different ways. Some people will call us. We do have an operating phone line. We have a Facebook messenger. We have email. You can find us on Facebook. You know, some people find us that way, but yes, that’s how people get through. But it’s definitely surrenders. There’s definitely strays. Right now, it seems like every call is I hear kittens crying and I found a litter kittens in my grill. Or and my son, you know, in various spots on my porch, from my house, on top of my car, under the car. Like there’s kittens falling out of the sky. Help needs right now. Yes. But it seems like you still have your routine and how you do it, just kind of talking to you a little bit, it really seems like, even though we’ve got this worldwide crisis going on right now, that you’re still doing good, you’re still sticking with the same process and bringing the cats and in helping his many as you can.
So I mean, is there anything else, that because of this pandemic, that’s kind of hindered you guys from doing stuff? Clearly, the fundraising events can’t happen right now because of the whole social distancing. But has COVID affected your organization in any other way? You know, I didn’t know exactly what was gonna happen to us. But, you know, we started putting out feelers for fosters. And you know, since Best Friends is here and kind of already working in the community, you know, they kind of put the alert out like, hey we’re going to need the rescues to be pulling from the shelters because they need fosters too. But they don’t have as many as we have. Or really as much programs. Amazingly, we’ve had 35 adoptions already for the month of April. I mean, I gotta say that gotta be almost double of where we normally are. Everybody wants a kitten and everybody wants a cat right now. So we’ve had increased adoptions. We had increased fosters and flow. So the increase in fosters has allowed us to kind of pick up intake. I’d say overall, we’re doing even more than we did before. What’s different about the process though? We’re having to, obviously the meet and greets with the animals are going a little bit differently because, you know, we don’t want to just have everybody coming into the fosters home. So we’ve actually started a Kitty Shuttle, where we actually deliver the cats to the people who are interested in adopting and we just drop them out the door. They pick up the carrier from the door. They spend 30 minutes with the cat, and then we either come back and pick the cat up or we pick up an adoption contract and money for the cat. So that’s really the biggest change that’s happened.
And also that obviously puts some routine work on hold. Our low-cost spay/neuter clinic closed. So that’s been an impact as well.. Are vet costs have gone up during this time, so that’s some of the things that were. Yeah, And the Kitty Shuttle, that is such a good idea. Like I’ve never heard that from an organization. And I find that intriguing that you guys, you know, were like, Hey, we’re just gonna drop this cat off for a little bit and then we’ll be back. You know, I think that that’s a good way to kind of still ensure that they’re getting that meet and greet time and everything. That’s pretty cool. I like that. Yeah, it’s been a little bit of big help, you know, we try to take a day out and do the Kitty Shuttle. You know, to make a Facebook post during the week to have one day, where we do quite a few of them. But, you know, the Kitty Shuttle is kind of running all the time because our adoptions are just so high. We wanted to do one day a week, but we just found that there’s so much demand right now that it’s just kind of happening all the time. So, yeah, I guess you could say it’s been a blessing. I feel like we’ve actually been able to help more cats if you do it.
We have to change things a little bit. Like for example, we would always spay/neuter a cat before we even thought about getting an adopter. Do all of their vet work. With the COVID-19, our process kind of had to flip because we had to stop using our low costings. You know, we do have a vet that we worked with who also offers us amazing prices on they’re so good to us. But they required us to have an adopter before they do the vet work. So we kind of had to reverse our process. We had to put the kittens and the cats up for pre-adoption first and we get them out there, market them, get them adopted, and then we do the vet work. And then after that, they go home. It kind of flipped everything for us. It’s caused, honestly, a ton of chaos. People want their cat right away. So you know, any kind of pre-adoption just has people just chattering their teeth like they would want the cat so bad, then they have to wait. So you know that’s just what we’ve had to do to get by. But so far it’s working really well. Good. I mean, it definitely seems like the whole pandemic kind of did a positive, you know, it’s got it’s hinders. But for the most part, it seems like it’s been good for you guys, in away. I would say so. I mean, it’s been a tremendous cost buffering. But you know, overall, we’ve been able to help more animals overall.
Yeah, I think it’s been a positive thing for what’s good, and I kind of want switch bases a little bit. You’ve told me a little bit about your organization and all the great work that you guys are doing, you know, stuff like that. I kind of want to know a little bit about you. And what is your favorite thing about working in the animal welfare industry? I think it’s helping the people and the cat , always. You know, when I got into it, my passion for cats. But I quickly came to realize, especially as the Director of the rescue, but it was really a people business. So even though it’s a cat business, it’s really a people business because there’s just so much interaction with people. You know, there’s answering the phone line, and every person that calls has something that they need help with. They found a kitten here and they found a cat there. Grandpa is, you know, sadly going until the hospital or something. And he’s got cats, and they don’t know what to do. And then, you know, flip through the other side of things, the sad things, that people have to surrender. They have some kind of issue, that one, or whether the divorce or a death in the family, whatever it might be. But then you have the happy side, so you have the adoptions and the smiles on the people’s faces. Even with fostering, I’ve had so many fosters tell me, especially during this COVID-19, that their kids were borderline depressed. You think they’d be all happy being out of school and everything, getting out early. You know, I think the whole thing has kind of worn all of us down a little bit. So they were like, this is the first time that I have seen my child smile in weeks.
So for me, it’s the ability to help everybody, and it’s also the ability I’ve just been so amazed at how much people meet the need. Right? When I first started it, I had a lot of anxiety, honestly, you know, I was worried and I wanted to take these cats. But what if we can’t find fosters? We’ve got the skills I want, you know, this cat obviously needs this just done. But what if they don’t have the money? And I just realized that people just met whatever need was out there. We just found if we asked for fosters, we would get them. If we asked for fundraising because we needed this or that, the community would respond. So it’s just amazing to me. That’s like a lot of what the hurdle when we asked for help, especially from our volunteers. You know something will happen where, like, there was a call the day from the law firm, actually, and they had evicted the people in a house and there was a cat there. And so, you know, it was an emergency call to the team, to say, Hey, who can go and get this cat and, you know, within probably three seconds, I had somebody on the way to get the cat. So I’m just always amazed at how good people are and how they step up. And they have that passion that I have. They have it too and our community has too. So it’s just seeing what good is in people. I think I’m definitely on the good side of that. And that makes things go easier every day.
Usually for an organization that is so new, it’s hard to find volunteers. It’s hard to find a lot of stable, foster system based type things, but you really have got a great support system behind you, and that is so great to hear. And I literally cannot wait to see how you and your organization will grow. Yeah, thank you. I really think it’s just the amazing community we have. I hear that you know, even as far south, we have 45 minutes cell phones talk about another rescue or another community that it had the shelter closed. I do have some good fosters. So I really think, obviously, we’re doing our best when we’re working really hard. I do also think it’s the community. It’s just incredible here. And our turn is good, right? So I think when the fosters step in, maybe they have an adult and I’m sure at first they’re a little bit worried, you know, kittens go fast, not sure if an adult is gonna get adopted. I would say, you know, within two weeks or so, that’s our average, let’s say for an adult. Sometimes when we list them, they go right out the door. We had a long-haired, Maine Coon obviously which helps. But that Maine Coon went out within 24 hours. And, you know, even the cats, but don’t have long hair. I mean, not quite as pretty, the average is just 1 to 2 weeks. So the fosters get in and they say, Oh, you know, I don’t have to worry, cause that is a worry that some fosters have between a shelter environment and a foster-based rescue is that you know, we’ll find fostering for shelter. Obviously, something happened or the cats aren’t getting adopted, I can basically get them back to the shelter, where they can’t do that with a foster. Yes obviously, we can move cats, yeah, but we have to have somebody else waiting to take it. So we’ll see. There’s just seeing that it’s working, like whatever we’re doing is working and the cats get adopted and they take another one and you get results and they take another one that gets adopted. So it’s just an awesome cycle that keeps going.
Well, that is good to hear. And I love that like every foster needs a slight little break, you know? So when you foster for a while, yeah, it’s nice for them to kind of get that little break. But I want to kind of help and allow our listeners to kind of support you guys. If somebody’s looking to donate or they’re in your area and they want to foster or become a volunteer, how can they get in contact with you? What’s the best way to go about that? The best way to reach us is really through our website, and it’s just mewcatrescue.com, and that starts with an M. So M as in Mary like a cats mew cat rescue.com. There’s a button there to foster. There’s a button to adopt, and obviously also you can donate there. I would say, you know, fostering is a big need, donations are always a large need as well, especially with the extra costs that we’ve had associated to COVID-19 and the increased intake and increased expenses, donations or something that would help us. But, yeah, we try to tell our stories there. We tell our story from Facebook. Facebook is another great way to get a hold of us. We’ve got 2-3 people that manage our social media. So we’ve always got somebody that’s got an eye on it. Good.
Well, I’m hoping that we’ve got some generous listeners that are just intrigued by what you have going on and just ultimately want to get involved. And I’m intrigued by what you’re doing. And I love your passion and your enthusiasm and just your overall respect for the animal-human bond and community and everything. I think it’s something that’s definitely needed. And we need more people like that in this industry, you know? So I’m definitely going to be following you guys and keeping up on the stuff that you have going on. I definitely hope you guys get an animal shelter soon or you know something on that. But you guys definitely need it with such a large populated area.
But I’m really thankful that you were able to join me. I’ve enjoyed our chat. Do you have anything else that you’d like to share with us today before we wrap things up? More like to thank everybody for listening and please go to our website and look around. Adopt, volunteer and you know, we love what we do and it just gets better every day, honestly. So also saying thanks to the community for the opportunity to do this and the strong animal welfare network that we have really all across the country that serves a couple of different capacities. So I want to thank everybody for what they do. And thank you for doing what you guys do for those cats, they need that. It clearly seems like they need that extra help. And they need that support system so great work. Thank you, Kimberly.I appreciate it, really. Thanks for allowing us to be on your show. I really appreciate it.
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