If they could speak, they would most likely individually and collectively say “Thank you.”
There are 278 cats at the 17,000 square foot SpayMart facility in Mississippi.? They have been rescued from cruelty investigations, from the homes of hoarders and from the horror of Hurricane Katrina.
Lynn Chiche knows the names of all of the animals.? She knows their stories, their health, their likes and dislikes.? She gives new meaning to the term ‘cat lady.’
With her SpayMart co-founder, Pam Casey, Chiche bought the property in Mississippi, which was a former home to the Hare Krishnas.? Chiche’s group has created nothing short of the Taj Mahal for cats.
It entails 12 separate rooms or pens, each with indoor air conditioning and outdoor access.? The biggest space now houses the last half of 110 cats rescued from a hoarder on the West Bank.
“The worst case I’ve ever seen was not a mean person, but it was someone who got completely over her head,” Chiche said.? “There was no electricity, no running water. There were probably anywhere from 10 to 12 dead cats laying about when we got there.”
The animals had no food, no water and no medical care.? Today they are healthy.
“We have adopted about 50 of those 110,” Chiche said.
Chiche said the majority of the cats at the shelter are just waiting for a home as ?wonderful as their setup is with SpayMart.? She says the cats just want someone to love.
“We don’t have 600 arms.? We don’t have that many laps.? These cats miss that special attention that a cat’s going to receive at home,” she said.
What works against them, Chiche says, is their age.? They are not fluffy little kittens that everyone wants.? But she feels the older cat is the best cat, the one who wants to sit in your lap, the one who doesn’t want to claw and climb your furniture, the one who would be most appreciative.
“It’s like they understand that you gave them a break and they’ll spend their whole life trying to make you happy that you made that decision.”
Taking care of 278 cats and running the 17,000 square foot facility is a monumental job.? Chiche says they need a staff of 20.? They have a staff of four and last year’s budget was $220,000.
“I don’t think we could handle one more cat out here because of the finances, because of the labor, just the intensive labor that it takes to make this thing operate,” Chiche said.
At the SpayMart facility, there are 55 to 60 litter boxes to be cleaned each day, 40 water bowls to be refreshed each day and 15 to 20 feeders to be refilled a couple of times a week.? The washing machine and dryer run all day, with 15 to 20 loads of bedding to be kept clean.?
A full-time vet tech takes care of administering medicine and monitoring each cat’s health.? Charts are maintained with information on each cat.? It is more than a labor of love.? It is a mission.? But the real goal is to find the more mature cats a home.? When that is done, Chiche says she will refocus on the real mission of SpayMart.
“It’s not really about rescue.? It’s a wonderful thing and I admire anybody that does it,” she said.? “It’s not really about adoptions.? It’s about spaying and neutering.”
The group’s objective was to open the first large-volume spay and neuter clinic.? They had contacted a group in North Carolina and had the clinic about 85 percent complete when Katrina blew it away.?
When the cats are adopted, Chiche says the mission will return.
“There is still more work to be done.? We have to make this service available to every segment of the population regardless of their income.? We have to give the people who want to do the right thing the programs.”
In the meantime, SpayMart will continue to give the cats the best life possible, always hoping that someone will want to give them the ultimate: a home.
“When I turn the lights out at night, I promise them their family is just waiting and I’m going to come up with it.”