My name is Ed Denton and I was born here in Alamogordo NM, and have lived most of my life right here. It is a fairly small town with a population of about 35,000. I am married to Kathleen Denton who is also a Director of Kitty City, and we have four children that are now grown and out on their own. We live in a pretty large home and have one dog and 8 cats that are all rescued cats.
What exactly is Kitty City NM?
How is it different than another type of shelter? Kitty City is the location of our shelter for cats, we added the nm on our web address as there are already so many kitty city’s out on the web. The name of our non-profit is the KATO Foundation which was started by Harold Bruckner. Harold moved to Texas and wanted to keep the rescue here so we took it over early August 2008. I had a decision to make from the beginning on how to create our shelter. Should we make a traditional type shelter where the animals live in small cages for viewing which is safer as far as contagious diseases for the cats, or to make a free roaming shelter where the cats all live together and are free to go inside or out but at the same time be safe from predators. We decided that even though the risk health wise is greater having the cats living together in a free roaming cattery we could not have a rescue where cats live in extended time in a small cage. We are also a no kill so our cats live out their lives with their friends here or they go home to a forever loving indoor home. That is their only two options here at Kitty City
Where are you located?
Our shelter is about 6 miles north of Alamogordo, NM at 56 Danley Ranch Rd
How did you come up with the idea?
To be honest I only had 2 weeks to put up the first building which is 240 sq ft with 400 sq ft of outdoor play areas. I had no time to come up with a plan or idea I just had to get the building up as Harold was bringing us 25 cats that came with the rescue. We were doing drywall and painting after the cats had moved in! We had an artist from Ruidoso NM paint the inside of the first building. It features, the Longwhisker saloon where you can get any type milk beverage you want….skim milk….whole milk….even cheese chasers. Across from the saloon is Mrs. Kitty’s Bordello, and the second room is the bunkhouse where most all of the kitty’s take their afternoon naps and sleep at night. Later from the advice of our vet we built an intake building where our new arrivals stay and receive their vaccinations, and recover from spays and neuters and get their snap testing done. Once we are sure they are healthy and safe they can go to the main cattery. We are actually a pretty small shelter compared to many but we are very efficient in the way we are set up and the way we operate.
How many cats have you saved since opening?
Hmmm. Well we just had adoption number 574 last week, and at last count 120 cats at Kitty City. We have spayed/neutered, vaccinated and relocated about 75 feral cats. That is 769 cats.
When you think that each female cat could potentially have 2 litters of kittens per year. Let’s say all 769 of these cats were still on the streets and are still alive and half the 769 were female then they would have had over 3000 kittens this year. So it is easy to see that the rescue, and spaying or neutering of even one cat can be very important.
How many kitties do you have at the rescue now?
I have not counted in a few weeks but I think we are somewhere between 110 and 120 cats right now. No kittens right now but kitten season will be here soon and we will start growing in numbers.
Do you ever get Ragdoll cats?
I have had one that I know for sure was a Ragdoll. She had been declawed by her previous owner and although she was about the most beautiful cat I have ever seen she was aggressive to cats and afraid of people. I see this behavior more often in declawed cats.
Were you able to adopt her out?
Yes I adopted her. Her name is Leah.
Do you ever take in owner surrender kitties or do you only rescue cats from non kill shelters?
We have in the past but need to make new rules, as I do not feel that it is ethical for someone to take their 15+ yr old cat that they have had since it was a kitten to a shelter for the final chapter in the kitty’s life just because it is now having a few medical issues and vet bills. We have had a couple of these and it is not what we are about. My heart goes out to those cats that are in high kill shelters and are being put on the euthanasia list, they have no tomorrow unless I can help them. Even though I can’t save them all, I think about them every day and it hurts to think of them being destroyed.
Can people from outside NM adopt your kitties? If they come to Kitty City for the adoption?
So far we have adopted about ten cats out of state. We do have a rule that if the adoption does not work out the adopted cat must be returned to Kitty City even if that means the adopter has to purchase an airline ticket for the cat. Eight of these adopters had not met their cat until it arrived at their airport. All have been good adoptions. I always spend much more time talking to folks who are out of state about what kind of personality they want in a cat, what their home is like, what other animals they have, how many children they have, and how old their children are. I will only ship out the most outgoing, sociable cats that I have at the shelter.
Do you think what you’re doing could be replicated in other states and also be possible to do with dogs?
Of course I do with cats and I hope it already is. I am not sure how well it would work with dogs to have so many together as I have not worked with dogs at the level we are working with cats so I can’t give a good answer about dogs.
How do you figure out where to place a kitty? In other words are there certain parameters a kitty must meet to be put in a certain room at the shelter?
There are some very serious feline contagious diseases. We do not know the history of many of the cats we take in so there is a risk of them bringing in a disease and a risk of them contracting Upper Respiratory Infection’s from cats that may be carriers in the cattery. Since our cats free roam and live together it is important that each new intake cat gets vaccinated, and checked for parasites and any other issues that need care. We quarantine them until we know that they have built up immunity to URI’s, and they have been snap tested, cleared of the dangerous feline diseases, and spayed or neutered if needed.
All of this takes about 6 weeks, and at that time if the cat is healthy we put the cat into Kitty City. At this time we have three separate areas and have split up the population between the three areas.
What if a cat doesn’t get along with the other cats?
If we have a cat that insists on always stalking other cats and trying to bully them, we will separate them. We have two cats out of 120 that are like this. Occasionally there are small skirmishes that are not serious, but more of a pecking order, and it is not necessary in my opinion to separate them when this happens, as it is almost always temporary. When we intake a cat that has not been around other cats the are so stressed that it is necessary to put the new cat in a large crate with its own water, food, and litter, inside the cattery where the cat is exposed to all the other cats but is safe within the crate. Usually within three to four days the new cat is calm and does fine.
How can someone in NM or outside of NM help Kitty City?
If there is someone who wants to help but can not adopt, and can not volunteer because of the distance from Kitty City, Donations are a good way to show support. We are not funded by any government agencies, and have not yet been awarded any grants so donations are important. We have a donation page on our website that has our wish list of items we use the most of at the shelter. Monetary donations on our website help with our vet bills. Those who want to sponsor a cat, are able to go to our sponsor page and help out with the cost of some of our long term residents that have FIVor feline Leukemia. We will soon have RV hookups for those who travel and do volunteer work. We really need help with grant writing.
Is your adoption process different than a kill shelter? Are they more stringent?
Yes. Potential adopters are able to come in the cattery and sit in a room with fourty cats and pet every one and get to know the personality of the cats, instead of viewing the cats in small cages. Our contract is called the third degree. We want to know what the folks who adopt are like. We do not adopt to people who allow their cats to go outside, or to those who plan on de-clawing their cat. Adopters must live in an area that has a local vet and a local animal control that adopts animals out. Adopters under 21 can only adopt after an interview with a kitty city agent.
How many volunteers do you have?
Right now about twenty volunteers are signed up to work but almost all of these are married, have jobs and children so they are limited on the time they can volunteer. We rarely have more than one volunteer show up at the same time. We could use about three times the number of volunteers that we currently have.
I noticed on Must Love Cats that you’ve creatively come up with “wanted” signs to advertise your cats – can you tell me more about that and why you think it works?
When we started we decided to go western theme and name all the cats western names. When we started naming some of them outlaw names I had purchased a nice camera and was learning how to use photoshop. I don’t know how or why I did it but I thought I would do a wanted poster of one of our cats with an outlaw name. Everyone thought it was awesome so I just continued trying to improve on them, and went from posters to cage cards that I have been laminating and attaching to the cages at our adopt-a-thons and in the Stagecoach adoption center. I have made lots of different styles, the one on the right is the one I use on all the cage cards now. Since the Must Love Cats program aired I have had folks email me and ask to use the wanted posters at their rescue also. I think it is great and I would love for them to use the template with their cat photos on the posters if it helps them adopt more cats.
How did Must Love Cats find out about you? Do you know? Did you like the song that John Fulton made up for you on the show?
I was first contacted by Julie Creswell, who said she had seen the wanted posters on our website. They debated for some time whether to come out as we were not quite as large of a shelter as they wanted to film. We were at about 85 cats when she first called but well over 100 when they got here, and have been at about 120 ever since. I am a musician also and I like all the songs John does on Must Love Cats, especially the theme song. He is quite talented.
Thank you for all that you do to seriously reduce the growing pet population and more so for making sure kitties have happy homes.
You are welcome. Sometimes it does not seem like we are making any progress. I did just check and we have adopted out 574 cats now and we are coming close to three years in the rescue now. We are still learning but my hope and prayer is that we are able to continue doing this for years to come and that we continue to grow and find new, better and unique ways to find more homes for cats. We want to save as many as we possibly can.