In 1988, a cat lover named Kathy Centala took a look around at her community. She saw far too many unwanted cats and kittens whose only option were, in most cases, overcrowded shelters with high euthanasia rates. Kathy wondered what could be done to improve the odds for these cats and quickly determined that the only solution was to take away the option of euthanasia completely.
Before long, Kathy was accepting stray cats at her home in Brier. Her name spread even further after cat lovers heard about her “no-kill policy.” Cats started coming in by the hundreds. By 1992, Kathy was taking in up to 500 stray and unwanted cats annually and placing them up for adoption. In need of more space than Brier could accommodate, she began looking for a new home for Purrfect Pals.
Kathy had never run a shelter and the only thing she had less of than money was fundraising experience. Determined to open the northwest’s first no-kill shelter and sanctuary, though, she somehow managed to scrape together the down payment for a modest house on five acres in rural Snohomish County. Kathy saw the property’s unlimited potential, which would allow Purrfect Pals to expand and save more cats. Room by room, the house was renovated over the years, along with its two unattached garages, to create our existing shelter, veterinary clinic and sanctuaries.
For over twenty years, Kathy worked the overnight shift in a Seattle call center so she would be available during the day to scoop litter, drive cats to veterinary appointments and meet with potential adopters. She happily volunteered to work overtime whenever it was offered in order to earn more money for the cats at Purrfect Pals.
Over twenty-five years later, Purrfect Pals has grown into an organization that adopts out 2000 cats and kittens each year and provides free spay and neuter surgeries for 1000 more. What was started by one determined cat lover has evolved into a team of more than one dozen employees and seven hundred volunteers and foster parents!
As the Purrfect Pals team looks back at our first twenty-five years, we realize just how far our community has come since Kathy Centala first started her mission of helping homeless cats. Now retired, Kathy remains the heart and soul of Purrfect Pals. She lives in a small bedroom at the shelter, which she shares with ten special needs cats, and continues to write hand-written thank you cards for each and every donation we receive.
Today, the Puget Sound region is home to several no-kill shelters, TNR programs and low-cost spay and neuter clinics. Cats and kittens are being spayed and neutered before being adopted, something that was rare in shelters in 1988. Municipal and public open-admission shelters are partnering with non-profit rescue groups and that collaboration is helping lower euthanasia rates in Western Washington.
We still have plenty of work to do, though, as we look ahead at the next twenty-five years. Shelters are still overcrowded and euthanasia rates are lower but still too high.
Purrfect Pals has recently been working to identify how, in addition to taking in homeless cats, we can put an end to cat homelessness by helping keep cats in their homes and preventing unwanted litters of kittens. Economic challenges continue for cat owners in Puget Sound communities and cats are being surrendered to shelters every day as a result.
We now provide free spay and neuter vouchers for cats (and kittens) whose owners are unable to afford even the low-cost clinics available in our community. We also provide a cat food bank for low-income cat owners and the caretakers of free-roaming and feral cats.
In 2013, Purrfect Pals created our “Angel Fund” which is now used to pay for medical care for cats whose owners are facing financial hardship. Many of these cat lovers would otherwise be forced to choose between giving up their cat to a shelter or rescue group or, even worse, humanely euthanizing them.
Next we will be developing a program which will assist the owners of cats who are at risk for being rehomed because of behavioral challenges. Our hope is that Purrfect Pals will be able to reduce the number of cats being surrendered unnecessarily.
We are so proud of all that has been accomplished during the past 25+ years thanks to the support of cat lovers in our community like YOU. We are even more excited to see what we can accomplish in the next twenty-five!
We believe it is time for our Purrfect Pals to dream big and expand our shelter with Patty’s House, a brand new two-story, 4000 sq ft building. This expansion of our facility will allow us to increase our capacity, improve services and provide even better care for the cats in our community and their families.