Friday, November 20, 2009

Good Causes For The Holidays: PAWS Chicago

Since Thanksgiving is almost upon us and Christmas is right around the corner, it occurred to me that I'd like to highlight some of my favorite causes for the holidays. This is partly for my own benefit: I'll have all of these links saved on my blog for some day when I have more funds and can become a fat-cat contributor.

But in the meantime, I can spread the word a little about them to you, my lovely readers.

And, you know, donations to good causes make nice Chrismukkah (the name of the season at my Catholic workplace filled with Jewish attorneys) gifts for those who have everything already.

So, the first Good Cause I want to highlight is the source of our little kitty, Corina:

Corina, the week we brought her home.
She was so little!

Corina is one of the most sociable cats I've met in my life. As long as someone is in our apartment, she's purring. She tolerates being held, but mostly enjoys curling up nearby if you're, say, typing on a laptop on the couch. She even travels well: When we go to my in-laws' house, we take her with us in her kitty carrier. She only meows if she falls asleep in the car and wakes up a while later, disoriented. Which is cute.

We found Corina at PAWS Chicago, a charity that already boasts a long list of famous supporters (including Oprah!). One distinguishing factor of PAWS is that it's a no-kill shelter: when they accept a dog or cat, they will keep it as long as it takes to adopt that pet out. On the cat side of the shelter (called "Kitty City", as opposed to "Dog Town"), that means they have a room for senior cats - older kitties who became homeless later in life for whatever reason. It's comforting to know those adult cats aren't going to be euthanized, and of course sometimes people are looking for a calmer, grown-up cat to adopt.

Corina was the oldest kitty in the kitten room, at roughly 9 months old, and she stood out among the playful fur-balls as a diplomatic little lady. She walked right up to my husband as soon as we entered the room, and sniffed his face. The tactic worked: he was smitten. I got distracted by a couple of other kittens for a moment, but we kept coming back to her.

The volunteer in the kitten room confided that, if her husband would have let her bring another cat home, it would have been Corina. The volunteer seemed thrilled that we saw what she saw: a sweet companion.

An hour of waiting (some of it at the pet supply shop across the street - we were excited to look at cat toys for OUR cat!) and a pile of paperwork later, we were ready to take Corina home. I rode in the back seat with her while the hubs drove. Though she made no sound, Corina reached her paw out through the front grate of the cat carrier and touched my leg. It made me feel like we made the best decision possible.

If you're familiar with cats, you know that they generally act skittish in a new place. It's common for a cat to dart under a couch or something while she gets her bearings: new smells and sounds can feel pretty threatening. We don't know if it's a toughness developed during her life on the streets or what, but Corina didn't do this at all. When we let her out of her carrier into her new home, she walked the length of the apartment, sniffing everything, then did it again. No hiding, no slinking around, no hissing. Within roughly half an hour, she had found her litter pan, food dish, water, and scratchy pole, and she seemed to have declared the place - and the people in it - hers.

That was in March. She's since filled out and grown up, but she hasn't lost any of her sweetness.

If you're thinking of getting a pet or contributing to an animal welfare group, I'd encourage you to check out a no-kill shelter. The PAWS folks like to say that adopting a pet from a no-kill shelter saves two pets: the one you bring home and the one you open a space for. I'm grateful for the people I'll probably never meet who found homeless little Corina somewhere in Chicago, to the vets who gave her medical care when she was a sick little kitten, to the donors who funded that care, and to whoever adopted the cat whose open space in the shelter was filled by our kitty.

Thanks to all of them, we have a goofy, healthy, purring housemate who is helping me look forward to winter break even more than I usually do. What better way to spend a cold evening than with a good book, a warm drink, and a purring kitty by your side?

Together at my in-laws' house this summer.
She's a master relaxer.

Not much. But helping other homeless pets can feel just about as nice.


  1. My friends got their dog from PAWS Chicago. They love that place! AND - the got to be on Oprah with their dog because Oprah loves PAWS too!


Be nice, now.