Even though construction has begun on the Nine Lives Foundation’s new Redwood City cat shelter, the day the organization’s staff are able to move in couldn’t come soon enough.
With about 100 cats being treated or awaiting adoption, and dozens more arriving to the clinic each day, the foundation’s 1,500-square-foot clinic at 3137 Jefferson Ave. has served a dual purpose for the foundation since it shut the doors of its former shelter location in May.
Dr. Monica Rudiger, a veterinarian who founded the nonprofit in 2004, has been hard at work raising the funds needed to make improvements to the new space since she received the news months ago of a rent hike at the organization’s former shelter location, where the organization housed some 400 cats.
She has been encouraged by the response to the campaign to raise funds for construction of the the new shelter at at 3106 Rolison Road, as well as other social media campaigns dedicated to bringing attention to the cats her organization has available for adoption. Having raised more than $100,000 from some 1,500 donors and counting, Rudiger’s organization has received the boost it needed to begin renovations on its new shelter facility, less than a block away from its old location.
“It becomes a community effort,” she said. “It becomes a way to let the community help.”
As a no-kill facility, Rudiger’s foundation is unique in that it provides treatment and adoption services for cats slated to be put down at other shelters. She said treatable conditions like ringworm and small behavioral quirks are enough to put cats on euthanasia lists, so many of the felines Rudiger and her staff see at Nine Lives come from area shelters.
“To be a shelter animal, you have to be perfect in every way,” she said.
Rudiger said many shelters inundated with unwanted cats feel pressure to put cats with treatable conditions down. Having worked at such a shelter in the past, Rudiger was motivated to help the felines she felt were most in need of care and could, with treatment, find a happy home. Though she makes a few rare exceptions, Rudiger said she prioritizes at-risk cats over those someone decided they didn’t want or can’t take care of anymore.
Aside from shelters, Nine Lives receives cats from people with large outdoor properties that have feral cat colonies and those found injured or in danger in parking lots or backyards.
“These are the cats that really don’t have anywhere else to go,” she said. “We just can’t take the cats that someone is tired of.”
Though adoption may be one of Rudiger’s end goals, she is very focused on making sure every cat that Nine Lives works with is spayed or neutered. Having seen thousands of cats come through the doors of her organization, Rudiger believes controlling the stray and feral cat population is one of the best ways to address the bigger issue at hand.
“We do thousands of surgeries and I feel like it doesn’t make a dent,” she said.
She estimates she performs 5,000 to 7,000 spay and neutering surgeries each year both for cats that her organization eventually puts up for adoption and for others that owners bring in to the clinic. At $40 for neutering surgeries and $60 for spay surgeries, Rudiger said her nonprofit charges far less than the average clinic, which could charge $400 to $500 for the same procedures.
She said the stray cat population has grown in recent years, a trend she attributes to the rising cost of living in the Bay Area. She said some are choosing to forgo spay and neutering surgeries and letting their cats go to cut down on expenses.
“A lot of people don’t understand the magnitude of their decisions when they decide to let a cat outside,” she said.
Rudiger is looking forward to giving many of the cats temporarily housed at the clinic a new home when the new shelter opens in what she hopes will be late October. She estimates 150 to 200 cats will be able to stay at the new space, which will feature playrooms where potential owners can play with the cats before they meet their new pets. Though the 1,750-square-foot new shelter will be smaller than the space that closed in May, Rudiger is hopeful that with lower overhead costs and new facilities that will increase the cats’ comfort, the organization will be able to match just as many if not more cats with their new homes or those willing to foster them.
Though Nine Lives has raised the funds needed to begin construction on its new shelter, Rudiger is hoping those who gave and others who learn about the shelter will consider making a recurring donation of $9 a month to support ongoing operation costs, which will help her hire a new veterinarian and two to three other staff members to operate the new facility.
After years of helping cats that wouldn’t otherwise have a second chance at life find homes, Rudiger said she feels very fortunate to do the work she does.
“Where else could I save a life every day?” she asked.
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