Seven years ago, Jacquie Navratil was serving on the board of directors of an animal rescue organization in her Los Angeles neighborhood when she realized something: There were so many cats that needed help — but there were also many community members who wanted to help but didn’t know how to get started.
“I noticed people would bring in cats and kittens,” Jacquie says. “They were never asked where the kittens came from, if there was a mother cat who needed to be fixed and not educated about how critical spay/neuter is. I also noticed many people couldn’t adopt or foster but still wanted to help. Many didn’t have wealth to donate, but they did have a little spare time.”
With that in mind, she and a small group of volunteers decided to set about making a difference. And thus, in 2012, Luxe Paws was born.
A different approach
Serving the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Los Feliz, East Hollywood, Silver Lake, Echo Park and Highland Park, Luxe Cats provides trap-neuter- return (TNR) for community cats and enlists the aid of volunteers in those neighborhoods through their outreach efforts.
“LA is home to an estimated 3 million homeless cats and just under 5 million people, which means every neighborhood has cats that need to be fixed,” Jacquie says.
Jacquie points out that many people have demanding careers and busy personal lives and might not have a lot of time to help — but they want to make a difference.
“By setting up a model in which people can do outreach to determine where the cats are, donate a few hours in the evening to help trap cats or volunteer to transport trapped cats to and from a spay/neuter clinic, it’s a big impact with a low investment of time,” she says.
The area Luxe Paws serves is a study in contrasts. Some neighborhoods are filled with multi-million dollar homes owned by big-name celebrities, while some are very low-income, and a few are even dangerous, such as around Dodger Stadium, where coyotes prowl the streets and alleys looking for food — which can come in the form of unlucky outdoor cats.
“Pet cats and teenage kittens are an easy meal for a coyote, so they’re naturally going to be drawn into backyards if there’s an easy food source,” Jacquie says. “Humans and coyotes aren’t a good mix, so by stabilizing the homeless cat population, we’re discouraging coyotes from lingering in our backyards.”
One of the most important parts of successful TNR operations is getting buy-in from the community. Luxe Paws always gets permission from property owners or caregivers before they trap and fix cats. “Most people are overjoyed to know there’s help,” Jacquie says. “The greatest thing about a neighborhood-based approach is that it connects you with your neighbors for a lifesaving cause.”
In addition to its TNR efforts, Luxe Paws works to foster and socialize pet cats and kittens found on the streets. “Easily 90 percent or more of LA’s rescues will only pull cats from shelters; they won’t take cats or kittens from the street,” Jacquie explains. “This means we have no outlet for the cats we find. Luckily, we’ve nurtured a small foster network” — not to mention partnerships with neighborhood businesses. Those partnerships allow Luxe Paws to conduct outreach events to promote its TNR work and host “adoption mingles” for cats socialized in Luxe Paws’ foster homes.
The results speak for themselves.
“Our first year, we fixed 67 cats,” Jacquie says. “In 2018, we fixed 914, and in just the first 12 weeks of 2019, our team has fixed 237. We could do more; however, we’re limited by
available spay/neuter appointments.”
Luxe Paws uses FixNation, the only spay/neuter service provider in Los Angeles that fixes trapped cats for free.
“We sincerely hope, as TNR grows in popularity, the public will help support people who trap and fix cats by funding free, easy spay/neuter operations,” Jacquie says. “People sincerely want to help, but they can’t unless there’s a service provider ready to fix the cats.”
Luxe Paws gets its funding from individual supporters who donate what they can and businesses that want to help support TNR.
“We front money from our own paychecks, we do bake sales and community events,” Jacquie says. “We list every penny we spend, and when the public sees how many lives we’re impacting every year, most are happy to skip Starbucks and throw in a few bucks to help.”
Luxe Paws is working on becoming a nonprofit organization. Once it’s established, Jacquie hopes Luxe Paws will be able to nurture a collaborative effort to support small TNR teams across the city.
Ultimately, Jacquie says, “LA doesn’t need more nonprofits; it needs a more impact-driven model to support people who want to invest their time into supporting spay/neuter.
“To anyone who’s considering adoption, please seek out a rescue that’s TNR-focused,” she concludes. “Even if they’re not a nonprofit, a couple of cat lovers fixing cats is just as needy, and they’re out there in the trenches saving lives.”