Earlier this summer, a woman rented a moving truck to relocate from Las Vegas to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Sounds like a normal thing to do, right? Unfortunately, the woman had one major problem: In addition to furniture, she had filled the back of her truck with cats and dogs. When she arrived in Hot Springs, her living situation had fallen through, and she had to figure out what to do with the animals.
The state authorities got involved, discovering caged cats and dogs caked in their own urine and feces. The back of the truck had no ventilation, and the temperature had risen to 118 degrees. When authorities asked the woman what she was doing with the animals, she said she was “rescuing them.” In actuality, their condition was deplorable. They needed real rescuing fast.
That’s where Guardian Angels Cat Rescue stepped in. The Hot Springs-based no-kill shelter has been rescuing unwanted cats for 14 years – and in this case, it took in the polydactyl cats found in the truck when no one else would. After warm baths, food, water, and a clean place to sleep, the cats recovered from their traumatic journey, and eventually each one was adopted.
“You’re glad you’re there helping, but you look at that woman and think – what if we weren’t here?” says longtime Guardian Angels volunteer Linda Beall. “We have a tough time getting volunteers and donations, but we’re one of the first places people come when they need help.”
Many people call on Guardian Angels Cat Rescue because they’re one of the only cat shelters in town. It was this need that inspired the shelter’s founders, who got started by meeting for coffee each morning and picking up stray cats. They did their best to help, but the number of cats who needed help was daunting, and resources were limited.
“They had a lot of cats because the women’s hearts were very big,” Beall says. “At one time they had 300 cats in a very small building, and publicity was bad – but there was no other help in town. The pound would give them a few days and put them down.”
Today, Guardian Angels Cat Rescue houses roughly 135 cats at a time and adopts out approximately 250 each year. A nonprofit organization, it relys entirely on volunteers to run the shelter, and all monetary support comes from donations and revenue from the shelter’s adjoining thrift store.
Unfortunately, this fall Guardian Angels has to move out of its “dream location” into a new facility. Any additional expenses are challenging considering the shelter’s vet bills alone can top $4,000 a month.
For Guardian Angels to continue rehabilitating and rehoming cats in need, Beall says more volunteer assistance is needed. The shelter is looking for carpenters to help build cat-friendly rooms in the new space, as well as anyone willing to come in, clean up, and spend a little time loving on the kitties.
“It’s not just about feeding them and giving them water and a clean litter box,” she says. “It’s about taking the time to acknowledge each cat. Human interaction keeps them going. If they don’t have that interaction, we have seen – especially the shy cats – they will just wither away. We give them love, and it’s amazing how they’ll come back around. People think cats are standoffish pets, but that’s not true. People who say that need to come to the shelter and see what cats are really like. They will swarm you wanting that love.”
Beall has seen amazing things happen when cats get a little love. When one black-and-white cat came to the shelter with an injured front leg that required amputation, it was difficult to know where to place her after the surgery. Guardian Angels Cat Rescue features open cat rooms instead of cages that allow kitties to roam free — unless, of course, the animal is sick or injured.
To allow this kitty to recover from her surgery, she remained caged — but she also needed to relearn how to walk, which is even more difficult after a front-leg amputation. Compounding the problem, this particular cat was unusually shy. When she did come out of her cage, she spent most of her time curled up in the litter box.
Amazingly, after Beall called a veterinarian friend of hers who was experienced at fostering and rehabilitating animals, the cat blossomed within only a few days – and almost immediately, Beall’s veterinarian friend decided to adopt her.
“Within a few days, that cat didn’t know she was missing a leg,” Beall says. “She had that cat walking up a cat tree and chasing toys. These animals aren’t asking for anything but love – and that’s what working down there is all about.”
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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.