It’s all about the cats at PAWS
By Cathy Welch
On Messick Road is a fenced-in, three-acre property that once belonged to Barbara Holloway.
“She started this,” volunteer Kelly Holloway said. “When she was close to passing away, Karen Ayers, Lori Cawley and Shirley Myers are the ones who took over.”
Cawley worked with Myers before Poquoson Animal Welfare Sanctuary (PAWS) came together in 2013. Myers was feeding feral cat colonies, and Barbara Holloway fed and cared for several feral colonies herself.
Cawley and Ayers visited an endangered feral cat colony located at the marina on Rens Road in order to befriend the animals, trap and relocate them.
“Every night we visited the kitties, we talked about how the community needed a solution for this problem,” Cawley explains.
There was one cat they were sorry to leave behind.
“We called her Marina,” Cawley, who lives in Maryland now, said. “She is 15 years old now, and I still feed her when I come to town.”
“We feel this is not an animal problem,” Cawley said. “It’s a people problem because of humans discarding their animals and not being responsible to get them to proper facilities.”
Feral animals are trying to survive and doing what they can. The community feeding of feral colonies helps to corral the kitties, keeps them fed and from going astray.
Holloway was sick and wanted to make a difference. She outlived her prognosis by 13 years because she had a purpose to feed and care for animals daily. The beginnings of Poquoson Animal Welfare Sanctuary came about at the right time.
“I think Miss Barbara realized we were all coming together and shared her vision,” Cawley said of her passing a short time later.
Some of Holloway’s original cats are on the property at PAWS.
Started with 12 cats on Holloway’s property she donated to the rescue, today there are more than 130. The rescue began with four volunteers and today is run with 72 volunteers.
Holloway does marketing and fundraising, coordinates fosters and events, such as their Kitten Shower in February at Bean’s Ice Cream Shop in Poquoson. They will be collecting formula, special kitten litter, baby bottles, wet wipes and more. Their largest event is “Taco Cat Spelled Backwards is Taco Cat” in March at St. George’s Brewery in Hampton. They will have a DJ, food trucks, 60 vendors and other rescues participating.
PAWS works with anyone who needs their cat spayed or neutered. They have facilitated more than 1,500 procedures.
“We spend $1200 a month on cat food between our cats, 10 colonies and helping people that can’t afford to feed their own cats,” Holloway explains.
In the last two months, they’ve done 36 adoptions. The kittens are all in foster homes.
At the rescue itself, the cats are more elderly or have other challenges.
“Like Bob with no tail, which was burnt with a chemical,” Holloway said. “He’s been healing here for six years.”
PAWS needs volunteers to work at the sanctuary and do events. They rely solely on monetary and perishable donations (food, laundry detergent, trash bags, litter and more). They also need more fosters.
“When we started, we were allowed to have 20 cats at the rescue, and now we have over 100,” Holloway said. “We can’t take any more in right now.”
Holloway said people getting a “free” kitten from the rescue should realize it is not free.
“You’re looking at an easy $400 to $500 to spay/neuter, vaccinate and have to buy supplies,” Holloway said. “If you go through a rescue like us, the SPCA or Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter, your animal is already vaccinated, vetted and microchipped for a low cost.”
One invaluable PAWS volunteer is Jim Robach.
“These are all my friends and I love it here,” he said. “I give vaccinations, go trapping, transfer cages, do yard work and maintenance.”
“We have a wonderful, committed group of volunteers and all of the cats are like our own pets,” Cawley said. “They’re family and we love them.”
181 Messick Road, Poquoson