- Courtesy Wild Blue Cats
- Gillian Carter makes a friend at a WBC school event.
Envision 1,750 cats at large across the county, with no homes, having kittens, starving.
Thanks to Wild Blue Cats, that same number of felines found shelter and food at the nonprofit's Black Forest-area refuge, which also neuters or spays and provides veterinary care. And the numbers keep growing.
Director of Development Michelle Burkhart says they took in 490 cats two years ago, 570 in 2017, and so far this year, 690. WBC boasts an adoption rate of 90 percent and has euthanized only 40 cats, for health reasons, in its 10-year history.
Originally dubbed Wild Blue Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, the organization scaled back to cats-only within a year, after determining kitties were more underserved than other animals in the immediate area, Burkhart says.
"We focus on those cats that are critical-care cases that a lot of other shelters can't or don't have resources to handle — elderly cats that need diabetic treatment or bottle babies who are orphaned," she says.
The agency also welcomes behavioral cases, such as biters or those that "have problems urinating in the home." If volunteers and the nonprofit's two paid staffers can't fix an issue, the cats become lifetime sanctuary residents.
"We try to help the kitties at risk in our community and beyond," says Lauri Cross, an Air Force Academy grad who founded the organization, which now counts 200 volunteers. "If we don't take them, something bad will happen. They could die in the street. They could die in the shelter."
At the time of our October chat, Burkhart reported 35 living at the sanctuary, plus 25 in the "feral enclosure," from which rural folk often adopt barn cats to keep rodents in check. WBC referred another 125 cats to foster homes. "We provide basic medicine like eyedrops, antibiotics, litter, a litter box," Burkhart says. "All the foster family provides is love and a safe place for kitties."
Every Saturday, WBC attends adoption fairs: first and third Saturdays at Citadel Crossing's PetSmart; second and fourth Saturdays at the Prominent Point Petco; or visit their sanctuary. Normal adoption fees run from $75 to $95 and include spay or neutering, a microchip, and up-to-date vaccines.
Burkhart never envisioned herself as a kitten rescuer, and came to the nonprofit some years back when her daughter was scouting for volunteer work to fulfill requirements for membership in the National Honor Society. "We've always been a cat-loving family," she says, so they chose WBC.
Even as just a part-time employee, Burkhart writes grant applications to keep the doors open, and she manages the foster program.
Besides finding homes for feline friends, WBC joins with other nonprofits, including Happy Cats Haven and the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region to trap and neuter feral cats, called "catch, neuter and release (CNR)."
"We are getting the population under control," says Burkhart, adding that WBC helped with a CNR operation in Pueblo in August that spayed and neutered 60 cats, 51 of which came to live at WBC.
Cross urges anyone who wants to adopt a kitten or cat, or bring at-risk kitties to the shelter, to call 719/900-CATS. The sanctuary generally withholds its address to prevent dumping of animals. As I was speaking with Cross for this article, she reported someone had just recently left a cat in a box at their gate. "It was freezing cold outside."