Helping Paws Animal Sanctuary currently has 150 cats up for adoption.
Maunie Miszewski, CEO of the sanctuary, which is located in the Industrial Park on Pine Island, recently celebrated her two-year anniversary of opening the sanctuary.
"I am proud of what I have done, but so much more to accomplish," she said. "I always want to do more."
After she was let go from her job a few years back she decided to take everything she had in her life's savings and began the sanctuary. One of the reasons behind opening the sanctuary was her frustration with all the shelters in the area being full, along with the inability to return phone calls.
Customer service is very important to Miszewski due to her experience. She said she always returns phone calls and explains if she cannot do something.
Kermit, who was the first kitty of the sanctuary, passed not too long ago due to liver failure.
Miszewski said Kermit greeted every cat that came into the sanctuary after him.
The sanctuary grew at a steady pace after the word got out around the island.
"The need was so great, now I am at the point where we need to stop," she said about accepting more cats.
She is comfortable with having 150 cats at the sanctuary because of the space she has. Miszewski said she can only take on as many cats as she can afford.
"It depends on community support," she said of how many more she can accept.
There are monthly and one-year contributions individuals can make to the sanctuary to help Miszewski keep things running smoothly.
There are six different rooms, along with a kitten and leukemia room, for the cats that call the sanctuary their home. Some cats have free roaming rights of the sanctuary and lay in a certain bed that grabs their attention.
"I think with the heart and deal with it that way," Miszewski said of taking care of the cats. "I think from their perspective and what makes them happy."
That perspective was abundant all throughout the sanctuary due to each room having its own television for the cats' enjoyment, along with a water fountain for clean drinking water. Shelves and cat perches also graced the room giving the cats different levels to sit on. Numerous litter boxes and bowls of food were also abundant in each room.
"We are just not trying to find them a home, but give them a home until they are lucky to be adopted," Miszewski said.
She said the goes through 16 pounds of dry food a day and 12 cans of wet food each day. Although she is not sure of how much cat litter she goes through each week, she knows it is a lot.
The cats that are dropped off at the sanctuary have to be up-to-date on their shots to be accepted. She said when people adopt a cat they expect them to be in good shape and ready to go.
Although shots are required, Miszewski said she maintains everything throughout their stay at the sanctuary until they are adopted.
In addition, she also asks for a donation when the cat is dropped off at the sanctuary, so she can maintain the cat's needs.
There are a lot of special needs cats that are at the sanctuary, along with rescues from other shelters that were going to be euthanized.
"I swoop in and give them a second chance," Miszewski said.
Older cats are also among the population at the sanctuary due to the owner surrendering them. She said the cats undergo stress within the first two months of their stay at the sanctuary because they miss their owner.
Individuals are encouraged to plan ahead in terms of what is going to happen to their cat when they pass away, Miszewski said. She said she encourages individuals to make arrangements ahead of time.
There are also approximately 40-50 cats that have leukemia or AIDS. She said the other shelters pay her to take the cats.
Cats are currently $60 to adopt, with a buy-one, get-one free deal at the sanctuary. The hours to visit the cats are from 4-6:30 p.m. seven days a week.
Miszewski said she tries to keep in touch with everyone who adopted a cat from the sanctuary.
"They are still my kids even if someone else has them," she said.
Miszewski said she is looking for someone who wants to help the sanctuary with hosting fund-raisers, so they can build another room for the cats.
"We need someone who can focus on that," she said.
Foster parents and volunteers are also being sought for Helping Paws Animal Sanctuary. The sanctuary would also benefit from the donation of land, Miszewski said, so she can provide a house for the feral kitties.
She said when she cannot provide something that the cats want, it drives her crazy.
For information visit www.helpingpawsanimalsanctuary.com or call 239-283-9100. The sanctuary is located at 10060 Mallory E. Parkway, Unit D, in St. James City.