Archive for July, 2011

Interview with Pat Smyklo of Hungry Kitty in Oakland, CA

While I’ve recently covered the activities of feral cat trappers and feeders here in the Seattle area, I received word about a group working on feeding Seattle’s California feline cousins.  Below is an interview with Director Pat Smyklo about Hungry Kitty, a non-profit group feeding and fixing ferals in the heart of Oakland, CA.

Sniffing Out Home (SOH):  When was Hungry Kitty founded?

Smyklo:  I have been taking cats in to be fixed since 1980 when I moved into my flatland Fruitvale home. As important as it is to feed cats, it is important to fix them too. So, fixing them has always been a top priority. My neighborhood was overrun with sickly cats and kittens when I first moved in, and I am glad to say that there have been no new litters of kittens born in my neighborhood for over twenty-five years.

I got the nonprofit status a few years ago and then met up with another cat person that I had known in the past. She was feeding some colonies of cats, and I began helping her. Soon, we were feeding about one hundred and fifty cats a night. The needs of the nonprofit just exploded. So, I bought the food out of my own income and posted for donations too. Getting cat food donations is just very difficult. Some stores break dog food bags very often but it is not as common to break cat food bags. So, it is easier to get dog food than cat food.

When we find new cats they often are very thin, some on the brink of starvation. When you drive late at night in Oakland or any urban area, you just keep running across cats and kittens. A few days ago, I saw a four-month-old kitten scrounging for food in a doorway of a store. I caught him, and it turned out he was more tame than feral —  and so very grateful to be eating. The next day, he just got up and ate and then went back to sleep, a contented kitten. He was very thin but is recovering nicely.

SOH:  Do you work with other groups?

Smyklo: I have mainly worked with Fix Our Ferals for years and also know many of the cat rescue groups in Oakland. Often there is a good relationship between the groups.

We got some support recently for our spay and neuter efforts through two feral cat groups and we hope that support will continue for at least a few months more. We also go to Fix Our Ferals’ clinic every other month. We take in 4 to 6 cats every week to be spayed or neutered.

We don’t do adoptions though we do have a good relationship with the Oakland Animal Shelter, recently praised for being one of the most improved shelters in the country. They take in cats or kittens from us and find them in homes. If some cats or kittens don’t thrive in the shelter environment then we come back to get them.

SOH:   How many volunteers work with Hungry Kitty?

We have four board members and three trappers. We do get a lot done for such a small group. We do work with other groups on spay and neuter projects and come to the aid of each other.

SOH:  What kind of donations does Hungry Kitty need more of?
Smyklo:The big need is to buy cat food. We have had a few larger donations but now are in great need of food. We go through four 16 lb bags of cat food a night and some canned cat food. The cats wait for us by the curb, and they know very quickly the sound of the engine of my car. One colony of cats starts running down the whole length of the street, crisscrossing in front of me.


I feed late night/early morning to avoid some of the traffic. Though we know that cat food that contains corn isn’t the best cat food, we do use Friskies, Purina, 9 lives whichever are on sale and we use coupons that people send us. We sometimes go to Costco for their Maintenance Adult cat food where a 25 pound bag of cat food sells for $17. That is a better quality cat food. We look for bargains as we spend one hundred percent of every donation on buying cat food. There is no overhead. And of course, there is no salary, as this is a grassroots effort.

We have an account at the vet’s when one of the cats that we bring in to be altered has medical problems. We have very few resources to pay for things like that but somehow we have managed so far.
Occasionally, a feral cat group will help us pay for a particularly sick cat. One cat that couldn’t be saved was ten years old and pregnant again. The cat was jaundiced, had a mouth full of rotted teeth and had a terrible blood workup. That cat’s name was Queeny and we had so looked forward to letting her senior years be free of having kittens. That was a very sad day for us to have her euthanized but the vet said that no amount of money spent on her could save her as she was old and very sick. We could use some donations to pay for the occasional very ill cat.

SOH:  How can people bring you food for the cats?

Smyklo: We can go to people’s houses or meet them at a nearby pet store if they have donations for us. Or sometimes people prefer to leave the food on a protected porch and we just go by to pick up the cat food.

SOH:  You mentioned you just spayed your hundredth cat.

Smyklo:  Yes, we did just take in our hundredth cat to be spayed.  We feed cats from Lake Merritt area, Chinatown, from fifth ave. to 105th Ave, that is a lot of territory to cover.

HUNGRY KITTY is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit charitable corporation.  To learn more or donate to Hungry Kitty, got to


Comments (1) »

Which came first, pet stores or pet insurance?

This wonderful letter/blog was recently brought to my attention.

Kathy Powelson, of the Paws for Hope Foundation, writes here about the trend in animal welfare in North America.   Here is some background on this post linked below. Please check it out.

On June 29th, Kim Pemberton [(Vancouver Sun columnist)] wrote, as part of her series, a story on the pros and cons of pet insurance.  In response to the article, I wrote the following [blog].

Leave a comment »

Maddie’s Fund supports no-kill movement with hard data

Following is a news release from Maddie’s Fund:


Intake, adoption, and euthanasia numbers from 474 animal shelters and 56 communities reveal status, trends and progress of US animal sheltering

(Alameda, CA-July, 2011). For the first time in animal sheltering history, reliable data from a large sampling of shelters and communities across the United States has been compiled into a single, searchable database. The Maddie’s Fund Database provides two years of intake, adoption and euthanasia statistics from 474 shelters and 56 communities using Asilomar Accords reporting methods and formulas.  The database allows lifesaving to be measured within a community and to be compared to others. Search categories include geographic region, median income, size of human population, total intake, total adoptions, total euthanasia, live release rate, and deaths per 1000.

Data of this kind has never before been available, leaving elected officials, shelter managers, universities, statisticians, investigative reporters, contributors and animal loving citizens in the dark about how well their community is doing in its lifesaving work and how it stacks up against other communities of comparable populations (human and animal).

“I can’t overstate the importance of this information,” says Maddie’s Fund President, Rich Avanzino. “Without hard numbers, it’s impossible to know where we’ve been, where we are at and where we are going. Maddie’s® Database not only gives us a handle on this, but also inspires communities that are below the norm to catch up with the lifesaving gains being made in progressive communities, and gives them the information they need to convince their elected officials, donors and community members to get on board and help them move forward.”

Information for the database was submitted by Maddie’s community collaborative project participants, special giving grantees and Maddie’s® Community Shelter Data Grant recipients who were given $10,000 to $40,000 to provide statistics for two previous years and three years going forward. All data has been carefully reviewed by Maddie’s Fund staff.

About Maddie’s Fund

Maddie’s Fund®, The Pet Rescue Foundation, ( is a family foundation which is funded by the founder of Workday and PeopleSoft, Dave Duffield and his wife, Cheryl. Maddie’s Fund is helping to create a no-kill nation where all healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats are guaranteed a loving home.  Maddie’s Fund is named after the family’s beloved Miniature Schnauzer who passed away in 1997.

Leave a comment »

City Living – AMONG THE ANIMALS: Two Projects on lookout for free-roaming, feral cats

Mom and kitten observing a humane trap (Alley Cat Project photo)

Originally printed in City Living
Pacific Publishing Company
By Christie Lagally

What we need is a neighborhood watch…for cats.

It wouldn’t be a typical neighborhood watch, of course, but the benefits would be similarly favorable. What if you kept your eye out for stray or feral cats in your neck of the woods and made a quick call if you saw one?

That is the hope of Kate Rich, cofounder of the Alley Cat Project in Seattle. Rich and her colleagues have a mission: to trap, spay or neuter, and return every feral or free-roaming cat in Seattle. In 2011 alone, they’ve already assisted more than 180 cats, and they are called upon by the public almost daily to deal with colonies of cats and pregnant or nursing mothers.

“These are the calls we like to get,” Rich said, referring to calls from keen residents who notice a mother cat. “If we can take care of the mother and babies now, it doesn’t turn into a bigger problem, like a colony of cats.”

Removing barriers

Clearly a pragmatist when it comes to animal-welfare issues, Rich and five other volunteers started the Alley Cat Project in 2008. While there are many not-for-profit groups providing trap-neuter/spay-return (TNR), Alley Cat Project focuses on just the city of Seattle so as not to burden their volunteers with long-distance driving out of the city. Rich said it’s more efficient to work within an area where you live, and other groups do the same.

TNR is a free-roaming-cat management technique that involves trapping feral and stray, but tame, cats and sometimes entire colonies of cats; spaying or neutering them; and ultimately returning the cats to their site of origin.

Prep table at the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project.

While the Alley Cat Project takes care of the trap-and-return part, Rich and her colleagues turn to the Feral Cat Spay Neuter Project (FCSNP) in Lynnwood to spay or neuter the cats. FSCNP are focused on providing low-cost and no-cost spay/neuter services to humane trappers, nonprofits and the general public. “It’s all about removing the barriers to spay/neuter,” said FCSNP executive director Lauren Glickman. “We are a tiny organization with huge results.”

That’s an understatement, I thought as I toured the animal clinic on a beautiful Sunday morning in June. I was nearly overwhelmed by the speed, care and diligence with which every cat was fixed. In fact, this tight operation has fixed more than 66,000 cats since its inception in 1997 and continues at a rate of 200-plus cats per week.

Starting at home
While FCSNP was originally founded to spay/neuter the multitude of feral and freeroaming cats in the Greater Puget Sound area, currently, around 60 percent of the animals brought to the facility are owned cats. The requested donation from the public is just $25 for females and $15 for males.

Veterinarian at the FCSNP

This price point makes sterilization possible for any cat owner, and the shift to serve the public more frequently is a testimony to FCSNP’s success: The more the organization can reach out to cat owners to spay/neuter, the fewer feral cats are born onto the streets. As for the neighborhood watch, Rich said that cat colonies usually aggregate around a single food source: either waste food in a dumpster or compassionate individuals saving cats from starvation. But without population control, feeding freeroaming cats turns into feeding a colony of cats in a very short time. These cats have become feral because someone didn’t heed the call to fix their cat.

To learn more about the Alley Cat Project and the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project, visit their websites at and Donations can be made to either group through their websites. FCSNP maintains an Amazon wish list, an easy way to purchase specific items required for the spay/neuter clinics. The Alley Cat Project can use donations of clean towels and canned cat food. Most of all, they advise that owners make sure their cat is spayed or neutered.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance pet columnist who manages the website Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions at

(C) Pacific Publishing Company

Comments (1) »

Vancouver Sun highlights puppy issues

I’ve always enjoyed the “Puppy Love” column by Kim Pemberton in the Vancouver Sun.  Here is a great article — part of a series — about the better option to ‘adopt don’t shop’. See here.

Comments (1) »

‘Sniffing Out Home’ now has a permanant home!

This is an exciting post for me, because it’s the announcement of the new ‘Sniffing Out Home‘ website!  Up until now, I managed my blog, called “Sniffing Out Home:  A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions”, as well as the resource page for the Animal Welfare Advocacy Coalition (AWAC) from  site at ‘’.  This location was worked well for our advocacy efforts and to help people access information about where to go and how to help animals in their community and country.  But, alas, it’s time to settle down to a reliable, permanent site!

The new website is appropriately located at  You may have already been auto-forwarded to this site.  If so, welcome!

Comments (1) »