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About Us

How a Stray Cat Started Helping Paws Animal Shelter


Helping Paws Animal Sanctuary is a 501(c)3 non-profit, no kill shelter, housing almost 200 healthy cats and kittens as well as special needs, FIV and FELV cats. They are housed in rooms not cages and are waited on by loving volunteers. The goal of the shelter is to not only find them homes, but to provide a wonderful home for the cats while they are in our care. “Interesting shelter” you might think, but now we need to tell you about our Inspiration, whose standards we strive to meet every day. Let us tell you about Thomas O’Malley…

He was just another stray black cat found in terrible shape. We took him straight to the vet, and when his combo test result came back positive for FELV, it was devastating. We’d grown attached to the tenacious kitty and our previous experience with the disease didn’t end well. We expected to be told he needed to be put down. But the vet patiently answered all our questions and explained what precautions we needed to take. We left the office with our cat alive and we were determined to make sure he stayed that way.

Because of our other cats, we began searching for a place for him to live. It didn’t take long to find out there wasn’t any place that would take him. We fantasized about starting a Shelter with an isolation room for cats like him. It would also house healthy adoptable cats and kittens, along with areas for special needs and elderly cats. Circumstances intervened, and we decided to make the dream a reality!

The shelter took some time to get up and running, but by then Thomas had become a permanent member of our family. Things were going well until he started showing signs of anemia. We attempted a blood transfusion, but his body had stopped producing red blood cells. Thomas succumbed to the disease on February 28, 2013. We learned a lot about the disease over the four years we spent with him, and about how rewarding it can be to love a special needs cat. People make comments all the time about how black cats are bad luck. Thomas brought luck, but it was far from bad. He changed the outcome for the FELV cats lucky enough to be brought to the shelter and in doing so touched the lives of many others.

We would like to thank Cape Coral Pet Crematory for donating the beautiful frame that holds his ashes. It is hanging where it belongs, above my desk at Helping Paws Animal Sanctuary.

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