NASHUA — Cat lovers will have the opportunity to be greeted by hundreds of eager felines Sunday at a special needs sanctuary in Nashua.
The 14th annual C & W’s Rustic Hollow Shelter Open House will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
There will be walking tacos, drinks and baked goods for sale.
Rustic Hollow is the biggest special needs feline sanctuary in Iowa. It is a nonprofit organization founded in 1985, funded through sponsorships, donations and its thrift store, The Scratching Post Thrift n’ Gift.
“If you’re an animal lover, it’s the place to be on Sunday,” said Carmen Conklin, co-founder of the organization.
The sanctuary features six buildings, many of which are houses that give 250 to 300 cats from all over the country a home.
Many buildings are furnished like normal homes to provide comfort. Cats live cage free, are able to spend time outdoors in their designated “catios” and have TVs to watch special programs for cats.
The shelter offers on-site spay and neuter clinics and immunizations, with two veterinary technicians on staff.
Feline residents eagerly approach visitors, gathering at their feet.
“They love attention,” said Liz Wegner, staff supervisor, vet assistant and co-manager/owner. “They love it. They love when new people come in.”
A passionate staff of 14 cares for each cat.
According to Wegner, cats are at Rustic Hollow for a variety of reasons. Some are affected by diseases such as feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus. Others have bladder issues or issues using a litter box that affect their adoptability. Some have physical disabilities or a brain disease called cerebellar hypoplasia that affects their physical movement.
Rustic Hollow also houses feral cats and sometimes rescues cats from unsafe situations such as hoarding or abuse.
Cats are housed according to their needs and disabilities.
Brandy Hudson of Nashua works with the cats in the Apollo House, which is where the cats with FIV are cared for. She knows the names of all of her charges.
She was hired on the spot as a caregiver after visiting the sanctuary seven months ago.
Her favorite part of the job providing care and comfort for the cats.
“Being able to be their caregiver is a big thing for me,” said Hudson. “The responsibility of it is pretty awesome, I’m not gonna lie. I am here about 6 days a week, and the days I’m not here I worry about them as if they were my kids.”
Hudson suffered from postpartum depression after giving birth a year ago. Her job at Rustic Hollow helped pull her out of it.
“I’ve found my calling in life,” Hudson said. “It’s a little piece of heaven. I love it. That’s what I look at it as.”
Keisha Stough, vet technician, has worked at Rustic Hollow for 12 years.
“The job is very rewarding,” said Stough. “It’s worth it. Just giving them a second chance at a lifetime is pretty awesome, where otherwise they wouldn’t have a chance. We’re kind of their last resort, last hope, and that’s pretty rewarding in itself.”
“It’s a pretty awesome situation out here,” Hudson said. “A lot of these cats don’t have a fighting chance. Some of them come off the streets of Detroit, some of them are feral … or some of them are sick and they can’t afford medicine. It’s cool that they actually have a fighting chance. I’m really passionate about that. That makes me happy. People care about them.”
Conklin encourages the public to come to the open house to see what Rustic Hollow is all about.
“We appreciate visitors coming out and just spending time with the cats,” Conklin said.
Aside from the open house, visitors are welcome any day of the week between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Community members can sponsor a cat for $40 a month.
Open house goers are encouraged to wear pants because the cats will greet them and possibly stretch up on their legs.
C & W’s Rustic Hollow Shelter is located at 2443 Akron Way outside of Nashua. For more information, go to www.rustichollowshelter.org.