About Kitty Village
Note: I stopped doing cat rescue in October 2004. If you are looking for a way to contact me to ask me to take a cat, you won't find one on this site. I also can't refer you to any rescue groups with availability. Sorry.
Jump to: April 30, 2008 update July 18, 2008 update November 10, 2008 update
My name is Kathi Mills. I became an independent cat rescuer in the summer of 1991, during my second to last quarter at UGA, when I found a feline family living behind the condo I was renting. The mama was a small, shorthaired solid black kitty. The daddy (?) was a shorthaired orange tabby. The two kittens were a shorthaired brown tabby and a fluffy solid black. This rescue was a baptism by fire! First, one day I tracked a weird hissing sound to its source, to find the mama kitty "pat-patting" the face of a copperhead, which was coiled, hissing, and ready to strike! She had the snake so angry, I truly expected it to bite me as I reached down and grabbed this very stupid cat by the scruff and whisked her inside!
The fluffy black kitten was the only one in the group who was not friendly. She was remarkably skittish and would not let me touch her at all. So I just kept feeding her in hopes she'd change her mind. After several weeks, it was like she had a revelation! She finally, very reluctantly, let me pick her upand then she PURRED! SO LOUD! And after that she could not get enough lovin'. She rubbed against my ankles constantly.
At the end of the quarter, I was moving back into the dorm and could not take the cats. So I took them to the vet clinic in Acworth where my mom works. By then, the mama was pregnant again. Everyone was tested for feline leukemiathey didn't know about FIV thenand tested negative. They got their shots. I had a home lined up in Athens for the black fluffy kitten, so I was going to take her back with me, and then we realized we had overlooked her feleuk test. We figured we didn't really have to do it since the other three cats tested negative, but we did just to be sure. And she tested positive.
In 1991, feleuk was considered a death sentence. No one realized then that kittens can test positive for it, and not really have it and test negative later. There was also a lot of misinformation about feleuk positive cats having an extremely short, miserable life expectancy and feleuk being more contagious than it actually is. So my vet recommended that my little "project" kitty, on whom I had worked so hard to turn her from a frightened little scaredy-cat into the world's most dedicated love bug, and for whom I had lined up a fantastic home, be euthanized immediately. I reluctantly agreed, and cried for a week.
The "daddy" was neutered at the clinic and adopted by a clientthen returned a few days later. It seems they had kept him in the garage, and he had shredded their car's convertible top with his claws! A sweet and pretty cat, he was soon adopted again to an indoor/outdoor home.
Back in 1991, there was no World Wide Web. There was UseNet (now known as Google Groups), which was used almost exclusively by college students and employees at major research corporations. It was safe back then to advertise a cat on UseNet, and so I put an ad up for the brown tabby kitten. A young couple at Georgia Tech responded to the ad and met my mom at the clinic, where they adopted her. As an incentive to check up on her, I told them I'd pay for the spay if they brought her back when she was six months old (pediatric spay/neuter was practically unheard-of then) and had her spayed at my mom's clinic. It workedmy mom saw the kitty and reported she was in fine health, well cared for.
The mama, meanwhile, was kept at the clinic while she gave birth to her new litter. She only had three; a small litter, especially for an experienced mom. The second morning, one of the kittens was found dead, obviously killed by her mother. We figured something was wrong with the kitten that the mama sensed but we didn't know. But the next day, a second kitten was dead too, so the last kitten was removed and bottle-fed. After giving mama a few days for her milk to dry up, she was spayed, and the mystery solved: she had a uterine infection so severe, the vet told me she would have died if she had become pregnant again. She guessed it hurt when the kittens nursed, which was why the mama killed them. After she was spayed and recuperated, I found a home for her with a vet in Athens.
My mom bottle-fed her surviving kitten until he was weaned. I gave him to my manager at the part-time job I was working. And that ends the saga of my first rescue.
After graduation in the spring of '92, I got my first job as a tech writer and moved to an apartment in Peachtree Corners, near Norcross. Every apartment complex is overrun with cats, and this was no exception. So I began, tentatively, rescuing and finding homes for cats, learning what the hell I was doing very slowly. I mostly found homes for them by taking out classifieds in the AJC and posting colorful posters on bulletin boards at vet clinics.
In early 1996, at my second job, my boss launched the company's Web site. I made up my own little site using the space that came with my Mindspring e-mail account, just to learn HTML. The name "Kitty Village" literally came to me in a dream. I had no idea what it meant, but I knew whatever "Kitty Village" was would be very important to me. I put the name on my little practice site, and in August 1996, actually registered the domain kittyvillage.org.
In my then-five years as an independent cat rescuer, I had become an advocate for independent cat rescuers, and shockingly, to this day I am still the only one I'm aware of in Georgia. The stigma of the "crazy cat lady" still lingers, but was much worse back then; and Trap-Neuter-Return had not been publicized. ANIMAL PEOPLE had not yet done its study showing that 10% of households contain at least one person who feeds stray cats. So anyone who fed stray cats was considered trashy and they were persecuted by landlords. Neighbors would gossip about them behind their backs while at the same time giving them all the stray cats and kittens they found, knowing the rescuer was overwhelmed and lacked the emotional stamina to refuse, but offering no financial help.
Even today, no one considers the plight of the independent cat rescuer. No one gives them money because they are not a non-profit organization. They get no discount at the vet, while they take in the sick, injured, and feral. They get no public service announcements on TV and radio; they get no free space at the mall or pet store to hold their adoptions; they get no government-funded shelter. The humane societies get all of that, and many times, the humane societies are running kill shelters and killing more cats than they save.
Kitty Village was launched specifically to offer independent cat rescuers a free, highly publicized advertising medium so they could find more homes for cats. Predating Petfinder by several years, it was well-received and widely publicized in several newspapers. It was very successful; I found quality homes for most of the about 300 cats I fostered through Kitty Village, and local Atlanta rescuers and humane organizations found homes for hundreds of cats, particularly special-needs cats, though the site in its 8 years of operation.
Kitty Village quickly became a major focus of my life, demanding more and more of my time as I learned more about Web design and the Internet offered more resources. By 2003, I was updating news on the site daily and publishing a monthly e-mail newsletter, as well as fostering cats and kittens (as many as 17 at a time during the summer of 2002!), working full-time, and basically ignoring my own six cats. I began to feel overwhelmed and started to let the site slip. By that time I was also working on Web sites all day at my job, and any fascination with coding Kitty Village had long worn off.
When one of my original two cats, Misty, was diagnosed with chronic renal failure, I gave more serious thought to giving up cat rescue. I realized that what my cats wanted most in the world was more time with me, and that my first responsibility was to the cats I called my own, not the cats at the shelter or on the streets. So finally in October 2004, I called it quits, both to rescuing and to running the site.
Since then, Misty's sister Mindy has also been diagnosed with CRF and both receive IV fluids twice a week. They'll be 18 in January (old enough to vote! Ha!) and both are really doing well. My last two fosters, Dawn and Sheba, who I took in from Clayton Humane after a collector bust netted 80 cats in a trailer, turned out to be too skittish to find a home for, and they fit in great with my other cats so now I have 8.
To stop people from continuing to e-mail me trying to get me to take their stray cat, I had to shut Kitty Village down completely. It sat there with nothing on the home page but the message "Kitty Village has been shut down permanently." from October 2004 until September 24, 2006, when I resurrected it as a way of selling items, complementary to my listings on eBay and Amazon. I sell many cat-related items anyway. I hope no one sees this as a bastardization of Kitty Village's originally noble mission. The money I make on this site does help me care for my 8 cats, all of whom are rescues.
So that's the Kitty Village story.
September 24, 2006
Update: April 30, 2008
On July 19, 2007, I stopped feeding my cats dry food and switched completely to canned. It's less convenient, but dry food is just terrrible for cats. I had been thinking about doing this for years, but finally did it after reading Your Cat by Elizabeth Hodgkins.
That same month, my other cat Jazzpurr (age 11 at the time) was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism after running blood work in preparation for a dental. In September, she got radioactive iodine treatment and was cured.
Misty died in September at age 18½, instantly, in my arms as I was about to give her IV fluids. After the post-mortem, the vet said it's not that she couldn't figure out why Misty died, it's that she couldn't figure out how Misty had been alive. She had virtually no kidney tissue left, and she had cardiomyopathy. But she died of an aneurysm. Mindy seemed to adjust well, although she never sits on the wicker love seat in the cat room anymore, where she and Misty used to while away the days, one on each side. However, Mindy is still doing great, and in fact her blood levels showed improvement at her semi-annual checkup in February 2008.
I had Sierra euthanized on February 28, 2008 after suffering from a rare and horrible condition called lung-digit syndrome. My vet had never seen it in 25 years of practice. In cats, lung cancer spreads aggressively and metastasizes in the toes (digits). I actually took Sierra to the vet for a paw injury, because the middle claw on his right front paw was sticking out. It turns out a tumor at the base of the toe was what was making it stick out. The vet amputated the entire toe and sent the tumor off to a lab. After receiving the result, chest X-rays confirmed wispy, web-like cancer throughout both lobes of his lungs, and he was given 60 days to live. He had a good couple of weeks but it became clear the cancer had spread throughout his body, and he lost nearly half his weight. He died two days before his 12th birthday—just a kitten to me! How he got lung cancer is a mystery, as I do not smoke and no one has ever smoked in my home.
I got Sierra as an 8-week-old kitten along with his brother Sable, who clearly misses Sierra although they were not that close in life. Sable used to be standoffish, but since the night Sierra died he has slept with me every night and doesn't let me out of his sight for long when I'm home. Sierra used to bring me presents of small animals, nearly always unharmed. How he could hold lizards, chipmunks, and especially frogs in his teeth without even putting a scratch on them always mystified me. Since he died, Sable has brought me a chipmunk and Jazzpurr has brought me a wren. Both were unharmed and returned immediately to the back yard.
Update: July 18, 2008
A couple of weeks ago, a Yard Sale for Cat Lovers was announced on craigslist. Hundreds of cat-themed items, it said. Had to be seen to be appreciated! My home is decorated in cat-themed décor, so of course I went.
I arrived at the home in Stone Mountain three minutes before the sale was supposed to start, and my eyes nearly fell out of my head at the sight of 400 cat mugs and hundreds of other items including magnets, rugs, lamps, kitchen items like towels, oven mitts, spoon rests, and napkin holders, figurines, coasters, and more. They were not quite finished unpacking it all, so I helped, and every box was like a treasure hunt!
The amazing thing about this yard sale was that almost all the items were unused, many with the original tags intact and still in the original packaging. I asked where this stuff came from. It turns out the lady's mother was a huge cat lover who had received these items as gifts for at least a couple of decades. Even though she loved the gifts, she preferred to just look at them and not use them. They had been in storage for awhile until the mother died at the age of 83.
I bought a few items and went home, but told her I'd consider buying whatever was left at the end of the sale as a lot. Well, it started raining at 1:00 that afternoon, so there was a lot left over. The lady sent me an e-mail making me a very generous offer for the lot, and even offered to deliver it. "My mom and I were so very very close ... I HAVE to move ahead & put this chapter behind me as it's like an anvil on my heart. ... if we could help each other, it would be a good thing! I HATE to donate everything to St. Vincent DePaul when you could make $ for cats with it," she wrote.
So I have a huge collection of eclectic, delightful cat-themed items for sale. Some of them are from the late 70s and early 80s, so they are impossible to find, especially in excellent condition. I have listed a handful on the site, but there are far too many to list by hand, so I'm looking into store/shopping cart software that will make this a real online store. That should be coming very soon and I plan to make it an all-summer project loading the item descriptions and pictures. I hope to be done by the end of October for Christmas. I'm also listing the items on craigslist and Froogle.
If you're in the metro Atlanta area and would like to come by and see all this, write to local_pickup at kittyvillage.org. If you're outside metro Atlanta, I do ship; just let me know if you're looking for something particular and I'll send you pics of what I have. I apologize in advance for the high shipping prices. I'm not profiting off these. Many items are heavy and breakable, so they need to be packed carefully and must ship at multi-pound rates with insurance, driving the cost up. I've been an eBay and Amazon seller for several years, so I'm experienced at online selling and shipping.
BTW, the cats had their checkup earlier this month. Everyone's doing fine except Sable has a heart murmur. I'm going to take him to a cardiologist hopefully next week to find out how serious it is.
Update: November 10, 2008
I took Sable to the cardiologist and thankfully, they did not find anything wrong. Everyone is still doing fine except the mice. I have neglected to mention that I have been keeping fancy mice for about 15 years. I'm down to three now, and they are really starting to show their age. I "rescued" them through craigslist from a woman whose roommate had moved out and left them. I think I'm not going to replace these when they pass on. The cats don't really pay them any attention anymore, and since I no longer take in fosters, they're not entertaining anyone (which is their purpose).
As you can see, the e-commerce site never materialized. So, I'm selling like mad on eBay, just during November and early December for the Christmas rush. That's the only time I've ever been able to really sell anything on eBay. I have a lot of cat-themed items that are too "imperfect" to sell on eBay. You are welcome to stop by and take a look if you're in the Gwinnett area, or I'm looking to donate them to a humane society or rescue group that will use them for a yard sale or silent auction. Please let me know if you're interested.