By Frances Clause
Since 2008, West Side Cats, a nonprofit, no-kill rescue and adoption facility, has been caring for injured and disabled cats to give them a second chance at life.
The shelter mainly serves Mahoning County and surrounding areas, but people also come from out of state to adopt the cats, according to Christine Wilson, a volunteer. Every year, 300 to 900 cats and kittens are put up for adoption at West Side Cats.
“[The shelter] mainly specializes in sick or injured cats and senior cats, which other shelters won’t take,” she said. “Other shelters in the area may get the young, pretty cats, but the ones at these shelters don’t get a chance and are usually euthanized.”
Although the shelter’s new location on Market Street is more suitable for the cats and brings more people to its doors, Wilson said volunteers are always needed.
“There’s no better feeling than caring for cats who grow healthier every day from the care provided here,” Wilson said. “Volunteering here is a great way to give back to the community, even if it is just coming in and playing with the cats.”
Stephanie Pavlovich, a senior music education major at Youngstown State University, said she believes it would be beneficial for more college students to volunteer at no-kill shelters like West Side Cats.
“Students can get volunteer hours for school, and petting and playing with animals can be really great in relieving stress,” she said.
Pavlovich added adopting is not only helping in providing a great life to a cat that deserves it, but also helpful to students who have physical or mental disabilities.
“All college students will go through stress, anxiety and a multitude of different emotions that cats are able to pick up on,” she said. “Adopting a cat can relieve all of these different feelings and create a wonderful bond to an animal who needed a new home.”
Kimm Koocher, director of West Side Cats, said before a student considers adopting a cat from the shelter, they need to realize it is a lifetime commitment.
“Just because a student might really want to adopt, acting on that impulse isn’t the best decision if the person hasn’t thought about all of the responsibilities that come along with it,” she said. “College students can be really busy, so it’s understandable that some volunteer on their own time instead of adopting.”
Koocher said besides volunteering or adopting, people can also help West Side Cats through donations.
“[The shelter] needs to pay vet bills and buy supplies like food and litter and all of this adds up quickly,” she said. “Even bags of food are appreciated, and the extra food always goes to people in the community that sometimes cannot afford to feed their pets.”
Since its grand opening in the new location Oct. 19, West Side Cats has been raising money for their cats through events, including open houses and basket raffles.
“The next event is a holiday open house and pictures with Mrs. Claus, and we encourage everyone to bring their pets, family and a donation,” Koocher said.
The event is on Nov. 24 from noon to 4 p.m. For more information on West Side Cats and their adoption policies, visit https://westsidecats.org/.