Cat people: Carmel volunteers, Petco play big role in feline rescue mission


When Jenni Beesley learned of Martha Strong’s mission, she was sold.

Beesley, a Carmel resident, has been one of Strong’s cat rescue volunteers for three years.

Jenni Beesley pauses with her recent kitten rescue named Pumpkin. (Submitted photo)

“She saves hundreds of cats a year by taking them from a kill shelter that rarely (places cats for adoption) to Carmel, which has people that love cats and are willing to adopt,” Beesley said.

Strong makes the one-hour drive from her home in Muncie each Saturday to deliver the cats to Petco, 2160 E. 116th St., Carmel. She also lists cats on the Pet Finder website.

Strong said she takes in cats from several different sources for her rescue group called Paws on My Heart. Petco provides the organization to have six cages, food and litter in the store.

“We have people who call us and need to give up their cats for whatever reason,” said Strong, who has five cats of her own. “We have people who have had cats dropped off at their house or in the country and they need help placing them. We have people who feed and trap cats. If they are friendly, we are able to get them fixed and find them homes. We have people who do not have their cats spayed/neutered and then end up with kittens. We take them and place them and get the moms fixed. We also help a shelter close to us in the next county over. We also help people in neighboring states if they are able to get them to us.

Emily Davidson of Indianapolis visits with an adoptable cat at Petco in Carmel. (Photo by Ann Marie Shambaugh)

“All in all, it is a group effort. We vaccinate them, give them flea meds, wormer and have them spayed and neutered.”

The adoption fee for kittens is $100 to $150 and $50 for older cats.

Strong’s cat rescue mission has 40 volunteers, who perform a variety of duties.

“Most everyone lives in Hamilton County, but there are many that live in surrounding counties and continue to help us,” Strong said.

Beesley said Strong or other volunteers take care of the cats to make sure they are healthy before they are taken to Petco.

“During the start of the pandemic we had volunteers to take care of the cats that didn’t have a home,” Beesley said.

Beesley used to clean the cages at Petco weekly, and she is still on call to help if another volunteer can’t clean cages or to meet people who want to adopt specific cats during the times volunteers aren’t there.

Beesley said volunteers take care of pregnant cats before they give birth.

A cat available for adoption through Paws on my Heart at Pet- co in Carmel. (Photo by Ann Marie Shambaugh)

“Then six weeks later, the babies need to be adopted out,” Beesley said. “They all get spayed or neutered first. That didn’t used to happen. My dad (Dr. Mike Thomas) is a veterinarian, so I’ve been around animals all my life. When you adopted a cat, they gave you a free certificate for a spay or neuter, but half the time people wouldn’t do that. Now, the shelter spays or neuters before they adopt out.”

Beesley has adopted three cats from Strong. Beesley said Strong contributes her own money to get the cats prepared for adoption.

“She does it out of pure love for the cats,” Beesley said. “There is no one else that would do what she does. It’s a lot of work.”

Beesley has six cats, including a recent one she rescued in late October. On her NextDoor neighborhood app, she learned a kitten was loose near her home. She found the kitten and planned to find a home for it. She did, her own, as she quickly fell in love with the orange kitten she named Pumpkin.

For more, visit Paws on My Heart on Facebook or contact Strong at Information on volunteering is available at Petco.


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