WESTFIELD, NJ — Diane Carl and Christine Wagner met while walking dogs and cleaning cat cages at a voluntary shelter in Union. The two began fostering the animals, then Carl attended a Utah convention on running an independent rescue group. Upon returning to New Jersey, Carl and Wagner began their own rescue group in Westfield in 1999 with a core of about six dedicated cat-owning members called Cause 4 Paws.
Americans love their pets—so much so that, according to the American Pet Products Association, we spend billions of dollars on our cats, dogs and other animal companions. But some cats spend their lives outside in the cold, starving and helpless. The Humane Society of the United States reports that there are about 50 million feral non-domesticated cats in the nation. Cause 4 Paws seeks ways to change that here in the Westfield area.
“Since I was a child, we always had cats and dogs, my parents were animal lovers,” said Carl. “I’ve always been drawn to the animals. I guess it’s just their helplessness and the fact that there’s so many of them out there that don’t have homes and are getting killed all the time.”
Although the organization is local, as many as 200 to 300 felines are adopted each year through Cause 4 Paws. The group receives tips from citizens who find baby kittens in the backyard residences of Essex, Union and Morris County. The cats are then kept in foster homes and local pet stores and are available for visitation until adoption inquiries come in. When they do, the group takes certain measures to make sure the cats go to proper, caring homes.
“It’s always tough because you have to make judgment calls, but we do the best we can to check vet references,” said Carl. “Mainly, we find that the best ways to make sure the cats are going to good homes is to talk to people numerous times before they come in to the adoption event and then to stay in touch with them afterwards to make sure everything is going well.”
Carl noted some of the difficulties they face. Frustrations include not being able to save as many kittens as they would like because of the limited number of foster homes, money and volunteers available. The group has no central pet facility at the moment due to low funds, but have volunteers at pet stores in Madison and East Hanover.
Cause 4 Paws accepts donations by check or payroll, which go towards funding the foster cats and their temporary homes until adoption. The group is mainly looking for people who may be willing to foster or adopt cats and kittens, especially during the summer when there are more of them roaming the streets.
“I love to see them find good homes. I love to know that some of them are taken care of,” said volunteer Kathy Baillie. “There are way too many cats out that are never going to find homes. Every one we can help and find a home for just makes me happy.”
Cause 4 Paws will be one of two causes benefiting from a pancake breakfast with the Easter Bunny at Applebee’s in Union on March 30 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. (The other is the CANswer Project.) The cost is $13 per adult, $10 per child age 10 or under. For reservations, contact Anna at 973-220-8656.
The reporter wrote this story as part of a journalism partnership with Kean University.