On any given weekend, Jim and Jan Rich can be found adopting out cats. Whether it’s Jim at Petsmart on Saturday and Sundays, or Jan finding loving homes for cats at local festivals on the Island, the couple makes all the hard work look easy.
The Rich’s founded For The Love of Cats, the first no-kill cat shelter to be based on Marco Island. The two dedicate thousands of hours of volunteer service to Marco Island kitties, along with their team of volunteers. Donations and dollars from their own pockets built a “meowvolous” non-profit rescue organization for local cats.
“I never think we do enough, and we can always do more,” says Jim Rich of their work at the shelter they founded over six years ago.
The Rich’s concentrate on local felines who have found themselves abandoned, hurt by vehicles on area roads, or even abused in today’s economic climate.
“Our main focus is on Marco Island, and we operate from our home. Although, we receive cats from as far away as Punta Gorda, and the Estates area, and throughout the Collier County area. We received two kittens from Miami recently that someone dumped into a trash compactor,” explains Jim.
Rich’s garnered the Walter Turken Award from Humane Society of Naples
Members of the Humane Society think Jim and Jan Rich do plenty for the local cat community. At a recent private dinner in a home in Port Royal, the couple were honored with the Walter Turken Award for their dedication to animals.
“It’s a major award we’ve given out for the past seven years, and there’s certainly a no more deserving couple than Jim and Jan,” says Steve Wright, Public Relations Coordinator for the Humane Society of Collier County.
“They could be retired, playing golf, or sailing, and they dedicate their talents to cats on Marco. They’ve grown from a couple operating this organization, to many volunteers to help with cat care. They’re amazing, and we received many glowing descriptions of the wonderful things they do in the nominations,” adds Wright of the Rich’s award winning hard work.
Past ‘cat’astrophes on Marco Island
Islanders who dined at O’Shea’s Restaurant in the ‘80s off Bald Eagle Drive, soon realized there were many curious cats hanging out on the pilings under the beautiful restaurant.
As years went on, more cat colonies proliferated the Island’s restaurants and hotel properties. Some of the cats were feral, while other were just plain well-fed afterhours by local chefs and hoteliers.
The Island felines would pilfer through garbage dumpsters, look for and find mates, and leave shreds of old food in parking lots.
When homeless cats can become pregnant at five months old, and have a litter of up to five kittens every few months, Marco Island’s cat population soon exploded. Enter Jim and Jan in 2002.
The Island cats
Jim and Jan Rich established the island’s first TNR program, which stands for Trap-Neuter-Return, a management plan for stray and feral cats who live outdoors throughout their entire lives.
The Rich’s trap the cats in a humane way, and bring each one to local vet to provide vaccinations and sterilizations, prior to bringing the cats back to their island paradise. The cats are helpful in reducing rodent populations, so they are welcomed back at hotels and restaurants on Marco.
“We did an educational session with over 138 children at Tommie Barfied Elementary, and we’re hoping to make it a yearly event. We need to teach children about our compassion for animals. They (cats) feel the same emotions we do. They feel pain, and they feel sorrow, and they feel despair and they grieve,” says Jan, as she shares kittens up for adoption at a festival.
“The most rewarding part is seeing them go to loving forever homes. You get loving cards and e-mails, and you adopt a kitten and then he’s all grown up when we see him again. That’s the best day for me.”
Volunteer with For the Love of Cats, and sample some wine and cheese
“We have 50 volunteers who come twice a week to work at the shelter,” explains Jan. The cats have a romper room and a play area outside to watch birds and relax while waiting for a full-time home.
As for volunteer opportunities at the shelter, the couple welcome new volunteers to dedicate time to caring for cats, to work at adoption events, to fostering cats and kittens, to help with fundraising events, and to transport kittens and cats to local shelters.
“We’re hosting a wine tasting at the Marco Island Yacht Club on April 4, and we’re expecting about a hundred people,” says Jan, looking forward to this wine and cheese event celebration for cats, generously supported by Marco Island Liquors and Marco Island Yacht Club.
Of course, there’s always room for more cat lovers to celebrate For the Love of Cats. Tickets can be purchased for a tax deductible donation of $45 per person, or $80 per couple, or by visiting floridacatrescue.com.