Cats are no strangers to the Humboldt County streets. They can be found roaming around but not all of them are tamed. Oftentimes, these animals are stray and even pregnant, in some cases. They are usually brought to shelters like the Humboldt Animal Rescue Team in Eureka.
Accepting cats from a variety of different circumstances, this volunteer-based group aims to nurture them until they can be adopted.
It is standard procedure at the shelter to isolate the newer, more frazzled cats upstairs where they can acclimate to their new environment without worrying about interacting with any people. But getting them to actually come out of their shells is where HSU students factor in.
Many of the cats that are brought into the shelter are shy and not sociable enough to be adopted by anyone yet. Rose Kessler is a lead volunteer that oversees the other HSU student volunteers. She is very in-tune with how the cats evolve emotionally over time during their stays at the shelter.
“When they first come in, a lot of these cats are angry,” Kessler said.
Kessler is extremely grateful for the Humboldt State students that come in every week and help care for the cats that could not otherwise volunteer at other shelters around the county.
“Right now, a lot of the rescues, from what I hear, they’re not accepting volunteers right now because of COVID,” Kessler said. “And we are.”
Jesse Morales is a fourth-year communication major. They are very experienced with cats and have been regularly volunteering at the shelter since 2019. Now, it is virtually second-nature to them interacting with the cats to the extent that they do.
“We just kind of come in and show that people aren’t gonna hurt them and get them used to us.”
Volunteers begin the process of getting the new cats comfortable by first sitting in a room with the cat. From there, they gradually try to physically engage the cats more and until the cats warm up to them enough that they can be moved downstairs.
Lexi Cortez is a sophomore and one of the newest volunteers at the Humboldt Animal Rescue Shelter. An avid cat lover, Cortez has always enjoyed working at shelters with cats.
“I’ve always wanted to work at shelters and stuff — just being able to help them,” Cortez said, “I’m glad I get to do it now.”
Kessler has been working with Cortez and from what she has seen, is impressed with the work Cortez has done.
“They don’t know her, so they’re a little bit shy,” Kessler said. “I can tell they like her but they’re watching her.”
One of the cats that found a home, albeit temporary, is Oliver. Morales is currently fostering him but it took a lot of patience to ground him in the confines of the shelter and then eventually in their home.
“He definitely was not the nicest cat here and he did not get along with other cats,” Morales said. “And I just steadily worked at him, continuously, until a couple months when I started fostering him.”