Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Paws and Claws launches new fundraising programs, hopes to save more cats in the new year

Photo Courtesy of Olivia Sotos
A cat fostered through Paws and Claws by a Northwestern student. Last year, Paws and Claws rescued 514 cats and aims to rescue 1,000 in 2024.

Seventy-five cats received a holiday present during Paws and Claws Cat Rescue’s third annual Hope for the Holidays program last month. 

Paws and Claws, a local cat shelter that rescues cats at risk of euthanization, launched the fundraising program in December, and it will run until mid-January. The program allows individuals to sponsor a cat by funding that cat’s food and care during the holiday season. The cost of sponsoring each cat varies based on their needs, including specific diets and procedures. The organization’s campaign attracted about 50 donors.

Ashlynn Boyce, the founder and executive director of Paws and Claws, said she is “really proud” of the program’s success, but finds the initiative somewhat bittersweet.

“A lot of the cats are spending their first holiday in safety. A lot of them have never had a holiday season where they are cared for and loved,” she said. “That element is really lovely, but the other side is that they are not in their forever home.”

Several of Paws and Claws’ other initiatives focus on raising money to keep cats healthy until they can find a “forever home,” she said. 

One of those initiatives is the Paw Print Club, a monthly membership that gives donors access to perks such as merchandise, sneak peeks into events, and even naming a cat. There are currently 170 Club members with varying monthly donation amounts, starting at $10, Boyce said. 

Additionally, Paws and Claws hosts children’s birthday parties, allows space rentals and runs kitten yoga classes. Boyce said she is proud of how the organization’s community programming has grown. She also has upcoming plans for movie nights at the shelter, she said.

Paws and Claws opened its first facility in May 2023. Prior to that, the organization was completely foster-based. –– though fostering is critical to the shelter’s operation, Boyce said. There are currently around 100 cats in foster care, for which the shelter provides all food, supplies and medical care. Many Northwestern undergraduate and graduate students are foster parents, Boyce added. 

“It’s really nice for students, especially those who are really missing their pets back at home but can’t commit to long-term adoption,” she said.

With only three paid staff members, she said Paws and Claws’ 170 volunteers are the driving force behind the shelter’s operation. 

In addition to feeding the cats and cleaning their facilities during weekly shifts, volunteers socialize and form special bonds with them, according to Destiny Reinhardt (Weinberg ‘23), who volunteers at Paws and Claws.

Reinhardt adopted a kitten from Paws and Claws last year after she “fell in love” with it, she said. For her, volunteering has been a rewarding experience, and she said she loved seeing how new cats acclimate to human interaction and how their personalities change over time.

2023 was Paws and Claws’ most successful year, Boyce said, with 514 cats rescued and its highest adoption numbers ever. Most of the rescued cats came from underfunded municipal animal shelters or animal control facilities from Chicagoland and beyond, according to Paws and Claws’ Cat Care Manager Sean Johnson.

In 2024, the shelter hopes to rescue 1,000 cats and eventually hire a veterinarian to perform important medical procedures, Johnson said. He said he’s confident Paws and Claws can reach these goals. 

“It’s a very big goal,” Johnson said. “We’re going to need a lot of help from volunteers and fosters. Whatever your availability is or whatever your skill sets are, there’s definitely something that would contribute.”

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Related Stories: 

Paws and Claws opens a cat adoption center, hopes to save more cats from euthanasia 

As Evanston Animal Shelter moves to rebuild, Vicky Pasenko reflects on more than 15 years of service 

City Council approves contract to rebuild Evanston Animal Shelter 

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