Woman’s Adopt-a-Cat thrift store supports shelter for homeless felines

Published: February 22, 2006 | 3589th good news item since 2003

Inga Hanley’s phone rings at least 30 times a day. Whether it’s to rescue sick kittens or to spay stray colonies of cats, someone is asking for her help.

With proceeds from the Adopt-A-Cat thrift store she founded almost two years ago, Hanley provides a home for more than 100 homeless cats. The free roaming shelter in Lake Park allows the animals to run around in a room full of toys and climb trees. Before her Adopt-A-Cat Foundation became a nonprofit organization, Hanley paid the shelter’s expenses with income from Pampered Pets, her former pet-grooming service.

The Palm Beach Gardens resident said she wishes she had more room, but she doesn’t have the resources to house the entire population of stray cats in Palm Beach County. To improve the situation, Hanley and 20 volunteers trap outdoor cats and take them to be spayed and neutered by local vets at their caregiver’s request. Income from her thrift store helps cover the costs.

“It started with one person asking me to take a cat that had been abandoned, and it just snowballed from there,” she said.

Now the cats consume Hanley’s life. She lives with 20 in her house and wears a cat-shaped pendant around her neck. She always knew she would work with pets, but when she was younger she was too impatient to go to veterinary school. It wasn’t until the New Jersey native moved to Palm Beach County 35 years ago after a divorce that she landed a job as a groomer. One of her neighbors got her into the business.

“She had a darling poodle who always looked gorgeous and she said they were looking for groomers,” said Hanley. “I eventually bought the shop from her.”

After years in the pet-grooming business Hanley, 62, noticed the increasing cat population in the county and decided to help control it. Each cat has an average of six kittens in a litter and three litters per year, she said.

Without any experience catching animals, Hanley borrowed a trap from the county’s Animal Care and Control and started rescuing maimed, sick and homeless cats. Twenty years later, she has 10 traps of her own and scratches on her face from her rescue efforts. Hanley said residents have no idea how cats multiply in every neighborhood and end up homeless.

“If you go behind any restaurant, I don’t care what restaurant, there will be a colony there,” she said.

Hanley said she can barely afford the shelter’s rent and the 25 pounds of litter needed each week.

The satisfaction of her job prevents her from resting. Every morning she takes cats get them neutered, spayed or cured. She refuses to put any of them to sleep. Hanley remembers the gratification she felt bringing in a cat with severed limbs and helping it recover from the amputation.

“To take a little animal that is almost dead and a few months later it becomes a beautiful, loving kitty — that’s my reward.”

Now Hanley hopes to expand the shelter into a larger building and eventually pass on her duty to someone who will continue the work when she’s gone. Meanwhile, she spends her extra time relaxing with her cats at home. Although she lives alone, Hanley wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I know it would be hard to live with me,” she said. “The cats really come first and they really consume my life.”

Who is your hero?

“Marcie Bowie. I met her 35 years ago. She truly gave herself to the animals. She was a young socialite from Palm Beach and she went to the shelter every day and brought blankets and treats for the cats for more than 30 years.”

Where do you go to get away from it all?

“On a Sunday, I won’t answer my phone, and I’ll rent five or six movies. I’ll stay in my pajamas all day and that is the best relaxation I have. I haven’t gotten to do that in a while.”

Published in Animals, Charity
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