The Animal Rescue and Welfare Services’ mission is to better the lives of stray cats and lessen the stray population in Plattsburgh. It does this by supporting and promoting the adoption process holding weekly adoption hours every Saturday in PetSmart so people can visit to find a suitable companion.

Lillian Cassidy, the president of ARWS, said that their mission is to find stray cats a family that can take care of them for the rest of their lives. She explains that ARWS takes cats from the street who do not have owners.  It takes care of all the vetting for potential adopters. The cats get tested, get spayed and neutered and receive their vaccinations. Once the cats successfully go through this process, then they are put up for adoption.

Music art management and communication major Sarah Apple started volunteering with ARWS over a year ago after meeting two members who observed a colony of feral cats. Apple explained that she received one of the member’s contact information and started meeting up with her to observe the colony every day. Since then, she has started helping out with ARWS’ adoption events every Saturday at PetSmart.

Apple got involved helping the stray cat population through a conversation she had with her friend. She explains that her friend told her about a group of cats that used the local church parking lot for shelter.  Apple said she did not believe her until she decided to check it out herself.  She has been visiting those cats every day since September of last year. As a result of seeing this, Apple wanted to get involved.

“I’ve always been a huge cat lover hence the cat tattoo on my arm- and prior to volunteering, I would frequently visit shelters just to play with the cats,” Apple said. “I was already aware of the feral problem in the community.”

This is the problem that is at the core of ARWS’ mission.

An adopter must pay an adoption fee to help offset the costs of getting their cat up to date on their vaccinations and other medical help they might need. The application asks questions relating to an adopter’s home life to see whether their cat will be a good fit in their lives. It asks questions such as if they have other pets living in their home and what their day-to-day life is like. ARWS takes the adoption process seriously to confirm that the cats they rescued are entering safe and loving homes.

Although there are many people who understand the responsibility of adopting a stray cat, Apple explains how this is not the case every time.

“For me, I worry about college students adopting cats without the proper documentation from the school or without approval from their family back home,” Apple said.

She continues to explain how it is not uncommon for student adopters to not consider the seriousness of adopting a cat. They have been told to get rid of their cat either by the school or by their family. This results in the cat being let go outside and this is what contributes to the stray problem in Plattsburgh.

Once this happens, these cats can mate with other feral cats, giving birth to a litter of kittens.  This leads to the stray population becoming larger and more problematic.

Cassidy’s biggest concern is that the stray population has the potential to worsen. She explained that ARWS is trying to get stray cats spayed and neutered so the amount decreases.

There is a stigma surrounding the process of adopting an animal. PetSmart store leader Teresa Demeter says that she believes this stigma is due to people being concerned about behavior issues because these are animals saved from the street.

“I think it’s behavior issues, that there are animals out there that aren’t fixed,” Demeter says.

Demeter says that it’s important to adopt and not “shop” because those who adopt are saving a life and the animals are very grateful for them and are aware of them saving their life. When people “shop” for animals, they are partly ignoring the animals who are in desperate need of a loving home. She also says that those who adopt are a part of fixing the problem of the stray population.

Apple explained that her favorite part of helping these cats is the bond created between them.

“I love seeing the instant bond between our cats and their new forever families,” Apple said. “I’ve personally introduced individuals to some of the cats and from the second they picked up the cat, it’s like the cat just knew they were their person. I especially love seeing our undesirable cats go to their forever homes as it takes someone with a big heart and a lot of patience to adopt some of these cats.”

People looking to adopt a cat can attend AWRS’ adoption events at PetSmart every Saturday.

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