For veterinarians, their job is to treat and save as many animals as possible. For animal caretakers, their job is to feed, groom, bathe, exercise, and take care of animals. For Lynea Lattanzio, the founder of The Cat House on the Kings, her job is a combination of the two.
Located in Parlier, California, The Cat House on the Kings is a 12-acre cat sanctuary and adoption center. Founded in 1992, The Cat House on the Kings provides a safe cage-free home for abandoned cats and kittens and helps place these rescued animals into loving, permanent homes. The nonprofit also aims to prevent pet overpopulation through spays and neuters.
Lynea never intended to start a nonprofit organization, but saw a need for it when she realized that Fresno County didn’t have enough resources to save the many stray cats that were left to fend for themselves. Lynea began to rescue cats and took care of them in her own home, but eventually had to move out when she realized that there was not enough space for her to live alongside the many cats she had rescued. Lynea also gave up the freedom of traveling wherever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Despite the sacrifices, Lynea doesn’t regret doing what she loves.
“I just felt that this was my mission,” Lynea said. “When I started, I didn’t realize that it was going to take over all aspects of my life, but I have no regrets.”
All the volunteers and workers at the Cat House firmly believe in the mission of the nonprofit. Every employee at the Cat House shares the love of caring for animals.
“All of our employees always pick up animals on the side of the road or in the alleys, and they bring them (in the center), so it’s like the whole atmosphere of this facility is to take care of as many animals as we can,” Lynea said.
Lynea recalls an especially memorable cat brought into the center by Armando the maintenance worker three years ago. Armando found the injured cat next to a cemetery on the side of road, with only skin and bones left. When Armando found the cat, it was “almost eaten completely by maggots,” Lynea said. “Now, it’s the biggest, fattest, most beautiful cat, and he’s got a home in Marin.” The center named the cat Mando after the maintenance worker to honor his act of kindness.
It took Mando the cat months to recover from his injuries, and afterward, Lynea and volunteers at the Cat House were worried he wouldn’t get adopted.
“He was actually kind of wild, so we didn’t think he would ever get adopted, but the more love we showed him, the more affectionate he became, and he actually is doing fantastic,” Lynea shared.
For Lynea and the rest of the Cat House, helping care for a cat and then watching it fully recover and find a great home is one of the most rewarding experiences.
“When you do something like that ― (when) you take an animal that has nothing left and they fight so hard and you help them and then they find such a beautiful life, it’s very rewarding,” Lynea said.
A special aspect of the Cat House is that its rescued cats are extremely dog-friendly since the facility also has a number of rescued dogs that live and play with the cats. Because of this, the employees at the Cat House nicknamed the center “Cat Heaven and Dog Disneyland.”
At “Cat Heaven” and “Dog Disneyland,” volunteers such as Terry Noell are the cornerstone of the nonprofit. Terry has been helping out at the Cat House for about 15 years, where he transports kittens to their new homes, neuters and spays cats, and deejays at the annual open houses that occur twice a year.
Terry began volunteering at the Cat House after his wife asked him for help transporting foster kittens to their new homes. Terry and his wife went above and beyond this task by building a special cat room in their house to care for adopted kittens. One of the most heartwarming moments Terry spent at the Cat House was when he buried a cat he rescued, who died after a fierce battle against feline leukemia.
“(The burial) was so touching, and that’s why I think I always have a piece of the Cat House with me,” Terry said.
To Terry, “Kindness is when everyone shows a kind hand and they do everything they can to save every life that passes through the gates (at the Cat House), regardless of what happens or the conditions or events that led to their arrival.”
Lynea also echoes Terry’s views on kindness.
“Kindness is to feel for the animal, and to understand the pain, fear, and loneliness that the animal is feeling while it’s injured,” she said.
Everyone at the Cat House may have a different definition of kindness, but having compassion and giving selflessly is definitely at the heart of the nonprofit’s mission.
The Cat House has already saved the lives of many cats, but Lynea hopes to expand the nonprofit further to save even more animals. She hopes to “continue building facilities for different animals that are in need for different reasons, like timid cats, or white cats because they get skin cancer.” Ultimately, Lynea wants to continue improving the lives of as many animals as possible.
Visit www.cathouseonthekings.com to help spread the word about their mission, or to adopt an animal, and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates. The Cat House relies entirely on donations, so please consider donating to support them. You can also learn more about the organization by visiting their open house on May 5, where there will be food, music, silent auctions, and tours of the facility.