Finding cats their home sweet home
Edited by Melanie Dziengo
Finding the perfect home for every cat is always possible at Home at Last Rescue. In fact, their motto is, “there is a home for every cat and a cat for every home.” We spoke with Stephanie Niro-Pisani about founding a new rescue just before the pandemic, their most heartwarming rescue story, and the responsibilities she faces as founder, executive director, and foster coordinator.
When was Home at Last Rescue founded and how many cats have you rescued so far?
In 2020. So far, we’ve saved 200 cats and they’ve been strays, owner surrenders, and from animal services.
What inspired you to start your own rescue?
I have always had a strong love of animals and a desire to help cats. I had been working with another rescue for years and several other volunteers and I felt the goals and overall vision of the rescue no longer agreed with ours. We wanted to make a difference we could all feel comfortable with. We wanted a rescue that focused on quality, not quantity, with the goal to stay small, but make sure that every cat in our care was properly nurtured and prepared for their Home at Last.
As a founder and executive director, what are your big picture responsibilities?
BIG PICTURE: Balancing intake with financing and ensuring the rescue is constantly moving forward and working to help as many cats as possible, while staying within our financial means as we receive no government funding. Our mission is to rescue cats from substandard living conditions and make every effort to give those cats better lives, provide medical care, emotional support, and a loving environment as we prepare them to find their forever homes
What are your responsibilities on a day-to-day basis?
Day to day: Intake, billing, vet appointments, and fundraising. As foster coordinator, I have to make sure to check in with each foster home at least once a week, but usually twice. It’s more often if a foster cat is having issues. Booking vet appointments, coaching, listening, offering advice. Making sure to be available 24/7 so fosters don’t have to panic if something comes up. Also, I have to make sure that fosters are appreciated and happy — they get to foster the cats they prefer and don’t feel overwhelmed. Fosters also like to be kept busy so intake is always about filling the empty foster homes, making sure the cats match, etc. Sometimes I’m just an ear to listen.
How many people are part of your team and what do they do?
We have a team of five directors and an extended management team. Everyone has a different role to fill, from managing applications and approving adoptions, graphics/design, database management, fundraising, intake, logistics, social media, managing volunteers, website, photography, etc. We also have a great group of volunteers that help in the adoption centre when it’s open, driving, sewing, and other requirements as they come up.
What's the biggest challenge facing your rescue?
COVID - with our adoption centre located in Toronto, we have spent more months locked down than open. Adoptions are slower outside of an adoption centre as everything has to be done virtually. Fundraising is very challenging now with the current financial instability of many people, as well as the lack of ability to have actual in-person events. Seeing our donors and supporters in person helps to raise awareness, money and loyalty.
Where are most of the forever homes located?
The majority of our adopters are located in the GTHA - but we have had forever homes come from Niagara, Barrie, Oshawa, London, etc. It’s about making sure it’s the right home for the right cat.
Are you looking for volunteers and if so, what traits are you looking for?
We are always looking for more volunteers. Have to like cats. We appreciate initiative. We are always looking for fosters who are more experienced working with scared adult cats. Everyone wants kittens, but if we had more fosters willing and able to work with the scared, it would allow us to rescue even more cats from the streets. We can always use help with fundraising, so volunteers who can bring experience in this area and who can facilitate the process from start to finish are always welcome!
What do you look for in a potential adopter?
It is totally dependent on the needs of the cat. Our adoption coordinators take the time to carefully review every application that comes in to ensure it is the best possible fit for the cat and the adopter. We strongly stress that applications are not first come, first served. Some of these cats may have come from stressful homes or circumstances, so our priority is finding them the perfect home, regardless of how long it takes. Our motto is “there is a home for every cat and a cat for every home.”
What's your most heart warming rescue story so far?
There are two that are probably the most impactful to me. One is Hulk. He was a stray that showed up at a colony I was trapping at. I had never seen him before, but the night of trapping he just showed up and he was clearly badly injured. After he was fixed, we knew we couldn’t release him, so he went into foster. He was rough around the edges and in rough shape medically. It took time and a great foster home, but he is now a cuddly, affectionate lap cat who LIVES for his foster mom and loves his indoor life. He has too many medical issues to likely ever be adoptable, but he is so happy and gets all the care he needs physically and emotionally, and we’re happy to have him as a forever foster.
Second is Bali (and his siblings). These four babies were born in foster to me and right off the start they had many issues. They had no interest in nursing or even taking from a bottle. They struggled to gain weight and I ended up having to tube feed them for the first 4.5 weeks of their life. They eventually started to come into their own, but the runt of the litter is severely delayed and tiny with many health issues that creep up daily. He is full of love and spunk, even when being rushed to ER after a seizure like episode. The entire litter is somewhat of a miracle, for had they not been in foster care and been able to get the full time, hands on care, they would for sure all have perished. While we are still uncertain about Bali's long term prognosis, it’s day to day and he is loving life, having fun, and growing at his own pace. They are all so different, but all deserve a chance to hopefully find their HOME AT LAST