When we think about animal shelters, so many of us focus on the final (and most exciting) step: pet adoption. I know I did. Until earlier this year, when I listened to Terry Gross’s interview with Hannah Shaw, aka The ‘Kitten Lady’ on NPR. Wow, was that interview illuminating.This is a woman who has devoted her time, talent, and treasure to literally saving the lives of the most at-risk kittens. Ones who just simply wouldn’t survive without being fostered so that they could eventually be adopted by you and me.

In a few weeks, The Kitten Lady will be speaking in Orange County at an exciting fundraiser called Kocktails for Kittens  organized by The Ark of San Juan Capistrano. If you haven’t heard of The Ark, first of all, you’re not alone. I hadn’t either. But I’m thankful that one of their dedicated volunteers, Andrea, recently came to Club Cat to tell us all about it. Andrea introduced me to the President of the Board for The Ark, Dr. Robbin Morris, who I subsequently had the pleasure of interviewing.

If you care deeply for cats, you will want to read this interview!

Club Cat | The heroes behind so many of Orange County's adopted cats (and dogs!)

Dr. Morris & Mokus

CC: You are a cat parent of five cats.  What are their personalities like and do they all get along?  Are any of them from a shelter?

RM: There is a natural hierarchy among my cats. The two males are alphas and will hiss and get up on two legs as they attempt to maintain the alpha position. The three female cats cater to the male cats and let them have the choice sleeping place in the house or favorite toys. All my cats have been adopted at the shelter except one who was found under a dumpster as a kitten. The last cat I adopted, Mokus, is my most intelligent cat. He uses the toilet and can run loops on the One Fast Cat wheel (looks like a hamster wheel). Mokus Mustang has an Instagram page with over 1,500 followers.

CC: Aside from being a clinical psychologist, you are also President of the Board for The Ark of San Juan, a 501c3 non-profit that rescues forgotten animals in the San Juan Capistrano and surrounding areas. How did you first get involved with this organization?

Club Cat | The heroes behind so many of Orange County's adopted cats (and dogs!)

Mokus in Halloween attire

RM: I initially got involved with The Ark when I was having a Halloween party and asked that people donate cat/dog related items to the Ark. I was impressed with work the rescue was doing and wanted to help. I have worn many hats, cleaning cages, responding to emergency needs in the community, fundraising, educating the public about the importance of spay and neuter and helping get cats adopted.

CC: There are many shelters across Orange County and other nearby counties. How is The Ark of San Juan different from the others? The same?

RM: The Ark is not a brick and mortar shelter. We are a local rescue whose mission is to help animals in need, especially in the San Juan Capistrano area. We have grown with all the volunteers we have and will help cats and dogs outside of the San Juan area whenever we are able. We attempt to ease the load of the OC Animal Shelter by helping take animals in need as well as working with their foster liaison Liz Hueg with OC Shelter Partners. In an effort to help kittens that are designated to go into an already full shelter, Liz Hueg will have baby kittens fostered until they are old enough at which time we will take them into our program. This is a win win situation for everyone. Unlike shelters, we receive no government support or funding and rely solely on donations. Donations are very important as we adopt approximately 550 cats and dogs per year. These animals receive shots, sterilization, and microchips.

CC: Southern California shelters are overwhelmed with an unusually large kitten season and are in desperate need of immediate fosters. What traits make a successful kitten foster parent?

Club Cat | The heroes behind so many of Orange County's adopted cats (and dogs!)

Photo courtesy of Emrah AYVALI

RM: A kitten foster parent comes in many shapes and sizes. We have an absolutely wonderful young lady who, with the guidance of her parents, oversees kittens and their daily needs in her home. We have families that foster litters and all family members participate in administering medication (if needed), bottle feeding and giving love and attention. We love seniors fostering as they are often patient, calm and caring with the little kittens. Kittens who need to be fostered and do not have mothers will need to be taught to be social. Any foster who has the patience and enthusiasm to engage and play with them is an asset. Some of our fosters become “foster failures” and decide to adopt the kitten or kittens they have been fostering

CC: While Club Cat is a cat-only luxury hotel, many of our customers are also dog parents. What types of services does Ark of San Juan provide for doggies?

RM: The Ark focuses on rescuing dogs under our same mission. Our organization participates in many community dog related events including Dog Sense which provides education in local schools about safety with dogs as well as Blessing of the Animals at Faith Episcopal Church.

CC: The Ark of San Juan has an upcoming fundraiser and we understand that the Kitten Lady will be there. Can you tell us about this exciting event and how folks can get involved?

RM: On Sunday, November 3rd form 4-7 pm at the Marbella Country Club we will be having our annual fundraising event, Kocktails for Kittens. This eventKocktail for Kittens has something for everyone. The Kitten Lady will give her Tiny but Mighty presentation. There will be a meet and greet opportunity following the presentation. We will also have a large holiday boutique with many local artisans for early holiday shopping. There will be appetizers, wine tasting and little kittens available for adoption.

For more information about Kocktails for Kittens email cat@arkofsanjuan.org or call 616-581-6883.