Volunteer of the Month: Kelda M.

June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat month, so we’re turning the spotlight on volunteer Kelda M., who's done lots of fostering for Cat Town, and is also part of the amazing Cat Crew at Oakland Animal Services. We're so grateful to her for everything she does for both organizations and the Oakland cat community as a whole—we even named a former Cat Town cat after her! So, without further ado, meet all-star Cat Town volunteer Kelda!

  Kelda and her cat Herbie, a notorious lover of shoulder perching!

Kelda and her cat Herbie, a notorious lover of shoulder perching!

Larissa C.: How did you get involved with Cat Town?

Kelda M.: I had been following Cat Town on social media for a while and had wanted to foster. At the time, I had a boyfriend who was resistant to the idea, so I had to get him on board first. But never underestimate a cat lady! I convinced him we could do it, and in 2015 I welcomed my first foster, Cinnamon, into my home.

LC: Have you been a cat person your whole life?

KM: Yes, ever since I was a small child (see photos), I was a cat lady. As I like to say, I was a lost cause from day one.

LC: You also work closely with Oakland Animal Services (OAS) as well as help trap stray and feral cats in your neighborhood. Can you talk a little bit about how you got involved with the Oakland cat community as a whole?

KM: Well, growing up I used to like visiting my local animal shelter. It was sad, but also hopeful, as people were there looking for companions. The people who worked and volunteered there were always trying to do the best for the animals. When I moved to Oakland, I wanted to volunteer at our municipal shelter. This was during the period when the shelter was struggling and in the process of trying to separate from OPD control. As soon as I saw a post for a volunteer open house, I immediately signed up and started volunteering in Fall of 2014. In 2016 I joined the Cat Crew.

In terms of the stray cats and my trapping lifestyle, it also goes back to my childhood. I had a tendency of finding cats and kittens, with my first cat as young as five. This pattern repeated itself often (me finding a cat and bringing it home—we lived near a park and people liked to dump cats there), all the way up to present day when I found my Herbie crying in my backyard in Oakland when he was just six-weeks-old. I spent an hour in the rain meowing back at him until he finally came straight to me. He’s been my boo ever since.

From there, I started to notice the different stray cats in the neighborhood. In April of 2016, I finally caught one little girl I had been eyeing for a couple months and brought her to OAS. At the shelter, she was pretty fractious, though there were glimmers of a sweet little girl in there somewhere, so when I brought her home to foster, I refused to give up on her. Cue to a month later and she was already mellowing out and showing her loving personality. Five months later, she was adopted by a lovely couple in the Berkeley Hills. I am so thankful to Cat Town for working with me and Poppy and placing her for adoption through their program. Poppy has an amazing life now and it’s in part because of them.

Last summer was when I really started to get into actual cat trapping when three cats with their kittens (a combined total of 12) moved into my backyard. I learned a lot about trapping during this period and have since helped my neighbor trap and fix all the semi-feral cats she cares for. An unexpected side-effect of this is the ever-increasing number of fixed backyard cats I now care for! Two are from the original group who moved in last summer, and now there is a new addition I fixed back in February. Watching over them all is Buddy, Fruitvale’s top hoodcat, who has lived on my block for as long as anyone can remember and has somehow managed to maintain a loving disposition. He decided to make my backyard his permanent stomping grounds this past December. All four of them enjoy running around my yard and hunting little bugs and, on occasion, a rat.

  Poppy, once thought to be feral, was still young enough to be part of Cat Town's Forgotten Kitten Project. Under Kelda's care, she blossomed into a loving companion. 

Poppy, once thought to be feral, was still young enough to be part of Cat Town's Forgotten Kitten Project. Under Kelda's care, she blossomed into a loving companion. 

LC: So how many cats do you have at home right now?

KM: This is a loaded question! At any given time, I have between two and …?, not including the four backyard cats I care for. This number fluctuates depending on whether I have a Cat Town foster and if it’s kitten season. Right now, I have 10 at home, though Summer (my Cat Town foster) goes to her new home this week, and four of my foster kittens will be available for adoption this weekend as well. My two permanent boos are Herbie and Cotton (adopted through the East Bay SPCA a week after I found Herbie).

LC: What roles do you play or have you played at Cat Town?

KM: I primarily foster, though, through my old job in entertainment PR, I connected Cat town with my co-worker who was planning a press stop for KEANU. The film studio bought out Cat Town Café for the day and interviewed Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key there. That’s still one of my favorite days.

  Kelda and her other cat Cotton. 

Kelda and her other cat Cotton. 

LC: What is your favorite thing about working with vulnerable shelter cats?

KM: Watching the breakthroughs they have! My current foster, Summer, took such a long time to warm up to anyone that every one little moment of her letting her guard down has been cause for celebration. I’m really excited about her life with her new family.

LC: You’ve worked with a few members of our Forgotten Kitten Project. What is something you’ve learned about under socialized cats during your time at Cat Town that you think people wouldn’t expect to be true?

KM: There’s a lot of talk about the socialization window and how, once you miss it, there’s not a lot you can do to get a cat to accept or be comfortable around humans. What Cat Town does is basically disprove this by showing that, with time, patience, and love, magical things can happen. It sometimes has nothing to do with me. Most of my fosters have made their big breakthroughs just by watching my cats and how they interact in the environment. Cinnamon, my first foster through Cat Town, had a total love affair with my Herbie and it was because of him she learned to trust me.

LC: Tell me about your favorite memory from fostering for Cat Town and why would you encourage people to adopt a cat from a foster home?

KM: Gosh, I have a lot of favorite memories! The ones that always stick in my head the most are watching a formerly shy and scared cat running around the house, entirely comfortable with the surroundings, and watching them cuddle with my cats, even if my Herbie is getting to be grumpy in his old age (FYI, he’s only five but has the disposition of a grandpa).

With shelter cages filling up, Cat Town is looking for fosters! If you have a quiet space in your home and time for an older, under-socialized kitten or cat, you could be a great foster parent. Our team will match you with a cat who fits your interests and experience. Email info@cattownoakland.org to learn more.