Nestled behind Wilton’s Town Hall, Animals In Distress is a hidden town gem. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to the care and placement of homeless cats.
It was founded in 1966 as a humane organization to care for all animals in need. At the time, dogs were lodged by Wilton’s dog warden, Basil Burt, while cats and other animals were fostered by various organization members. Shortly thereafter, Wilton created a separate dog shelter, so Animals In Distress became devoted exclusively to cats. The organization settled into the 54 sq. ft. furnace room of the dog shelter, to which a window was added. It had a maximum occupancy of only eight cats, so any additional felines were placed in foster care.
In 1986, Wilton built a new animal shelter where Animals In Distress is currently located. The sunny and spacious shelter has the ability to care for anywhere from 20 to 30 cats at a time, with the exception of some kittens that are placed in foster care. The shelter prioritizes felines in desperate need of rescue–kittens of feral cats that will not survive on the streets; cats unfortunately left behind by their owners; and cats rescued from cruelty situations.
When the shelter has the ability, it will rehome cats that can no longer be cared for by their owners. “Most of the cats come in trusting, just wanting love and affection. They turn to us because we have domesticated them. You cannot just throw them out on the street and hope they will survive because they won’t,” articulates Katherine Reid, Animals In Distress’ proud president since 2011.
The organization has a unique approach to the adoption process to ensure that each cat is put into the loving home they deserve.
“We are a small shelter and we don’t just adopt to turn over cats left and right. Instead, we make sure they find the right home. If two cats come in bonded or they become bonded here, we work really hard to get them adopted into a home together. This seems important to the cats, so it’s important to us,” Reid says.
She jokes that when you adopt from Animals In Distress “you become a part of the family.” The organization’s members and volunteers have a great fondness for the shelter cats as if they were their own and encourage those who adopt to provide updates on how their pet is adjusting to their new home. “Animals In Distress is certainly special in this way,” Reid muses.
Wilton’s rural nature makes the outdoors an unsafe environment for cats to go unattended. As a result, adopters are required to keep any cat adopted from Animals In Distress indoors.
“We put a great deal of time and money into each of these cats, some of which have come from bad situations. We just don’t want to have the cats lives’ risked quickly as a result of avoidable factors, including wildlife and traffic. We love our animals so much and if something happens to them, it hurts,” Reid explains.
The organization doesn’t permit the declawing of cats or kittens after adoption either.
Anyone interested in adopting a feline friend must be 21 years of age or older and provide any vet references they may have. “We want to see what people’s long-term vision is and ask if they will be there for the entire duration of that animal. It’s definitely a commitment,” conveys Reid.
While the town of Wilton provides the space to Animals In Distress, the organization does not receive any additional municipal funding. Instead, it relies on generous donations from individuals and adoption fees throughout the course of the year. Most of this money goes towards veterinary care which covers various tests, vaccinations, and spaying or neutering if necessary. Despite the discounts kindly provided by local veterinary clinics, the cost of these procedures can still amount to over $350 per animal. The organization is also incredibly grateful that supporters frequently donate essentials like food, litter, beds, and toys, eliminating those expenditures in the care of the cats.
The shelter is staffed solely by 25 dedicated volunteers. A shift of two to three volunteers comes in each morning and evening to tidy up the space and offer care.
“We pamper them, play with them, and feed them. It is so much fun, especially when you come in the door and the cats know who you are. They always come running up to greet you and meowing to get your attention,” says volunteer Blair McMorrow.
The shelter has plenty of space for the felines to freely roam about. There are also plenty of shelves, baskets, and climbing towers, as well as two large windows where the cats sit to watch birds and any other critters that scurry around outside. Animals In Distress truly seems to be the “best little cat house in Connecticut.”
“There are so many animals sitting in shelters all across this country. If you can adopt, it’s great. Our shelter does not euthanize, so when a cat is adopted from Animals In Distress, a spot opens up to accommodate another one in need,” says Reid. So, if you want to give a special animal its forever home, consider adopting a shelter cat.