Lake and Sumter Style Magazine
3:42 am EST
Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Purr-fect Companions

Cat Protection Society lives up to its name.

Photos: Nicole Hamel and Anthony Rao

Get those tissues ready when visiting the Cat Protection Society, a no-kill shelter that provides a safe haven for cats. There are many tear-jerking tales.

When Stacy was brought to the shelter, she had suffered a miscarriage. One stillborn kitten remained inside her body, and she would have died without medical intervention. Recently, a family decided to adopt Stacy and provide her with a loving forever-home.

Andrew was abandoned on the steps of a Miami courthouse. He arrived at the shelter shy and skittish. Today, he is a furry bundle of love that loves to be petted. 

Persia was a stray cat found on the streets of downtown Orlando. She was pregnant when she arrived at the facility. Her six kittens have all been adopted, and Persia is now waiting for a loving family to adopt her. 

Heart-rending stories with happy endings are common at the Cat Protection Society, a nonprofit organization where 300-400 cats are adopted each year. Potential cat owners need not go from place to place to shop for a new furry friend. The shelter offers a great selection of colors, temperaments, ages and activity levels. 

Just ask Melissa Dawkins, an animal lover who resides in Eustis. During the past 13 years, she has adopted eight cats from the shelter. She also serves as one of the shelter’s foster parents, allowing cats to stay in her home until they’re adopted. For Melissa, the joys of bringing cats into her life are limitless.

“I used to be a hospice nurse who had to deal with the emotional aspects of death,” she says. “The cats gave me comfort. Now, I’m a registered nurse care manager for Humana, and I work from home. The cats give me companionship.”

Anyone looking for comparable feline companionship is encouraged to visit the shelter at 2700 Getford Road in Eustis. All cats are spayed or neutered and brought up to date on vaccinations before being released to families. 

Help wanted

The Cat Protection Society is looking for volunteers to perform the following duties:

1) Brushing and petting cats.

2) Cleaning rooms.

3) Cleaning laundry.

4) Serving as foster moms.

Most of the shelter’s cats are housed in a spacious 15,000-square-foot facility with a long hallway of rooms serving different purposes. The “Quiet Room” is for newly-arrived cats needing to adjust to shelter, while the “Kitten Room” houses babies ranging from 12 weeks to a year old. Tables and chairs are found inside the “Observatory Room,” where the public interacts with cats in a home-like setting.  

Since some rooms are connected to large open-air pavilions, cats can run, climb and experience the outdoors. 

“Here, we don’t cram cats into cages and make them live on top of each other,” says Jonathan Hutzler, manager of the Cat Protection Society. “Cats don’t like crowding. We provide them with plenty of space and let them move around. We have a real homey atmosphere here.”

Cats that come to the facility are abandoned, homeless or stray. However, the shelter does not accept personal pets. 

“A pet cat is used to being a big fish in a small pond,” says Lois Lanius, director of the organization. “When a pet cat comes here, he becomes a minnow in a big ocean. They stop eating, go into kidney or liver failure and die of a broken heart.” 

Not all cats are up for adoption. A separate 7,500-square-foot annex building opened in 2018 houses approximately 70 cats that are feral or have medical conditions like feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia. Shelter employees administer medications when necessary, including antibiotics for colds and creams for abscesses.

FIV progresses slowly, so cats with the disease live relatively long, happy lives. The cats live out their lives inside the annex building with plush beds and linens, as well as outside porch areas conducive to lounging in the sun. 

“If not for our shelter, these sick cats would be out in the streets getting rained on or hit by cars,” says Gerry Cottle, who manages the annex building. “Here, they have a safe haven where they constantly receive food and water and medications to help them maintain a good quality of life.” 

“If something happens beyond our control—like if a cat starts breathing hard—then we take the cat to a veterinarian,” says Janet Wilson, an employee in the annex building. 

For more information about the Cat Protection Society, call 352.589.6228 or visit