At record capacity: Cat shelter seeks adoptive and foster homes

Are you a cat person or a dog person? It's a ubiquitous question and often touchy subject. (The meek words "I'm just more of a dog lover" nearly foiled Greg Focker's plan to win over his girlfriend's feline-obsessed father in the 2000 comedy Meet the Parents.)

Although the line between groups can be rigid and intractable, with either side willing to fight tooth-and-nail for their beloved animals, Wilton's Animals in Distress has for almost 50 years done the unthinkable: converting even dog lovers into the affectionate owners of orphaned cats.

The entirely volunteer-run shelter has been taking in needy cats since 1964, but this summer finds itself in need of foster support, bursting at the seams to capacity, with 20 cats in temporary homes and 25 animals in its small, one-room headquarters, annexed off town hall.

There is no extra room at the center, and the summer has brought forth litter after litter of needy kittens.

Animals sprawl on towers of resting pillows, with 20 volunteer caregivers coming in to socialize and help with all the resources the nonprofit can afford.

"Summer is kitten season," said Catherine Reid, who has managed the facility since last summer.

She said owners must remember to get their pets spayed or neutered, and offers low-cost options for the procedure, as well as food, litter and all necessary products for foster-care applicants, who may take on pets for as little as a couple weeks.

The shelter has also taken in many cats with fleas and without vaccinations, and Ms. Reid reminds owners to get their pets vaccinated and use FrontLine, Advantage or any of the many products that deter fleas, ticks and parasites.

Ms. Reid personally fosters 10 kittens and four adults, and Helen Terry, of Topfield Road, is currently taking on her third litter of orphaned kittens.

Ms. Terry, formerly exclusively a dog lover who also cares for a rescued greyhound, emigrated from England two years ago, and has grown to love cats, alongside her three children, who have helped feed, play with and name the animals.

Most of her cats are about 10 months old, including two orange tabbies, Beau and Bronx; three black-and-whites, Fidget, Henry and Scarlet; and the most recent addition of Hugo, a gray-and-white short-haired kitten.

She first became familiar with Animals in Distress upon adopting Wolfie, an orphaned two-year-old who was found "shy and neurotic" near a Ridgefield condo by a shelter volunteer, according to Ms. Reid.

Ms. Terry began volunteering at the facility this year, along with 14 caregivers who do regular shifts and some families who come in during the week to socialize and play with cats.

"I became more aware of the good work they do," Ms. Terry said. "They have amazing volunteers who do a fantastic job,"

It was not difficult for her to make a cat-friendly home, and found it easy to learn how to play and recognize her animals' needs.

According to Ms. Reid, one of the most important things about taking on orphaned kittens is socializing and having them learn that people are non-threatening.

"It requires holding them, playing with them and letting them know they don't need to fear humans," she said. "If you be quiet — not loud and rambunctious — then little by little they come around."

There is an online vetting process for all applicants, and forms are available at The shelter is open to visitors on Saturdays from 1 to 4, by appointment during the week. For more information, call 203-807-2667.