Columbia no-kill shelter provides safe haven for cats

They make their way to the group home for any number of reasons.

Some have been abandoned by owners who couldn't manage their behavior. Some were well-loved but simply couldn't stay at their home. Others have been rescued from hoarders.

All of them have found a loving space with the Howard County Cat Club, a no-kill cat shelter located in the lower-level of a Columbia home that aims to keep the animals in a safe and caring environment.

It started 15 years ago when club organizer Missy Zane began a hotline to help cat owners solve behavioral issues before the problem escalated to the point where the cat would be sent to a shelter, according to club volunteer Vicki Embrey. The shelter quickly formed when Zane agreed to rescue a few cats from a hoarding situation.

Today, the hotline remains in operation and the shelter holds up to 16 cats, Embrey said.

"Some people just get frustrated with a cat… so we often try to work with people to help them with the cat's behavior problems to see if that can be fixed," she said.

However, she added that "often by the time they call us they've already made up their mind to give up the cat."

Embrey said what separates the club's shelter from others is that the animals are not caged. Cats are free to roam about the basement apartment that functions as their group home. She said volunteers do extensive homework to make sure cats go to the type of homes they need based on their behavior. Also, cats that have "bonded" in the shelter are adopted in pairs.

They are also never euthanized, Embrey said, and sometimes cats have come from shelters where they would have been put down had they stayed.

The Harford County Humane Society recently was in the news after putting down a female house cat named Mistoffellees. An indoor cat, Mistoffellees got outside and was picked up a neighbor, who took her to the Humane Society. Reportedly, workers at the Humane Society felt she was violent and later had her put down.

Embrey said the cat in that situation was likely acting up because it was afraid, and needed to be properly introduced to its environment.

"Cats do get scared," she said, noting that the Howard County Cat Club has a particular method of introducing cats to the shelter environment that can take up to a week. 

The nonprofit organization is run by volunteers and earns money through donations and a monthly bake sale. This month, some of the earnings from the bake sale will go toward Snuggles, a 14-year-old rescue recently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. According to the club's Facebook page, treatment would cost about $1,500.

The club's next bake sale is set for Saturday, July 20, from 2 to 6 p.m. outside the Giant in the River Hill Shopping Center, 6050 Daybreak Circle, in Clarksville.

To reach the Howard County Cat Club, call 410-730-3679 or email The club's website is:

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