How many cats are too many for you? One? Four?
Lynea Lattanzio has over one thousand cats and counting.
But she is not living in a rundown home like the proverbial cat lady, but is instead running California's largest cat sanctuary.
If you place your pointer fingers on Los Angeles and San Francisco and draw them together at the same time, you will find "Cat House on the Kings" in nearly the middle; three and half hours driving from each. A thousand cage-free cats conjure images of a hoarding situation, but Cat House on the Kings is 12 acres of rolling green hills with trees for climbing and fields for exploring.
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Cat House on the Kings was started in 1991 when Lattanzio went to a shelter and volunteered to bottle feed 15 kittens. She had previously been living on her own for nine years after an abusive marriage led to divorce. She bought a house on a river, but without children or obligations she felt like she was missing something. By the end of year, she had saved 96 cats. "There was always room for one more," Lynea told videographer Elizabeth Nelson.
As time went on, Lynea created a no-kill sanctuary for all animals to live in harmony without fear of euthanasia.
"Most of our cats (about 2,000 a year) come from the streets in Fresno, Tulare or Kings Counties. The county of Fresno does not take cats," Lynea said. Several hundred cats per year come to her after being surrendered by individuals who leave boxes on her doorstep or from other no-kill shelter in the exchange program. Lynea has agreed to take on cats deemed unadoptable by other shelters if, in exchange, the shelters agree to find homes for five of her cats. All cats are available for adoption save for Lynea's own cat Daphne and a rottie mix named Shye Ann.
Pictures from around Cat House on the Kings:
Lynea does not focus on naming the cats. Many of the 700 adult cats already have names from their prior owners and the 300 kittens are numbered. She does, however, have a nickname for the one she calls her 'nemesis.'
"He would be one of my least favorites and is now 15 years old. We have one cat from Oman. My employees named Afghanistan because he is aggressive. I call him the Taliban," Lynea said.
In Cat House on the Kings' 24-year existence they have rescued close to 8,000 dogs, 28,000 cats and spayed/neutered nearly 40,000. She now has 45 paid personnel who maintain the sanctuary, seven vet techs and a veterinarian to keep the residents healthy. What started as a single home has expanded to an ICU, a hospital room, a retirement room for seniors to live out their golden years, a kitten quarantine building, and Lynea's personal house that also houses many of the 25 dogs who live on the property.
For the first seven years, Lynea paid out of pocket for her feline sanctuary. "I spent my retirement," she said. Now, Cat House on the Kings' yearly expenses are $1.6 million. It all comes from donations. If you are interested in donating to Cat House on the Kings or supporting them by purchasing a 2016 calendar, visit the website here.
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