Houston PetSet Community Relations & Grants Manager Becky Best recently spoke with Wolly Kitten Club Executive Director and Board Member Shannon Von Eiff and Co-Founder and Board President Shannon Blake about their organization and outlook on cats in Greater Houston.

Starting a new nonprofit at the height of the pandemic is not for the faint of heart. But, neither is rescuing the community’s most vulnerable cats and kittens – something this fearless team has been doing for years. So, although they just officially celebrated their one year anniversary this week, they’ve saved more than 1,300 cats and kittens since they began tracking their work in 2018.

Believe or not, this group was originally created when Shannon Von Eiff began working with another local rescue as a dog foster. She would visit local shelters to pick up pups in need and could see how limited the options were for cats at that time. Not being one to sit on the sidelines, Shannon stepped in to see how she could help. 

She began by fostering cats and working with her husband’s veterinary clinic to get them adopted. At the time, Shannon’s son was in kindergarten, so recruiting help from other parents, like Shannon Blake, was a natural fit. Now the kids are in high school, but the friendship and passion for lifesaving remains stronger than ever. 

Along the way came an opportunity to send cats on transport to Minnesota via Houston PetSet’s big red bus. The desire for adoptable cats was (and still is) strong, so Shannon began recruiting additional fosters to help more cats and kittens in need. Then Covid began, and they found that owners and community members are struggling even more to keep cats and kittens safe and healthy — something they hear daily as people call begging for help. 

Wanting to bring more resources to the table, Blake suggested to Christel Dekker that they formalize their efforts and co-found a nonprofit organization. As cute as the animals they save is the background for the name – Wolly Kitten Club. Wolly (prounced Wally) is a pet name Dutch-born Christel Dekker’s husband gave her in college but has stuck throughout their years together.

Now, this trio and 12-15 fosters work tirelessly to save as many felines as possible, taking in 400 during 2021 alone. But it’s not just about the cats. When asked what makes them most proud, Von Eiff said gaining the trust of fellow animal welfare organiztions and Blake said building a strong team of fosters, showing that mutual respect in relationships is a top priority for this small, but mighty all-volunteer team. 

With several other groups focused on local adoptions, Wolly Kitten Club continues to focus on preparing cats for transport. The need for healthy cats in the Midwest is high and the organization’s work is well-respected and in demand, so this keeps fosters very busy providing the health and behavior support required to send adoptable cats to their new, loving homes.

Many of these cats come to Wolly Kitten Club in poor condition – with skin issues, malnourishment or injuries. But the fosters continually open their hearts and homes and lovingly nurse them back to health. It is these transformations that keep the team motiviated to continue their work.

When thinking about the future, both Shannons imagine a day when cats are not left to suffer. “Cats are a wonderful part of the community when they are altered and cared for,” Von Eiff said. Blake echoed this sentiment saying that “we accomplish that by fostering for shelters and providing resources for our community so they can care for the animals in their neighborhoods” and homes. 

With the addition of resources, such as more access to low-cost spay and neuter and community support, they envision a time when people won’t turn away from cats and dogs in need, but rather provide support to make them healthy and happy as we live alongside each other as one community.

Lisa Tynan