Colorado Companion Animal Sanctuary - A Little Known Secret in Bailey
CCAS is not your grandma's animal sanctuary. In the words of their vet, Sheila RiceWatkins, DVM, it is basically an assisted living facility for cats. These kitties do not need nursing care, but they require some human assistance with their basic needs to survive.
Most of the cats at CCAS are incontinent or unable to use a litterbox for one reason or another. Some have neurological problems due to Manx Syndrome or spinal cord injuries, others have birth defects such as missing feet, blindness and/or behavioral and emotional conditions. Their needs make them nearly impossible to place in adoptive homes - but there is always hope after a period of rehab and stabilization.
Many will spend their lives at CCAS, so it is important that the environment be as home-like as possible. However, life as traditional housecats was attempted in the beginning and proved to be impractical for the same reasons they are considered unadoptable. The cats are cage-free except when eating or sleeping, but they no longer live in the primary space of the co-founders. Daily visits at times when they are least likely to have 'accidents' is the most workable arrangement.
They require special furnishings and equipment that is nonporous and able to withstand the wear and tear of heavy-duty cleaning supplies. Traditional home furnishings are out of the question. Every surface is covered with washable pads that require near daily cleaning and replacement. Keeping the place clean and odor-free is a big job.
Caring for the cats is the easy part. Other than 10-15 minutes each day of hands-on bladder and bowel management, they are just normal cats that eat, play and sleep like all others. They are prone to urinary and kidney problems, so they have a special diet and supplements. Otherwise, they are just cats - that make quite a mess due to no fault of their own.
The sanctuary is located in the home of the co-founders and caregivers - LuAnn Pierce and Christian Brown. Their journey began with one little Manx Syndrome cat named Izzy that had been adopted and returned three times when they fell in love with her. LuAnn and Chris were willing to go to the shelter in Lakewood every other day for a month to learn to care for Iz before bringing her home. After two years of successful care, they decided to help others like her and CCAS was conceived.
The couple relocated to Bailey on 10 acres to pursue this dream. While still settling into their new role as sanctuary caregivers, their home and sanctuary were destroyed by a fire 15 months after moving in. It has been two-and-a-half years of living between two temporary residences with cats and dogs spread out among them, but the rebuild is underway as of June 2019.
#chewygivesback sent a generous donation for the new sanctuary - three play centers! Thank you, Chewy!
The Vision for the New Sanctuary
Given the opportunity to build a sanctuary specifically with these cats in mind, CCAS was designed and equipped to meet their needs. The furnishings and equipment are waterproof and/or washable.
The new build (will soon be buried) is a monolithic dome with the Southside exposed and overlooking Pike National Forest. The sanctuary is an enclosure located in loft-space with the ability to separate spaces for different colonies grouped by need as needed. An outdoor catio is available for the warm sunny days.
And as before, the cats will spend time hanging out with their 'family' each day to get the TLC they all require.
Outfitting the Sanctuary - It Takes a Village
CCAS is a labor of love. There are no paid staff and the volunteers who keep the dream alive do so while balancing work and life. The community near and far pulled together after the fire to get a nice RV that was temporary housing for the cats and is now to be used as an emergency evacuation vehicle, if needed .
Outfitting the sanctuary and getting the cats back into a permanent home has required the help of the proverbial village. We aren't quite finished yet, but we are managing with the help of the caregivers living downstairs.
Here are a few things we still need for the sanctuary:
1. Financial donations to purchase large equipment like a washer/dryer, materials to build the indoor enclosure, flooring, etc. Tax-deductible donations can be made here.
3. Donate materials or up-to-date equipment that meets the needs of the CCAS cats, industrial washer and dryer.
4. Offer your labor to run plumbing to the upstairs area of the building where the cats now live!
Have questions? Call or email LuAnn at 303.910.2425 or firstname.lastname@example.org (We don't trust webmail!)
CCAS: The Back Story - by LuAnn
The Back Story: Little Izzy was just what I needed. She vibrated her magical little purr-power over my wounded heart for hours each day. I was in love with her. She was so nurturing and soothing - a total healer.
We started calling her the oxytocin machine - spreading lovebombs everywhere she goes. She healed my broken spirit over time, and I love her more I can even verbalize. We have trauma bonds, I suppose.
After about three years and the loss of my 18-year- old cat, I decided we should help other cats with special needs - we were good at it. Izzy was thriving. We had figured out ways to care for her that were easier on her and better for us.
Cats that can’t pee and poop due to physical conditions are usually killed at birth. Those that develop ‘litterbox’ problems, aka peeing or pooping outside the box, make up the majority of cats that are returned or surrendered to shelters. Almost all of them are killed.
People hate cat pee and poop more than they love their cats. And it turns out, there are a lot of cats with pee and poop problems for a variety of reasons.
Caring for cats with bowel and bladder problems is both an art and a science. You have to be willing to tolerate pee and poop, which was difficult for me - I can’t lie. Like with babies, it takes a while but you get used to it.
I started looking for cats with problems that needed homes. I found two special needs cats that needed us.
One little guy with no feet in WI (our sweet Merlin - the cat previously known as Muffin-with-no-legs!) and another cat like Izzy with Manx Syndrome (spina bifida) in MI (Oz was called Oberlin pre-CCAS).
So, I went online and filed papers with the Secretary of State to incorporate Colorado Companion Animal Sanctuary (CCAS). Two days later, I took off across the midwest to rescue these babies. It was my first rescue and I was so excited! So the journey began.
Soon, we moved to the mountains, but only with the understanding that I would work from home and we would have an animal sanctuary. It happened.
People from all over the US called for help with their cats, and we took them in. It was cool, but overwhelming. We made mistakes, but figured things out.
One little black cat we named JohnnyCash! was sick for almost a year. Thankfully, he and the rest of us survived.
It seemed I had found the cure for my depression and anxiety - cats! None had Izzy’s healing power, but they were all magical!
On Dec. 4, 2016 our house burned to the ground.
And the sanctuary.
And two cats.
We had been there for 15 months.
I wasn’t too concerned about the house and all our worldly belongings, but I was devastated about the cats.
Recovery from the fire is taking a LONG time. Zoning regulations have changed since the original house was built.
There is only one builder in the country that builds the monolithic dome we want.
To build an underground home in the side of a mountain required months of excavation.
Working with the insurance company and mortgage company is a pain in the ass.
The list continues…
Two long years and three temporary housing situations later, most of the cats are living in a (nice) 31 ft RV purchased with money from a fundraiser.
I am staying in a cabin two doors down with a couple of cats (including Izzy!) and Lincoln, our Great Dane.
This allows me to have internet and phone access to work. And, Lincoln makes it hard to have everyone in an RV.
My husband commutes to Denver 3 hours a day, works 8 hours and sleeps at the RV with the cats.
We will need to rebuild our relationship as we rebuild our home and the sanctuary.
Our funky little family (including the cats and Lincoln) hasn’t lived together since the fire.
The sanctuary has said ‘no’ to dozens of special needs cats.
We have no idea when we can say ‘yes!’ again.
At least we have a place to sleep, shower and do laundry, which is substantial with 7 incontinent cats and 2 that use washable potty pads.
(In the early days of this journey, I made three trips a week to the laundromat and showered at a friend’s house. It was hard to find time to do my paid work.)
Chris, my husband and partner in the cat sanctuary, reminds me often if you are going to rebuild everything from nothing, it is worth taking the time to get what you want and need.
We will not be rebuilding our lives and life’s work from the ground up (literally) again. It has to be done right.
If it were up to me, we would have been living in a new house within 9 months, but that’s me. I hate being in limbo. Living out of suitcases for two years has been nearly unbearable.
However, this experience has really helped us understand how important it is for the cats to have contact with us throughout the day. This is lifetime care. It is their home.
Being away from them during the day while I work has been hard on them and me, too. Thankfully, I have Izzy with me always - I have needed her a lot to get the oxytocin fix that makes this tolerable.
I am with the other sanctuary cats in the morning and afternoon, but it is obvious that they need more human companionship and stimulation. I also need more interaction with them to know that I am doing the best I can for them.
To make this happen, we need help. We can’t do this alone.
We the humans need more hands-on assistance.
The cats need more enrichment and PT.
Our sanctuary needs to be furnished and equipped to meet the needs of our special cats.
We all need your help to make this a reality again.
If you are interested helping or know anyone who may be, use the links above. There is more information about the cats on home page. You just have to see them...they are amazing!
We have some superstars and magic men, like Merlin, Oz, Zeus, Samaria, JohnnyCash!, Cyndi Lauper, and other precious souls you simply have to meet to appreciate.
Plan to visit when we get the new place built - or better yet - help us build it!