Lynea Lattanzio is a remarkable woman. She founded and runs a unique sanctuary – primarily for cats – but also takes in dogs and other animals. This includes a couple of goats who keep their cost down by acting as lawn mowers for the property.
The Cat House on the Kings (CHK) is located in Parlier, California. It’s a bucolic setting on 12 acres of land facing the Kings River. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to pack up and move on in! Be forewarned — the 4,200 square foot, five bedroom house is entirely occupied — by cats!
Rescuer or Hoarder?
With a daily census of about 700 cats, you may think Lattanzio must be a hoarder. You know — that stereotype of a “crazy cat lady?” But that does not appear to be the case. I’m told there is no cat smell.
How does she do it? The simple answer is no carpeting and floors mopped daily with bleach! In reality, it’s a lot more than that. Aside from the 50 inside litter pans, the yard — about 1.5 acres — is swept daily!
About the Sanctuary
There is a house for HIV positive cats and a separate house for seniors. There is also an ICU on the property where medical care is provided. Kitten quarters and a pasture project grace the landscape, as well. There are 12 feeding stations on the grounds so all the animals can eat when and where they desire.
With 22 employees — mostly part-time — and over 50 volunteers, Lattanzio keeps her mission of love rolling like a locomotive on schedule! Through the years, CHK has helped rescue over 19,000 cats and 5,000 dogs, as well as a number of other animals and wildlife.
Lattanzio told me CHK pulls about 2,000 animals per year from the Central California SPCA. “The local shelter, CCSPCA, kills about 50,000 animals A YEAR!” says Lattanzio. So, the lives CHK saves merely scratches the surface (pardon the pun.)
CHK is primarily an adoption center and a no-kill sanctuary. In the 19 years of its existence and growth, CHK has become a knowledgeable resource for anyone looking for information about cats or looking to adopt or surrender a cat. Low-cost spay and neuter services, as well as long and short term boarding, are also available.
A novel idea CHK uses is to do exchanges with other rescue groups. For example, if there is a less than adoptable pet due to medical issues, age or behavior problems, CHK will take in that pet in exchange for the group taking five highly adoptable pets — or five litters of kittens. All pets are guaranteed for health and temperament by CHK. This plan achieves more adoptions statewide and ensures the “problem pets” a permanent home to live out their lives with dignity, love and respect.
Lattanzio believes cats should roam free. They should be allowed their natural inclination to climb a tree and move about at will. That’s why there are no cages at CHK. Special fencing is used to keep the kitties safe. There is a 6 foot chain link fence with a 4 foot overhang of chicken wire. There is also chicken wire buried below the fence to prevent animals from digging – in or out!
During the formative years, Lattanzio funded CHK mostly with her own retirement money. In 2002, CHK was awarded a 501(c) 3 status and the organization now depends entirely upon donations. She has no regrets in deciding to share her life with all these animals. “This means I won’t be able to retire EVER!” she said, and added, “Not to worry, I like what I do.”
“Our annual operating expenses is about $400,000 and going up,” Lattanzio told me in an email. “The medical care, food, litter and payroll can only go up. That is why we really are looking forward to the publicity the MUST LOVE CATS series on Animal Planet will bring.”
Watch CHK on Animal Planet!
On February 12 at 8:00 p.m., Animal Planet will feature CHK on their new show Must Love Cats. So set a reminder to watch this very novel and unique approach to homeless cats in the U.S.
And take a look around the website. There is a live cam where you can watch cats coming and going at whim. And this page gives an aerial view with a description of each building.
A cat named Seven awaits adoption at CHK photo used with permission of Lynea Lattanzio