Cats help their shelter by creating art

Samara crouched, sprang and hit the target head-on, but her prey escaped yet again.

Undaunted, the kitty went into stealth mode for another attempt, only to get the same result. She broke off to look for a treat before returning to fly full-tilt, front paws clawing at the mouse on the iPad screen held by Natalie Sligar, vice president of the Friends of Parkville Animal Shelter. The virtual mouse ran off the screen, which had the very real and frustrated feline searching for it under the iPad.

She didn’t know it, but her work was successful, creating art that could help support the shelter that’s taking care of her.

Every time a cat touches the iPad screen while it’s running the Paint for Cats app, the animal leaves a mark. If the cat rests a paw on the screen, its paw print is captured amid the swipes..

The unique artwork produced is printed on note cards with attribution on the back saying which feline artist created it, and then it’s put up for sale. In package of 10 cards and envelopes that sell for $10, Samara is joined by kitty artists Kiev, Lilah, Rosalie, Tabitha, Justine and even a joint effort by Scully, Duke and Mulder. All of the artists are available for adoption. Cards are available at the shelter, 1356 9 Highway in Parkville.

“I tried to use real paint,” Sligar said of the fundraising project, “but it didn’t work so well. The cats didn’t like it, either. So I found Paint for Cats.”

Sligar can set the color scheme so the note cards are in a mixture of different colors from bright contrasting hues to black and white and shades of gray. The sales benefit the no-kill shelter.

Running a shelter is expensive and labor intensive. Medicine, food and supplies are major budget items.

Paid staff at the Parkville shelter is minimal and part-time. Volunteers feed the animals, clean litter boxes and cages, walk dogs and even play with the animals. Currently there are 48 volunteers working with the kitties, and the same number with the dogs, Sligar said, many of whom stop by going to and from work as she does.

Sligar has been a volunteer since the Friends of Parkville Animal Shelter was formed in 1999 and is in charge of the cat shelter. Originally the organization took only dogs, which were housed in a large wire cage down by the railroad tracks in Parkville. A grant, said Sligar, made a cat shelter possible in 2001. In 2006, the organization was able to rent its present location, with separate facilities for dogs and cats. It is still seeking a permanent home.

The animal population changes weekly, said Kim Shopper, a 3-year volunteer at the shelter who also fosters cats. Recently, she said, a carrier with nine cats was left in the middle of the night. Animals have been found tied to park benches, Shopper said, thrown out of cars onto the road, left in vacant houses and abandoned in the winter weather.

Currently the cat building, a former residence, houses more than 50 animals and other cats are in foster care.

The animals at the shelter are divided among several rooms. One room seems to be all black cats that tend to stay at the shelter longer, perhaps because of superstition.

Another room has the older cats featured in organization’s “Lonely Hearts Club” book. Some have been at the shelter since 2007. Sligar and Shopper were thrilled that a cat who has lived at the shelter since 2006 was adopted recently.

An orange cat roams the building like a drunken sailor, occasionally falling over.

“He has a neurological condition,” Sligar said. “but no one seems to know what.”

Another animal is on a diet to lose weight. The cat was so heavy when it came to the shelter it couldn’t walk.

Like any dwelling where diverse personalities live, not all the cats can be trusted to get along with the others.

Foster families are always needed, Sligar said.

The application form is detailed to assure that the pet and the adopter are suitable for each other. Questions include allergies, children in the family, other pets in the household and even the estimated cost of keeping a pet.

Adopting one cat costs $100, two cats are $150 and people can take home a cat in the Lonely Hearts Club book for just $50. Dogs cost $125. The fees include spaying/neutering, required shots, micro-chipping, testing cats for feline leukemia and heartworm treatment for dogs.

If the relationship between an animal and the new owner does not work well, the shelter will take the animal back and refund all but $25 of the fee.

Cats may be adopted from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays or by appointment by calling 816-587-0918. More information about the organization, adoption, fostering, donating and volunteering is available at