The bond we have with our pets is immeasurable, and when it’s time to say goodbye, sometimes the hardest part is finding a way to honor them. When David and Leigh Kirk said goodbye to their cat Poodie in 2007, they began volunteering in her honor at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus (CVAC). They soon became deeply involved in all aspects of the cat program. Leigh began as a cat socializer, then expanded her efforts into owner retention. David dove into studying shelter statistics and the feral cat situation in the Coachella Valley. What really got their attention was the grim reality that cats of all ages faced when they entered the shelter. Many of them are euthanized within 24 hours.
Inspired to change an old-fashioned system, the Kirks formed ForEverMeow Cat Rescue. In addition to rescuing cats from CVAC, they became experts on life-saving strategies implemented by animal shelters across the country. Those strategies included targeted spay and neuter programs, SNR (spay-neuter-return) programs for community cats, fostering, owner retention programs, and kitten care. They began sharing their findings with the county shelter in hopes of increasing cat adoptions, and, most importantly, increasing the number of cats who get out alive.
In 2015, ForEverMeow opened a kitten nursery specifically to assist the county shelter with the intake of underage kittens. Over the next three years, the ForEverMeow nursery saved hundreds of lives, and Leigh rediscovered a dream. “I gained so much clinical experience running the nursery, and some of the extreme medical cases we encountered really inspired me to shift my focus and become a veterinarian,” she says. Leigh applied to veterinary school in 2017 and, in July of this year, they packed up and headed to Denver, Colorado, for Leigh to begin her studies.
When we spoke to the Kirks for this article, they were preparing for their road trip to Denver, and told us they were taking along three of ForEverMeow’s special-needs cats. Leigh said that since they required special care and had known her as their primary caretaker for so long, she didn’t want to leave them in a new foster home, fearing the change may be too much for them to handle and difficult for her to monitor their health from afar. One of those special-needs cats was Peaches, who is battling cancer.
During their travels, a family inquired about adopting Peaches. The Kirks introduced Peaches via FaceTime and, by the end of the call, the Kirks realized this family was the perfect fit. They were looking to adopt a cat with special needs and Peaches’ care and medical requirements were no obstacle for them. They finalized the adoption while on the road and began putting a plan together to get Peaches back to the desert with her new family.
A few days after arriving in Denver, Leigh and Peaches took a flight back to Palm Springs, where they were met by the ForEverMeow adoption team and Peaches’ new family. Leigh took a quick photo with everyone and hopped back on the plane to return to Denver, where classes were starting in a few days.
Peaches’ adoption story may seem over the top, but so is saving lives. Finding homes for perfectly healthy pets can be challenging, so imagine how narrow the potential adopter pool becomes for a special-needs pet! When opportunity presents itself in the form of a wonderful forever family, animal rescuers know they have to seize the opportunity and make it happen. Finding Peaches a home means ForEverMeow can save another cat from the shelter. And that’s what ForEverMeow is all about—saving cats.
We’re pretty sure Poodie is proud.
While Leigh attends veterinarian school, ForEverMeow continues to save cats in the Coachella Valley, thanks to amazing supporters and their volunteer team. If you are interested in adopting a cat from ForEverMeow or would like information on fostering, volunteering or donating, visit forevermeow.org. You can also meet their adoptable cats at Petco in Palm Desert.