Karyn Moltzen loves cats.
You’re thinking it and she’ll say it: She’s a crazy cat lady.
When she talks about the cats she’s known and loved, her eyes twinkle. She might tell you about Tiger, once aggressive, who now lives a “happy, happy life” or introduce you to Chunk, a (you guessed it) chubby yellow cat who drapes himself over a cushion on the floor.
Karyn has dedicated her life to caring for animals.
“I recognized, back in 2003, that there were shelters that were killing animals because they couldn’t feed them. I said, ‘Well, that’s not going to happen,’” said Karyn. “I don’t believe a cat should die because it doesn’t have a human address. That’s immoral.”
In the beginning, AniMeals consisted of Karyn’s quiet efforts—collecting pet food and distributing it to shelters. After a couple of years flying under the radar, Karyn made her mission public. AniMeals now supports 71 animal shelters with pet food.
Karyn often finds herself involved with an animal rescue, adoption, or life-saving expedition, the logistics of which can be head-scratching. But ask Karyn how she does it all and she’ll tell you, simply, "you just figure it out."
Her determination built an organization serving all types of animals: feral cats, neglected and abused animals, pets living as companions to senior citizens, cats requiring hospice care, and pets whose families are enduring hardship. And since describing AniMeals' many programs could take up an entire magazine, perhaps the better way to understand the nonprofit's work is to look at the motivation behind the woman at its helm.
“I always had this thought: I was put on earth to do great things. That thought nagged at me for years,” said Karyn. “Then, I started AniMeals. I was never nagged by that feeling again.”
Karyn recently coordinated the removal and rescue of a feral cat colony in Huson. The AniMeals team live-trapped 43 cats from the colony, which had rapidly multiplied into a feline jumble of ear infections, respiratory problems, kitty colds, and congenital defects.
Feral cat colonies exist all over the county, explained Karyn. For property owners, feeding and caring for the cats can be an insurmountable burden. But not for Karyn. AniMeals rounds up support to feed and support the colonies so property owners can be caretakers, not desperate executioners.
A trapping mission is one of logistics: according to the AniMeals newsletter, the trapping time frame is small and dependent upon weather and the reproductive cycle of the cats. Multiple traps are needed, as well as a plan for the care of adult cats (who’ve never had human contact) and the numerous small kittens.
Logistics, for certain. Money, no doubt.
Missoula hosts a record-level number of nonprofit organizations; there’s an organization (or two or three) for any cause in town, making for stiff competition for dollars from donors.
“God bless the people and businesses in this town,” said Karyn. “They give and give. It’s amazing how they give to all of us. It’s a tough gig. You can’t build a better widget. You rely totally on people giving.”
Heroic giving leads to heroic efforts. Whether trapping a feral cat colony or evacuating the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary back in 2010, saving animals requires a significant amount of cash and, as it turns out, chutzpah.
“[When I got the call to help with the Large Animal Sanctuary], I thought, ‘I have a cat shelter. I know nothing about camels or bison.’ I was probably the least qualified person on the planet to do it, but I did it,’” said Karyn.
In 42 days, the AniMeals team and volunteers moved emus, camels, bison, cows, and llamas to new homes across the United States.
“I pretty much just say yes and then get it done,” said Karyn.. “You have to move mountains. If there’s an animal in distress, we help.”
Karyn’s willingness to ask for help will come in handy as the organization searches for a new home in the near future. Their current building is on the market. With more than 100 cats in the building, Missoula’s cat lady needs space, and soon.
Walk around the AniMeals shelter with Karyn and you’ll see her immense love for the cats in her care, her eyes showing that signature twinkle as she calls each one by name.
“Heroes are regular people,” Karyn said. “It’s the most important work I’ve ever done. All these little animals need all the help they can get.”
The Puurrrrfect Way to Start
Visit AniMeals.com to find ways you can help!