Villager works to save senior cats

Jordan Smith, Petsense store manager, left, and Kimberly Goodson pet Sue Ellen, one of Petsense’s adoptable cats.

Kimberly Goodson, Loudon County Friends of Animals founder and president, has been a hometown hero the last eight years for hundreds of homeless cats.

By helping crowded animal shelters and placing cats in foster homes, or even taking in cats herself, Goodson has remained dedicated to keeping senior cats from meeting an early fate.

“I started in 2011 with a feral colony at Fort Loudoun Dam,” Goodson said. “TVA made us get rid of the cats down there because it was on their land, so I re-homed all of them. It was 37. That’s what got me started, and the people that came down to help us … they said, ‘If you want to help cats, then you need to help the shelters because we are so high kill around here.’ I got involved and started with the Loudon County shelter, and helped them for years, and then other shelters started saying, ‘Can you do the same for us?’ I helped Roane (County) and Rockwood for several years. Now, I’m focusing on shelters that want to become no kill.”

Goodson said “no-kill” shelters equate to 10% euthanasia due to people bringing in cats that are sick or suffer from dire injuries. Goodson said she is working with shelters in Blount County, Monroe County and Oak Ridge. Last year alone, Goodson adopted out 614 cats. She tends to focus on pulling senior or sickly cats out of the shelters due to their higher euthanasia rate.

“They come to my house a lot of times first, and I make sure they’re healthy and tested for feline AIDS and leukemia and de-wormed and no fleas and all that, and then I bring them up here,” she said.

Goodson will then transfer the cats to foster homes or the Lenoir City Petsense adoption center. Nearly 400 are adopted out of the Petsense location, and 200 are adopted from foster homes or Goodson’s basement. Petsense reached out to Goodson three years ago and the Lenoir City branch became the No. 1 pet adoption store in the company in 2018, Jordan Smith, Petsense manager, said.

“It’s super important to have a place where people can come see the cats, play with the cats, get them out of the shelter, give them interactions with people,” Smith said. “Even if they’re not able to adopt them, it’s still important for them to have the socialization of people coming in and playing with them. We get quite a few special needs adults and children that come as part of their weekly routine, and they’ll just come in and come visit the cats. It’s important for them and the cats to get the interaction.”

Love from a furry friend proved an integral part of Loudon High School’s Career Technology Education program.

Billy Bivens, automotive teacher, reached out to Goodson for a cat that would be a good fit for students. Goodson found Cooper, who had spent a lengthy amount of time in a shelter.

“He gets to run the whole 10,000 square feet over there and just run and romp and have fun,” Goodson said. “He hit the jackpot.”

Unlike many shelters, Goodson’s efforts allow cats to be adopted quickly.

“No one stays here longer than three weeks, which is good,” she said. “Some (cats) stay six to eight months (in a shelter). The rescues leave them there a long time. We don’t.”

Goodson also offers an online application that allows people to find a good match to re-home cats.

“We’ve gotten these shelters done where so far — knock on wood — we’ve kept them from euthanizing any that aren’t sick terribly or something,” she said. “It’s a real great thing for shelters here to not have to be euthanizing.”

Though Goodson advocates adoption, she admits she bought pedigree cats when she was younger. Now, she sees that buying pedigree breeds can contribute to the high euthanasia rates in shelters.

“Pedigrees are great and everything, but maybe if people started adopting from the rescues, that’d go away slowly,” she said. “Every day, a million cats and dogs get euthanized in America at the shelters. If people would quit going to the breeders, maybe we could get that way down.”

Goodson is always in need of volunteers. For more information about LCFOA, call 865-809-1400 or visit www.loudoncoun