Many conversations with Natalie Young eventually lead to the same subject.
“People know the conversation is going to turn to cats if they talk to me at a party,” Young said.
Young founded the Manhattan cat rescue Cattails in 2010 and has made it her mission to find each of her furry friends the right home.
Young moved to Manhattan from her home state of Nebraska around 25 years ago to help at a car rental owned by her family. Although she had interest in the world of shelters, she didn’t feel she could dedicate her time then.
“I remember driving by the shelter and wanting to go in,” she said.
The family eventually sold the business, and Young decided to volunteer. She started out working with both the dogs and cats, but she settled into the cat program. She realized she looked forward to day when the weather didn’t allow walking the dogs so she could spend quieter time with the cats.
Young now has several cats herself, most of which are seniors or have a health issue or other challenge.
“(My house is) full of misfits,” she said.
After a few years working with shelters and rescues in Manhattan, she decided to start her own.
“I don’t think anybody thought I was serious,” she said.
Young, 54, said she went in with a steep learning curve and felt like she needed “Rescue for Dummies.”
“I had no clue what I was doing,” she said. “I wanted to make a difference in the lives of these animals. That’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Now that she has several years under her belt, she said one major lesson she’s learned is how to combat misinformation about cats and cat adoption. Cattails is a no-kill rescue and works with spay and neuter clinics, which Young said is the humane way to control overpopulation without euthanizing animals. She said they also try to educate potential adopters on things like not declawing their cats.
Cattails has adoption events at Petco in Manhattan every weekend, and Young said this is their best opportunity to educate people.
“We’re not only there to adopt cats,” she said. “We’re there to educate, we’re there to advocate, we’re there to help people shop for products. That’s where I feel our voice is heard the most.”
She said the events give volunteers time to talk to people interested in a cat one-one and she wants to answer any and every question they might have.
“Someone will say, ‘I have maybe a dumb question,’” she said. “No. There is no dumb question.”
Young said that if someone is interested in adopting a cat, volunteers have a conversation with them about what their situation is to learn which animal might be the best match based on factors like personality or living space.
“If they say, ‘Can I see this one?’ then it’s only on appearance,” she said.
She said they try to remember the words “compassion, commitment, respect and responsibility” when matching a cat with the perfect home.
Thomas Bartley, a Cattails volunteer, said Young has developed a good lie detector, both of which serve her well in her work.
“She can tell when people give the answer she wants to hear,” he said.
Bartley said Young also has a big heart, especially for the cats she helps care for, and wants nothing more than for them to have a better life.
“The ultimate goal is make the cats a member of the family,” he said. “It’s her motivation.”
Young said running a rescue is all-consuming and her phone is always ringing.
She said although she didn’t know going in how demanding the job would be, seeing a cat find the perfect home makes the time and effort worth it.
“There’s no greater feeling,” she said. “You want nothing more than for them to find the love you have for them.”