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How To Start A Cat Rescue

Updated on March 24, 2011
This is one of our rescue cats, Rosco, enjoying the climbing tree.
This is one of our rescue cats, Rosco, enjoying the climbing tree.

Like I have previously stated in earlier hubs, I love animals, and especially cats. We live in a somewhat small town with little resources, so when we decided to adopt a pet cat, our only option was a small Veterinary's office or driving 30 miles to the nearest shelter. When we talked with the local Veterinary about looking for a pet cat, they told us that they had little room to contain kitties looking for homes. This, of course, gave me an idea; I would start a cat rescue!

Starting a cat rescue was fun, exciting, difficult, and educational. There are laws and rules that i had to learn about beforehand. For example, I had to become licensed to operate a cat rescue. (I live in the state of Missouri, so each state has different laws and/or regulations).

We have a spare bedroom in our home that was pretty much being used for storage. The first thing we did was put a fiber-glass window in the door so that we could see inside the bedroom while the door was closed. This would be the room for the rescue cats - they would have their own room with a window in the door so i could see them at all times, and i wouldn't have to worry about rescue cats running throughout my house or my personal 2 pet cats being bothered by new incoming kitties.

In the "Cat Room," we originally had carpet, which was not a good idea as cats can and will have accidents, especially kitties. One of the first things we did was install hardwood floors. Next came cat supplies, about $600 worth! We bought multiple litter boxes, food and water bowls, food storage containers, grooming supplies, bedding, toys, medications from the Veterinary's office, and more. I keep all my receipts for tax reasons and recommend anyone else interested in starting a rescue to do the same.

Once the "Cat Room" was complete, there was tons of paperwork to do! The first thing i did was come up with a name for my rescue. Then i had to file with the State Secretary's office for "Articles of Incorporation." This cost me $25, and proves what name i run my business under.

After registering my business name, i opened a business bank account with my bank. Now, if anyone donates money or writes a check, the money goes straight into this specific bank account. I can easily keep track of incoming and outgoing money this way, and it comes useful during tax time.

The next step was to file as a nonprofit. To become a licensed rescue, it was recommended that i obtain this status. This, too, was very easy. I filled out a 2 page paper when doing my "Article of Incorporation."

I never knew there was a difference between "nonprofit" and "501c3." Not all nonprofits are 501c3. becoming 501c3 is difficult and costly, but there are many benefits, such as grants. Being 5013c would mean that my rescue would be tax exempt - i wouldn't have to pay taxes on the 'left over' money at the end of the year. Since i run a small rescue, there never is left over money at the end of the year though, and i don't have any employees - just myself, my husband, and a few friends/volunteers. If we ever become larger and/or more profitable, then i will file for 501c3. But for now, i am just basic nonprofit, which means i balance out at the end of the year. All the money i get/make/receive goes back into helping the business by buying cat food, litter, paying off vet bills, etc.

Next step was becoming licensed. I would need an Animal Care Facility License to run a rescue. The paper work can be obtained through the State Agriculture Department. The paper work was a little confusing at first, but calling the State Agriculture department was useful, because they can answer any questions over the phone. One of the forms had to be completed by our Veterinary, proving that we are responsible pet owners and that we have a professional licensed Veterinary for services on our rescue cats.

After the Ag. Department receives all my paper work, they came for an inspection. A list of what you need to pass an inspection can typically be found on the state's Ag Department website. Some things i had to do was make sure there are smoke alarms in every room, fire extinguishers in appropriate places, no harmful chemicals that can be accessed by the animals, etc. Most of this stuff is really just common sense.

The hardest part of running a rescue has got to be the paper work! Each rescue kitty has their own folder including forms that explain where the kitty came from and what date, a detailed description of the kitty and any medical treatment before/during our care, and adoption application, etc. Once the kitty is adopted, we keep their record on file for at least 1 year.

Running a licensed rescue is awesome work. The state may occasionally drop by a few times during the year to make sure everything is clean, correct, and organized. It's difficult at times, but work it when i see a kitty being adopted by a loving family!

If you are interested in starting a cat rescue, or any type of rescue, and have more questions, please feel free to ask! Thanks for reading!


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      You are doing such a great thing. I would love to start one up, but just keep adopting instead...I'm up to 10 adoptees. I also volunteer at the local shelter and do as much for them that time allows. I guess the best message we can get out there is to Spay and Neuter your pets!

      Keep up the good work!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I am goin to start an animal rescue...I was goin to wait till I got a house in July but then read about all i gotta do b4 I can even rescue 1 animal! Where do I start?????

    • Free and Happy profile image

      Free and Happy 

      8 years ago from East Coast US

      I just began to volunteer at a local animal shelter. Some day this would be great to do when Im retired and am home more. Good Luck and God Bless.


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