In April of this year, I sold a small zipper pouch with a cat on it and a set of kitty coasters to a buyer named Chriss Pagani who found me through Twitter. Little did I know at the time that it was to be the beginning of a very interesting journey into the lives of feral cats and this compassionate caregiver.
Chriss is not like anyone I have met online. She tends to be a bit quiet and remains more in the background. Her tweets and other correspondence is usually brief and to the point, yet not without heart. She is not one to stand on the roof top and shout to everyone who passes by about her devotion to the feral cats she cares for or to ask for money. It is done quietly, with perseverance, thoughfulness, beauty, and unwavering commitment. She did not set out to establish a feral cat rescue. It almost appears that the feral cats chose her and she responded out of empathy.
As a youngster, Chriss spent much of life homeless. She says in her blog, "If you have followed my story from my art or photo sites, you know that I had a pretty rough beginning to my life. I grew up in a family that was often homeless and filled with violence...much like the lives of feral cats. We often didn't have food and we lived in a car. It isn't pretty. Except for the rare kindness of a random stranger, I would not be here today."
Chriss is a graphic layout artist, a painter and documentary photographer by trade, having worked for various newspapers and publishers - and now a freelancer. She has spent much time traveling in her RV for various work related projects with her cat Flojo. In 2001 she ended up back in Oregon, her place of birth, and at her sister's dairy farm where she lived in her RV. It didn't take long before she realized that there were many feral cats, as well as stray cats, that were dumped there.
She, as a cat owner, was concerned about these kitties, and helped where she could, but wasn't planning on making any major life changes to care for them. But one tragic day changed all that:
"On June 3rd, I was working at home as I normally did, and this would have been FloJo's second summer as a part-time outdoor cat. It was a sunny day and I let FloJo out about 11 am. I had a lot of work to do, and I concentrated on that more than usual. Christa (daughter) called to say she would be home late because her boyfriend was taking her to Lincoln City.
Later when she came home, I recalled that I hadn't seen FloJo for hours. We looked and looked for her but did not find her. She was never away from the house, so this was very odd. Not once had she failed to appear when called. In fact, she normally greeted us immediately upon arrival. Christa made flyers and took them to the neighbors. We placed lost and found ads."
"The days dragged on and on. Each day I looked for her and called her. Finally on Monday, June 9th, I happened to be in the orchard to the west of the trailer when I spotted a small patch of gray and white fur under an apple tree, amid tall grass. It was FloJo. My heart sank.
Huge bite marks were on her bloody body. Her eyes and mouth were wide open. It was obviously a dog attack and she had been running for the tree. Perhaps she almost made it, or perhaps she began to climb but the dog snatched her from the tree and killed her. I took her body to the house and later buried her with the help of Christa's boyfriend, Devin."
The full account and tribute to Flojo can be read here http://www.chrisspagani.com/pagani-flojo_kitty.html
Chriss was devastated. Her grief and anger were tremendous. She began to see the ferals and strays outside her house in a new light. Her desire to help these neglected kitties grew. "Perhaps it was a selfish reason after all - but now I really love and identify with these poor unfortunate cats." And so the Feral Kitten-Cat Rescue Project was born.
"So when I look at the feral cats, I feel their suffering - and I also see something of myself, because I began life as a feral human; homeless and unwanted. I want to help them - they are living beings, after all, not objects. They deserve better lives than fate has dictated."
Chriss is a talented artist and photographer and is using those gifts to help fund her Rescue. She has taken gorgeous photos of her kitties and shares them regularly on her blog. She also sells prints and cards through Redbubble, which is linked to her site. Her blog has links to all of her work: http://feral-kitten-rescue.blogspot.com/
I am so grateful for this opportunity we have to help Chriss in her efforts to care for these beautiful creatures. May she be encouraged this month knowing that she is not alone in her struggle. The artists at Etsy for Animals share her love for these homeless kitties and are uniting in October to lend a helping hand.
Thank you, Chriss !