Saving Cats is the mission of Golden Paw Society that operates out of Huntington, Long Island. Helmed by teacher Eileen Osmers—who has been active in Rescue causes since 2005—the organization was started when Eileen met Amanda Wilson who was just as passionate about animal rescue as she. Together, they started Golden Paw Society.

Golden Paw Society features a unique "home away from home" theme that makes their adoption center cozy and different from typical shelters. 100% of every donation goes to the care of rescued cats who are awaiting homes.

Moreover, in July of 2018, the opening of a “cat cafe” was announced. Although the cafe will not open until September, and will be located in the town of Sayville, Golden Paw Society will be providing the cats to the cafe founder, Ryan Shea. The cat café has offered the rescue center more opportunities for publicity and, of course, finding a means of homing cats.

Aside from being the President and Co-Founder of the rescue, Eileen Osmers is a middle school reading teacher and yoga enthusiast who adores her two poodles. Amanda Wilson is a full-time student at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's School of Radiation Therapy. Recently, both ladies granted an exclusive interview regarding their organization and how they hope to continue helping cats far into the future.

Rescue organizations and animal stories

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in animal rescue and why do you focus on cats?

Amanda Wilson (AW): Through years of volunteer work with other rescue organizations our common mission of saving the shelter cats of Long Island evolved and in August 2012 Golden Paw Society was founded!

MM: Have you ever rescued animals other than cats or might you eventually expand?

AW: Believe it or not, we are no stranger to dog rescue! It seems every so often, while in the midst of rescuing cats, we stumble across a dog in need. Through the help of foster homes, we are able to help these dog’s transition from shelters to forever homes.

At this time, we have no plans to include dogs on a large scale the way we rescue cats, but we help whenever we can.

MM: Why did you decide to start Golden Paw Society, why did you select that name, and how does your services differ from other rescues?

Eileen Osmers (EO): What a lot of people are unaware of is Long Island's local municipal shelters are overwhelmed with cats. Many were previously house-cats abandoned for various reasons and once freed from cages quickly begin to show their special personalities. We personally feel shelter cats are the hidden gems and some woefully wait months, even years, to be discovered. From the very beginning we affectionately dubbed our rescue trips "Shelter Runs," in which we visit a shelter and pull 10-20 cats at a time depending on space allowances at our adoption centers.

Our focus is always on the cats who have been waiting the longest or whose lives are at risk; these are usually the ones who are older or are exhibiting signs of stress which makes them difficult to adopt to a member of the public and tragically makes them a candidate for euthanasia. When a cat is frightened in a cage in a strange place, it's difficult to understand what they're truly like. Once rescued from the shelter, our cats are transitioned into our "home away from home" main adoption center in Huntington Station. This setting allows our rescues to decompress and show their true personalities. By methodically rotating throughout a handful of our shelter partners, we have come to ensure that no cat is waiting excessive amounts of time in a shelter cage.

100% of our rescued cats are from shelters and 95% of them are adult cats, as opposed to kittens. Everybody loves kittens but adult cats are the special 'underdogs' and are not to be forgotten. As per our name, we picked it because cats are golden!

MM: How tough was it to establish the organization and keep it afloat?

AW: Establishing it was definitely the most difficult part due to the amount of work involved and the uncertainty of whether we would get the support to make our mission a reality. It was exciting and wonderful, and yet scary and daunting (and exhausting) all at once. We both have always had full time day jobs and yet we were in constant contact with endless texting and emailing with our daily lists of what we needed to do immediately to further the organization.

It was non-stop and intense but the desire to help cats fueled us and helped us push past any of the many obstacles we encountered.

MM: To date, how many cats have you rescued and are any stories especially memorable?

AW: We recently surpassed the 1000 rescue milestone! There are so many memorable stories! From Carrie, our very first rescue who was a young black cat waiting months in a dark shelter cage and then adopted from our rescue within two weeks, to most recently a Scottish Fold named Fergus who nabbed our "100th rescue of the year" spot and has won a ton of hearts. There are 1000 in between and each one is so special to us. When we rescue a cat, we have their back for life. We never want one of our cats to find themselves displaced again.

Once a cat is part of Golden Paw Society, it's forever. That's why if any adoption doesn't work out our cats are to be returned to us, no matter how much time has passed.

MM: You are supplying cats to a “Cat Cafe” that is opening in September, so how did that come about?

AW: The force behind the Shabby Tabby Cat Cafe, Ryan Shea, began as a GPS volunteer and later shared her idea with Eileen. Her intense devotion to this project has a striking resemblance to the beginnings of GPS. Grassroot efforts with big goals in mind and the commitment to see it through are the tools to success and Ryan has it all! We are thrilled with this partnership because it directly translates to more cats being rescued from shelters and that's what it's all about!

MM: What do you think people can do to decrease conflict between stray cats and humans?

AW: Cat overpopulation is a real issue everywhere through this country and many parts of the world. Making a difference starts in your own backyard. If you can have a couple of community cats altered at a low-cost veterinarian, this will prevent more unwanted reproduction.

Adoptions, highlights, and goals

MM: How many cats do you currently have available for adoption and what do you require from potential “parents”?

AW: We have approximately sixty adoptable cats and we welcome new adopters to come check out our adoption centers! We have an application for prospective adopters to complete which asks who lives in the household (human & animal!) and basic questions regarding cat care in your home.

It's important to remember we screen adopters because we want our cats to be safe and loved, simple as that! The application is available on our website or at any of our adoption centers.

MM: Generally speaking, what are the highlights of your involvement with cat rescue and the Golden Paw Society?

EO: The biggest ongoing highlight is having the ability to step into a terrible situation and make an almost immediate tangible difference. It never gets old and there is nothing more satisfying than witnessing the transformation that a rescued shelter cat makes once they realize they are safe. Also, the support we receive never fails to blow us away! We have a growing team of over 120 volunteers who commit two or more hours of their week so that our cats receive top notch care and attention.

We also have a huge fan-base and online community that constantly sends donations and gifts from our Amazon, Wish List, as well as words of encouragement. We never dared to imagine having this much support and we feel so grateful! We work hard to do everything we can to make sure donations go a long way in saving more cats.

MM: What are your biggest goals for the future of Golden Paw is there anything else that you wish to talk about?

EO: We have been steadily renovating different sections of our main adoption center in order to expand and fully utilize all of the space available to us as owners of the property. Our first big improvement was to install ductless ac/heating units throughout the building, creating expanded living space with proper air quality for our residents which was made possible due to a generous grant we received from The Petco Foundation.

The top floor is currently under construction made possible due to a grant from the Maddie's Fund 2017 Innovation Grant Cycle. This space is being drastically improved and will serve as our special needs cat nursery for cats who aren't able to be integrated into our general population on the adoption floor. This is an important project to us because we love 'special needs' cats. The first resident of this renovated suite will be Libby, a three-year-old blind cat who takes special medication to manage her intense anxiety. Every day we are brainstorming how to improve and expand and the ultimate goal, always, is to save more lives. Our organization is 100% volunteer which makes GPS a labor of love, with our success and expansion completely donation-driven, so the support of the public and organizations like Petco Foundation and Maddie's Fund mean the world to us and literally make everything we do possible.

MM: Where can potential “pet parents” learn more about the organization?

EO: Please visit our main Cat Adoption Centers at 260 Broadway in Huntington Station, the Petsmart in Commack, and Petco in Carle Place. Also, keep an eye out for the cat café, coming soon to Sayville!