Katmandu ~ a labor of love

By Eric Goold


Katmandu ~  a labor of love | Back Page, Cats

Photos by Eric Goold Pat Gwinn stands with Oscar at Katmandu, a foster facility for the Black Canyon Animal Sanctuary. Gwinn and founder Debbie Faulkner work together to provide animal rescue services for Delta County and beyond. Gwinn, a cat person, curr

There are two types of people in this world, we've all heard -- those who love dogs and those who love cats.

Count Pat Gwinn among the latter. Just don't ask her to explain why.

"I don't know!" Gwinn said last Thursday morning, clutching an orange and white furball named Oscar in the playroom at Katmandu, Gwinn's foster cat shelter on Matthews Lane in Paonia.

"I'll tell you one thing, I like dogs, but I don't like the pack mentality," she said, giving Oscar a scratch behind the ears. "Cats are just kind of low-key; they're easy to deal with. Dogs love you no matter what and cats have to control everything. I like their manner. They sleep all the time, you can't argue with that."

Gwinn and her husband, local musician Mike Gwinn, created the facility in 2010, and it quickly became a labor of love for both of them.

"I didn't go out and seek to do this," she said. "I guess it's like life. You can't just have your little toe in the water. At some point you're either in, or you're out."

A double-door air lock separates the cat room from the rest of the converted barn, which originally was a fruit packing shed operated by the Lund family.

"When we came out from California, I was like, 'What am I gonna do with this stupid barn?' and now, well, the barn is full!" Gwinn laughed.

Entering the playroom is like walking into the cat house in a zoo.

"So what we have is what we call a communal living environment," Gwinn said as the residents of Katmandu circled around her feet and meowed discontent at having their sleep disrupted on a rainy morning.

"Everybody's got their own little area. I've got heating pads for everybody, in their little stations," Gwinn said.

An open window led to a screened-in porch where two cats, a grey named Margot and a black and white beauty name Minnie, looked skeptically at the human intruders.

"They can go out if they want. They don't like the rain, but they'll sit out there in the snow," Gwinn said.

Katmandu has 11 feline residents right now. All of the cats are up for adoption, but not all of them will get adopted.

"Some of them are special needs cats," Gwinn said. "Oscar, he's a wonderful cat, but he has this cat herpes in his eye, which I guess is not a big deal, but it scares some people. It's very common."

Old Fannie Flagg, an affectionate grey and white kitty who bumps into your feet with her head to get your attention, is diabetic. Gwinn gives her insulin shots and accepts her with love just like she does with all the other cats.

The foster facility is the culmination of efforts that began in 2003, when the Gwinns moved to the North Fork Valley from California.

"Then in 2004, I approached Debbie Faulkner and asked what can I do to help, and I started out by collecting food for the feral cats," Gwinn said. "So I've had a relationship with Debbie since that time."

Faulkner, definitely one of the dog lovers of this world, started the Black Canyon Animal Sanctuary in 2009 on a 40-acre ranch in Crawford. Readers of the Back Page can anticipate a future story about Faulkner and the Sanctuary.

"Debbie has been doing animal rescue for 35 or 40 years," Gwinn said. "So in 2010, after she started her sanctuary, I went to her and said, 'You know, I'd like to foster cats for you.' She has the dogs, and we have the cats."

Gwinn is what is called a giant foster for the Black Canyon Animal Sanctuary.

"I'm a foster facility for the Sanctuary," Gwinn said. "People think that I'm on my own. The way it works is that I do have a separate license from the State of Colorado, and I have a separate facility. I just gave myself the name Katmandu because it sounded kind of cute."

Both Gwinn and Faulkner offer rescue, foster and adoption options. All of the animals can be located on Petfinder.

"We partner with the Delta County Humane Society, we partner with Surface Creek and Cedaredge, we swap out with them all of the time," Gwinn said. "And we're Petco partners in Montrose. We take advantage of their adoption center."

Gwinn started out collecting food for feral cats, then her role expanded incrementally after partnering with Faulkner.

"I started out by fostering them in my house, and my husband said, 'Well let's just build this room,'" Gwinn said. "My husband is a cat person, too. I didn't know that when I married him, but I lucked out. A musician and a cat person all in one shot!"

The facility is non-profit, all volunteer and no one earns a salary.

"We depend on adoption fees and donations to keep our doors open," Gwinn said. "The majority of our money goes to vet care. I pay for the food and the litter for my kitties. It's just my contribution."

The calls from people looking to find a cat, or to give one away, keep coming.

"I get all kinds of calls. I take everything on a call-by-call basis," Gwinn said. "We have no county shelter, we have no city shelter, we have nothing in the way of government, city funding."

Stray dogs are more visible, but cats that have simply been turned out and are somewhere on the feral scale vastly outnumber loose dogs, especially in the Paonia area.

"The feral cat problem around here is just horrible, and there isn't a whole lot people can do outside of spaying and neutering their animals," Gwinn said. "People just turn cats out, and they're free-roaming. Of course they start multiplying; one female cat can have three litters in a season. And then six months later, those three litters are starting all over."

Rescue, foster and adoption efforts have made a difference.

"I do pretty good on adoptions," Gwinn said. "We work with Petfinder online, and the Petco adoption center is fantastic -- you've got a captive audience coming in and out of there all day long."

It's easy to get attached to her cats, but this genuine cat person hopes that they'll get adopted.

"I do get attached to them, but I have a mindset," Gwinn said. "I'm just kind of a stopover on their way to a permanent home. I love my cats, and I really like what I do. It's difficult, but there's nothing in life that's worthwhile that isn't difficult. There's a home for every cat, it just doesn't happen overnight. That's why I have to look at the big picture."