Durango Herald

The August 2023 Maui fires killed more than 100 people, destroyed over 2,200 structures and caused about $5.5 billion in damage on the Valley Isle of Hawaii, according to a preliminary after-action report by the United States Fire Administration.

But humans were not the only ones impacted by the blazes.

Padgie Kimmick, founder of Cat Care Durango, a cat adoption agency and sanctuary on Suttle Street in south Durango, traveled to Maui last week to take 12 cats off the hands of the Maui Humane Society.

Kimmick said Cat Care Durango did not do a “gigantic deed” by bringing a dozen cats back to the mainland.

The humane society is currently caring for more than 700 cats displaced by the fires in Lahaina, but she and several members of her staff lent a helping hand at the shelter and learned a lot about how to improve their efforts in Durango.

Cat Care Durango has been open for about a year. But Kimmick has performed trap, neuter, release efforts over the past two decades. She said she has spayed and neutered more than 40,000 cats in Durango and the Four Corners.

The nonprofit takes in and cares for kittens and adult cats. New cats are taken to Riverview Animal Hospital, where they receive a full exam, including vaccinations, blood work, testing for feline leukemia, and spaying and neutering when necessary. The cats are then put up for adoption.

“We’ve got diabetic cats. We have kidney failure cats, we’ve got liver failure cats,” she said. “We’ve got cats who were abused, cats that were left in houses, cats that came from big hoarding situations.”

Younger cats are more likely to be adopted than older cats, Kimmick said, but that’s OK. Once the cats warm up to living in the sanctuary, they’re allowed to roam free within the nonprofit’s walls. Many are adopted, but cats that aren’t adopted can live out their days in bliss at the sanctuary.

Cat steps and cat trees line the walls of the sanctuary. Spacious birdhouses are wedged into the upper corners of the lobby and feature comfy cushions for tired cats to curl up and nap. Kimmick said she wanted to make sure every cat under her care has a quiet hideaway.

She said kitten season is gearing up and so is the nonprofit. Cat Care Durango has found new homes for 29 cats so far this year and has 29 cats left at the sanctuary, in addition to the Maui cats brought back from Hawaii last week.

She said the cattery will likely aim to get the Maui cats, which are mostly younger, adopted first.

“They’ll be perfectly vetted and vaccinated and everything,” she said the day before she left for Maui. “They’ll go into the intake room when we get home and they’ll stay here for hopefully about a week.”

The impact area is fenced off, although destroyed homes and wreckage are visible behind the chain links. Cat Care Durango Director Shiann Swapp said she saw large photos of those who died hung on the fences alongside Hawaiian leis and quilts in a long memorial that stretches for half a mile.

Authorities were discovering the remains of people who died in the fires, she said.

During the trip, the cattery crew visited the island of Lanai’s cat sanctuary that houses more than feral 800 cats.

Kimmick said they met with the sanctuary’s director for over three hours. He gave them advice they hope to implement at Cat Care Durango.

“Everything that they’re doing in Lanai was just a mind-blowing inspiration to see how they’re functioning as a sanctuary for ferals,” kennel technician manager Bailey Wilson said on Saturday. “So, I think we (learned) what we can do here in our little space to improve upon.”

Kimmick said Lanai is home to three species of endangered birds that were being hunted by feral cats. The cat sanctuary was developed in coordination with the Hawaii Department of Wildlife to mitigate the confrontations of local birds and feral cats.

“They even had a big gigantic placard in the middle of their sanctuary that (the director) was so proud to show us about how they have really worked with this and how it was something that was being recognized and given to him by the (wildlife) department,” she said.

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