The Lucky 7

Rescue can be difficult. There are days when we feel like we can never do enough. Days that make us cry for the animals we can’t save.

Last Thursday was one of those days. I went to a local shelter to “pull” a few cats. We had space in our adoption center and foster homes for a few more. This is what rescue groups often do – they take animals from municipal shelters. Why? Because our shelters are still broken/dysfunctional. Yes, there are some good ones but there are so many that are understaffed, overcrowded and lacking significant public outreach. Case in the point, the shelter I was at only had adoption hours from 1pm to 4pm … when most people are working. :(

I had selected the cats we were pulling before I walked in the door – based on need, age, our foster home abilities and length of time at the shelter. But I walked through the adoption area anyway looking at all the beautiful cats waiting for forever homes. Several cats not on my list caught my eye for various reasons.

Dawn – a 6 month old kitten destined to spend her kittenhood in a cage.



Zyfi (now named Kimberly) – an adult with a severe head tilt.


Kimberly (currently being treated for an inner ear infection)

and Layla – a four year old tabby who had a home but was surrendered to the shelter because “she wasn’t getting along”.

Layla at the shelter

Layla at the shelter

Layla broke my heart. Not because of her age or her brief story. But because when I looked into her eyes, I saw a cat that had given up hope. She didn’t even want to leave her cage – she had no interest in me or even the volunteer that she knew. Did she know that the shelter planned to euthanize her the next day? Cats are smart. Too smart.

Please understand, I’m not bashing this shelter. It’s a clean facility. The animals are cared for, fed, loved. It doesn’t smell and it is a welcoming environment. It’s just that almost no one knows to go there to seek out an adoptable animal. And they aren’t the only shelter in this predicament.

So, I had four carriers with me and I decided to stick to the plan … I left with the four cats I planned on taking: HectorWanda, Wilma and Cleveland. They knew they were picked – I couldn’t disappoint them.

And then I did something I don’t do very often. I cried my eyes out. I just could not get Layla out of my head. When I called our adoption director, she immediately made a plan to go get Layla. She called one of our fosters and asked her to make space. Then she called me back and told me to call the shelter to tell them we would pick up Layla in the morning. Plus two more cats.

Again, the tears.

Now, please don’t read this and think “well, what can I do to help with this huge issue? it’s insurmountable.” It is NOT – we can and we ARE making a difference. Shelters are changing. More animals are being adopted than being “purchased”.

And, Layla … Layla is doing so well in a foster home – she just needed to be out of the shelter. She was head-butting and purring with her foster mom 5 minutes after arriving in her temporary home.

Layla represents everything rescue is supposed to be. No animal deserves to die because a shelter has decided they are “out of time” to find a new home. Private rescues can work with shelters to provide that extra safety net for animals that need more time. But both groups need the public. We need you.

We need volunteers to socialize, clean and foster the animals. We need donors to provide the funds that keep everyone fed and cared for medically. We need adopters to visit the shelters and our adoption hours (you know you want to take a day off of work!). We need outspoken people to make the stories of these municipal shelters heard so that conditions (length of stay, foster care programs, adoption hours) change.

I often fall back on what is becoming an old saying from Ghandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Never is it more true for the animals that need us. You don’t have to do everything, but you can do something. Thank you for helping us do something good.


National Feral Cat Day – Guest Blog

A regular volunteer’s wife is allergic to cats but she still has a passion for saving them! Michelle G shares some thoughts on feral cats and what you can do to help:

I can remember in the house I grew up in, my room was in the front and on the end. Many different animals visited that area of house and around outside my window. I can still hear the sounds of the cats outside, fighting and making this odd sound almost like crying baby. Those cats were feral. By definition, feral cats are “existing in a natural state, as animals or plants; not domesticated or cultivated; wild” ( Had these cats been part of a Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program, they would have been less inclined to fight over territory or a mate. Male cats who are not neutered are more likely to roam, fight and yowl, but those behaviors can be stopped simply by having them neutered.

Now, mind you, due to allergies, I can’t even pick up my own furbaby, but humanly trapping and getting these cats to a facility that provides spay/neuter, ear tipping, typical vaccinations (including rabies); and then returning them to their colony provides many benefits to the neighborhood. Some of these benefits to the feral cats is that they become less noisy since they fight less, male cats will reduce marking their territory, which makes the community smell better. According to Alley Cat Allies, “over time TNR reduces the size of feral cat colonies anywhere from 16% to 66%.” That’s HUGE! And if you consider removing the friendly kittens from the colony and putting them up for adoption, that raises those percentages even more!!


There are also health benefits to both female and male cats who are spayed/neutered. Unlike people, animals reproduce only because their hormones tell them too. Spaying/neutering can also prevent testicular tumors, uterine cancer and uterine infections.

Community cats may be feral or one-time pets who are stray, lost or abandoned. We all know that once you feed the neighborhood cats, they are basically yours forever. Keeping in mind that a lot of cat owners allow their cats outside, these should not be confused with community cats.


“A stray cat is a pet who has been lost or abandoned, is used to contact with people, and is tame enough to be adopted. A feral cat is the offspring of stray or feral cats and is not accustomed to human contact. Feral cats are usually too fearful to be handled or adopted. Stray cats may be reunited with their families or adopted into new homes, but feral cats will find it difficult or impossible to adapt to living as pets in close contact with people. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t many things you can do to improve feral cats’ health and quality of life” (

October 16 is National Feral Cat Day and in an effort to continue helping cats, Karma Cat + Zen Dog will be building feral cat houses for managed colonies. What are colonies you ask? A colony is “a group of related cats.” These colonies occupy and defend a specific territory where food and shelter are available – even if they are less than ideal.


Join us at the North Brunswick PetSmart on Saturday, October 17, 2015, from 12pm until 330pm.

~ Michelle, Bubber’s other Momma

Paws for Celebration Notes

Paws for Celebration Cake
When we started Karma Cat and Zen Dog, we created a mission and a plan and we set some procedures in place. We did our homework and moved slowly. We gathered some amazing people along the way to help us.
All of that is pretty standard … it’s what is supposed to happen so that the organization can grow and do the right things. I’m proud of that – I’m proud of what this organization has accomplished and who we have become. To be honest, it is what I planned and hoped for …
But perhaps what I didn’t plan for was that the people in this organization would become ohana.
Though I was born in NY and have lived in NJ for many years, some of you know that I have a profound love for Hawai’i. And what I have experienced of the Hawaiian culture, ‘ohana is an idea – something that the people live by.
The word ?ohana means family in the Hawaiian language, but a much wider sense of family, it includes not only one’s relatives, but also one’s friends, neighbors and coworkers. The idea is also that family and friends are bound and everyone must work together and not forget each other.
Our ‘ohana extends to our volunteers – each and every one of the 55 people that run this organization. From our 6 board members, to our 21 directors and coordinators, our 8 junior volunteers that range in age from 4 to 18. The 37 PetSmart and 25 CatQuarters volunteers … and the 39 people that hold multiple roles.
We include our veterinarians and vet techs in our ‘ohana – spread across several towns, but never out of reach for us when we need their help. I think they are used to us texting and emailing at all hours of the day at this point.
The foster ‘ohana is strong – at one point this year they hosted 59 animals in only 10 homes. We are usually averaging 35 to 40 animals at a time. Every foster has their niche: the seniors, the bottle babies, the ill, the non-social, the “I don’t like any other animal”.
Our donor and supporter base totals over 1000 and spans the Americas. A supporter from California sends periodic donations when any of her or her friends’ animals needs a little “good karma” and a Canadian supporter sends a money order every year that confuses the bank.
Our sponsors tonight are definitely ‘ohana. Top Cat sponsors BPL Carbon-free Solutions and the St. Francis Animal Clinic. Fat Cat sponsors: Edgebrook Animal Hospital, Karen Wilkinson of ReMax Platinum, Keiki Farm and the Raritan Group. Cool Cat sponsors: Muffin & Morris, Sandy & Thurman and Mshisha & Kita – all Karma Cat Alumni, and the Rabbits Den Tattoo and Piercing Parlor. Our Wine Glass sponsor tonight is J.B. and the gift bags were sponsored by Michelle Arlotta Photogrpahy, Katie’s Pet Depot and One Steep at a Thyme. Music tonight is sponsored by Jan Lilburn and provided by The Echos.
KCZD Mandala
Over the past 5 years, we have created a family of adopters – one could say this is the heart of our ‘ohana since without you, we’d be stalled in our mission. 670 animals have found their forever people in 496 homes (we have quite a few “repeat” and “twofer” adopters).
Ohana means family and we stick together through the ups and downs …
We opened a new adoption center “CatQuarters”
  • battled ringworm and urinary tract issues
  • rescued the 9 Lives from Helmetta – a shelter rescue that will never be forgotten
  • dealt with epic kitten diarrhea
  • received another Sidewalk Angels Foundation grant
  • nursed horrific wounds
  • rescued the 4th and 5th Zen Dogs
On this roller coaster of a year, we sadly lost a few animals to illness … some while they were still in our foster home network, some after they had been adopted.
  • Aubrey
  • Jack
  • Alvin
  • Freddie Boom Boom
  • Buster
  • Floki
  • Jenny
We know that each of those cats was loved and respected – may they rest in peace and may their fosters and adopters know that we all did everything we could for them. Swinging back to the upside … Some amazing adoptions and rescues have taken place in the past 12 months …   
  • Shortly after last year’s Paws for Celebration we rejoiced in our 600th adoption –
  • Calvin Klein
  • Courtney required constant care after she presented with a large open wound on her stomach. She recovered and was adopted by a past adopter.
  • Following in her footsteps, Greyson is currently being treated for a massive skin wound.
  • We were not shy or short on theme names this year …
    • Welcome Back Kotter
    • Modern Family
    • The Baseball Greats
    • Thunder Cats
    • Motley Crue
    • We even managed to pull names from American Horror Story, The Beatles and The Flintstones – we are nothing if not eclectic
    • Hunger Games
    • Mary Tyler Moore
    • Facts of Life
    • Game of Thrones (again)
    • Sound of Music
    • And my personal favorites for themes, Orphan Black and Hawai’i Five-0
  • Four dogs found their forever homes because of our fosters … this quadruples our total dog adoption number!
  • Our sassy cats, One-Eyed Winnie, Robin and Saucy found their perfect humans this year
  • The Greeks – seniors abandoned at a local vet hospital all found homes 
  • Cheese Puff, Quinn, Pia and Mabel were returned from their first adopters for various reasons but all have found new forever homes.
  • Countless kittens and cats pulled from the Newark shelter and the 21 cats and kittens taken from a New Brunswick home – almost all of which now have forever homes
  • Owen had two knee surgeries to correct Grade V luxating patellas after being rescued from the Helmetta shelter. We are excited to announce that he has found his forever home with the staff at the Edgebrook Animal Hospital where he will stay ‘ohana forever. You can visit him at the front desk. Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind — or forgotten.

OwenThank you all for being here tonight! Your support means everything to the animals that we rescue.

Name the Kittens

Name the kittens! We rescued these 5 cutie-pies from Newark AHS on 3/4/15 and they needed names so we had a little contest. Donors were entered into a hat and 2 winners were chosen: Kathryn P and Jan L!

Purrs and Paws Kitten Shower

Pitter Patter, Kittens Matter! Join us at the North Brunswick Road Runner Store (Shoppes at North Brunswick, 501 Rt. 1) for a Kitten Shower!

Saturday – March 21, 2015 – 9am – 1pm


It’s kitten season and we would love to stock our shelves so we can lovingly care and feed the wee ones that will come our way. Here’s a list of our most needed items:

  • KMR liquid and powder formula
  • World’s Best or Exquisicat Corn Litter
  • Fleece Blankets, Baby Blankets, Pillowcases
  • Kitten Nursing Bottles & Replacement Nipples
  • Dawn Dish Detergent
  • Royal Canin Baby Cat Dry and Wet Food
  • Simply Nourish Dry Kitten Food
  • Paper Towels, Clorox Wipes

We will have adoptable kitties at the store, refreshments (custom cupcakes by Rockn’ Sweets!) and some prizes!

Donations can be dropped off at Road Runner Store (North Brunswick) or the North Brunswick PetSmart.

The Year in Review: 2014

The end of 2014 marks the end of 5 calendar years for Karma Cat + Zen Dog! My, how time flies. Sometimes we feel that we haven’t done enough, other times we wonder where we found the time, money and volunteers to pull off mini miracles.

Like any year, 2014 had its ups and downs. We suffered through a very tough case of FIP with Rudy. And we heard from several of our past adopters that their Karma Cat Alumni was taken too soon by this awful disease. Having friends throughout many rescue groups, the loss to FIP was not felt only by us – it was a really tough year.

We rescued 3 dogs this year! Seems like a small number but all three dogs needed a bit of special care either medically or behaviorally. It’s wonderful that all are in amazing homes already.

We learned more than we ever wanted to know about massive mammary gland infections during Courtney’s Ordeal.

We rescued many litters of kittens; some in better condition than others. Our last round of “Newark Kittens” are still fighting some medical issues (eye issues and intestinal troubles) but we know that PhilR, Thurman and SandyKit are in the best hands possible in their foster homes.



We opened our own space to adoptable cats, dubbed “CatQuarters“! It’s still a work in progress but we are moving our office functions there and we already have office helper cats!

This fall, we rescued the “9 Lives from Helmetta” after the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter was raided and quarantined. The fate of the shelter is still unknown. Several of the kittens we rescued came with ringworm (fungus) but they will be available for adoption soon.


Owen has one new knee and he will get his second knee this January. He’s being a good boy for recovery so we rewarded him with his own FaceBook page: Knees 4 Owen.

Santa asked for our help with a special Christmas Day adoption delivery: Operation Santa’s Helper.

And at the 11th hour, we TNR’ed 9 cats and rescued 3 kittens from a local feral cat colony! Only one more cat to “get” there and it’s a complete success! Read more about TNR from our volunteer, Erin on the blog: TNR, You Can Do It!

We adopted out 111 cats and 3 dogs in 2014!

2014 adoptions

We continue to care for 28 cats and kittens.

2015 animals

And in case those cute little word diagrams don’t satisfy your need for adorable animal pictures, here’s a slideshow of everyone adopted and still available for adoption as of 12/31/14!

Since inception, we have found homes for 610 animals! Everything we do is for them – and everything you do for us is for them! Thank you so much for ALL your support this year. We look forward to a wonderful 2015 as well as another 5 amazing years.

Making Spirits Bright

TNR: You Can Do It!

How to accomplish your own TNR project!

Trap-Neuter-Return, commonly referred to as “TNR,” is the only humane and effective method at controlling feral cat population growth. If you see a colony of cats that you wish to help, it is important that not only food and shelter are provided but also that the population is controlled. Neighborhood Cats has a great description on the many benefits of TNR:

Step 1: Scope out your area & count your cats. This may take a few visits to the area where the cats are living. Be sure to get a visual on if they are already ear tipped. This would indicate they have already been TNR’d


Step 2: Determine if the cats are being cared for. If you see food and shelters, most likely there is a kind person who is doing their best to assist the colony.

Step 3: Make friends with the caretakers & feeders. You may want to leave a note with an email address if you do not see them feeding the cats. Offer your assistance with trapping and fixing the cats. Set aside or fund raise the money you will need for the surgeries and vaccinations.

Step 4: Plan for the date you will be trapping, make your low-cost spay/neuter clinic appointment(s), set up your pre/post trapping staging area (basements or garages are best) and request the cats are not fed the day before to ensure they are hungry enough to enter the traps.

Step 5: Get there early! Have: 1. One trap for each cat.  2. A cover for each trap. 3. Plenty of newspaper to line the bottom of the traps. ( line it the short way so you don’t have to pull as much out from under the cat when cleaning) 4. Stinky hot chicken or similar food that will encourage the cats to enter the traps. ( Heat the cans right on your car vent ) 5. Plastic and paper lining to protect your vehicle seats. 6. Have a book and some coffee, because it is a waiting game :)

IMGP0518Step 6: Set up the traps. This can be done in an area the cats are normally fed. You will want to partially cover each trap, so the cats still able to see out, but you can quickly cover the trap once the cat has set it off. Leave a small trail of food to entice the cat, but the majority of the food should be past the trap release so the cat goes all the way in and engages the door to shut. You want to be close by to hear the trap go off because the cat will most likely panic, they should calm down once the trap is covered. Move the trapped cat away from the remaining traps and in to your vehicle that will be used for transportation.


Step 7: Transport the cats to your local low cost spay and neuter location. Ideally the cats are recovered in a basement or garage before and after the surgery. This will allow you time to trap the cats prior to your appointment (drop off is usually in the morning and the cat should not eat past midnight the night before if an adult). This will also allow for the cats to recover without hindering the healing process in the first couple days. If you don’t have the capability of recovering the cats, some clinics will allow the cats to stay for an additional fee.


Step 8: Release the cats back at the location they were trapped in. Ensure they continue to receive regular food/ water, and that they have sufficient shelter to protect from predators and weather.

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Learn more about you local shelter & Legislation 

It is also worth noting that unfortunately many townships and states do not support TNR. This is due to lack of education, and misguided information on community cats and the many benefits of Trap-Neuter-Return. Your town may be enforcing trap and euthanize, and feeding bans. You can become a voice of change by speaking out about the benefits of TNR, being part of the No Kill movement.

Check out your local TNR workshops and networking opportunities !

Our Holiday TNR story : 

We decided to do our own TNR project last week after rescuing the adorable T Hanks the day before Thanksgiving. We found out he was part of a colony that included his two litter mates and wanted to help them out too. Nine adult cats were TNR’ed and his two siblings were captured for socialization! Thank you to all that have donated lately – YOU make projects like this possible!


IMGP0546 IMGP0590

We will continue wonderful projects like this in the 2015 year with the help from your donations, and our wonderful volunteers!

9 Lives From Helmetta

On 11/13/14 at approximately 9am, the NJSPCA raided the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter after months of reports from volunteers and employees. Suspected abuse to many of the animals inside this new, large facility that served 21 towns.

Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter

On 11/13/14 at approximately 10pm, one veterinarian and a few vet techs were allowed into the shelter to clean and feed the animals. From their reports, it appeared that food and even water had not been given to the animals for some time. Cats were FRANTIC for food. On top of that, there was no food to be found in the shelter. An emergency plea was sent out to local rescue groups and animal advocates to please bring food to the shelter. At 3am, the vet and techs were ushered out of the facility – but not before every animal was fed and their cage cleaned.

Cat at Helmetta Shelter

The NJSPCA along with the Dept. of Health took over on the morning of 11/15/14 and they have made sure the animals were cared for during this political and emotional battle for the shelter.

On 11/23/14 we were approved to pull animals from the shelter and our appointment was set for the morning of 11/24/14. We had no idea what we really would see but we assembled our carriers and we were there ready to save.

We were supposed to take 7 cats but our director “accidentally” picked 9 … no turning back now! Good thing we know better and had extra carriers in the cars.

Meet the 9 Lives From Helmetta!
Dot, Bette, Owen, Katniss, Primrose, Peeta, Gale, Finnick and Cinna!

9Lives_KCZDEveryone is doing well in their foster homes – already FeLV/FIV tested and vaccinated.

Owen is an amazingly lovable cat, chirping and purring for his foster mom. Fortunately for Owen, he was rescued by Karma Cat Zen Dog from the Helmetta Regional Animal Shelter in Helmetta, NJ where he had been since July. He spent those five months with no medical care or even an examination until the NJSPCA took control of the shelter.

As you can see from the video, we knew something was wrong with Owen. Our veterinarian determined he has Grade IV luxating patellas (his kneecaps are on backwards!) which makes life very difficult for poor Owen.

The good news??? It’s easily fixable! With your help, that is….every dollar counts and Owen will be an even happier guy when his mobility is improved and he can find his forever home!

Please donate – every $1 helps!


Calico Quinn likes to preside over the activities at CatQuarters:

QuinnWe call it the CatQuarters as the space will serve as an office … and will be cats helping with all our tasks! We have lots of space for storage, cats, a computer … and 12 ft ceilings … our new space is pretty darn awesome.

If you’ve thought about volunteering, NOW is the perfect time to join us. Apply here:

You can also help with a sponsorship and/or a contribution to “stock our shelves”. Best place to donate: