PORT TOWNSEND — Clem and Oly have never known what it is like to face an empty food bowl.
So six months ago, when their owner, Jane Souzon, heard that people were taking their cats to the county animal shelter because they couldn’t afford to feed them, she decided to do something about it.
Clem and Oly are tortoiseshell cats that belong Souzon, one of two cat owners who deliver kitty kibble to the Port Townsend Food Bank on a regular basis.
The other is Karen McKee, owner of Roshi and Lily, who knows how important cats are to people, especially the elderly.
“It just seems sad to me that you’d have to give up your animal because your income drops,” McKee said.
“Pets are part of people’s family.”
Like Souzon, McKee found out about the need through the animal shelter when she called there, wanting to donate cat food.
Told that she could help by preventing people from bringing cats to the shelter in the first place, she has been delivering a case of canned cat food to the food bank at 731 W. Park Ave. once a month for the past two years.
She and Souzon knew each other, she said, but only recently discovered that they were collectively known as the “cat food ladies” to food bank volunteers.
“I guess it’s better than those ‘crazy cat ladies,'” McKee said.
Their regular donations mean that cat owners who use the food bank have a choice of dry or canned food, with the canned usually reserved for people with older pets, according to volunteers.
The food bank gives out about 36 pounds of cat food a week and twice that much dog food, volunteers say, with the maximum going out at the end of the month when people’s Social Security checks run out.
Since Souzon and McKee have been bringing in cat food regularly, the food bank hasn’t run out, although that wasn’t always the case.
“When I started, they would practically grab the food out of my hand and give it out,” McKee said.
Another volunteer, Jon Ford, also brings in cat and dog food in response to requests when supplies are low, according to Shirley Moss, food bank assistant manager.
While the food bank usually just supplements what dog owners need to make it to the end of the month, it does provide a week’s supply to people who are homeless, Moss said.
“Sometimes literally the only thing they have is the dog,” she said.
Bonita’s Four-Legged Friends, a local pet store, also donates bags of pet food that have been opened or are otherwise not able to be sold, Moss said.
The food bank accepts pet food that has been opened, she said, as well as household items such as shampoo, hand lotion and dishwashing detergent.
“Basically we take anything that you can purchase to run a household,” Moss said.
“We can accept open containers except for items for human consumption.”
Other non-food items in demand are disposable diapers and feminine hygiene products, Moss said.
Having a “diaper fairy” — i.e., someone who drops off a case on a regular basis — would be a great help, she said.
“We don’t just give out food,” Moss said. “There are other needs in the area.”
Souzon and McKee said they feel for the animals, but it’s the emotional need that people have for their pets that motivates them.
And in tight financial times, it’s hard for people to feed themselves and harder to feed their pets.
“I can think of nothing sadder than having to give up your pet because you can no longer take care of it,” Souzon said.
“Sometimes pets are all people have left in the world.”
For more information about donating to the food bank, contact Moss at firstname.lastname@example.org.
_________Port Townsend/Jefferson County reporter-columnist Jennifer Jackson can be reached at email@example.com.