Two years ago in downtown Los Angeles, design director Claudia Chioda had a life-changing experience. As she fed a parking meter, she noticed a small, slow-moving, dark animal on the sidewalk. Initially, she thought it was a rat, but as it tentatively approached her, she realized it was a tiny kitten.
“It was crazy — someone had covered her entire body with glue,” Chioda said, “The glue was totally dried; her tail was completely stuck to her body down the length of her spine… I had to save her. A man gave me a blanket, I brought her to a vet. Her entire body got shaved, she had a million baths, and her tail had to be amputated… but she made it.”
As Minnie the kitten recovered and thrived, Claudia started noticing all the feral and stray cats in her Highland Park neighborhood. When her yard became inhabited by a pregnant cat mom and two offspring — one of whom was injured — she searched the internet for cat rescue, and stumbled upon Luxe Paws.
Founded in June 2012 by Jacquie Navratil, Luxe Paws is an organization staffed completely by volunteers. They focus on street rescue for kittens and TNR (trap/neuter/return) for feral, stray and tame cats dumped by former owners.
A lifelong animal lover, Navratil has been involved in TNR since the ’90s, while living in Florida. After relocating to Los Angeles, she became involved with rescues in 2010 and was shocked when she saw how serious the problem was.
“Nobody was on the streets doing rescue or helping people deal with the cats in their neighborhoods,” she says. “L.A. is home to about 3 million homeless cats; most haven’t been spayed or neutered, and more are born every day — and almost nothing was being done.”
Taking matters into her own hands, Navratil used the skills she acquired working in entertainment production and nonprofit fundraising, cobbling together a small group of dedicated people. Working guerilla style, they canvased the neighborhoods of Northeast L.A., rescuing cats, finding permanent homes for kittens, providing medical care and educating citizens.
Luxe Paws got off the ground with help from Zach Grey of the Silver Lake-based store The Urban Pet, training a group of trappers, forming a partnership with Fix Nation and rounding up people willing to foster litters of kittens. Through word of mouth and a strong social media presence — which includes both adorable and severely disturbing photos- they developed a network of supporters.
Operating in a world most Angelenos never notice, Luxe Paws volunteers spend weekends patrolling garbage-strewn alleys, over-grown vacant lots, condemned buildings and muddy construction sites. A typical 48 hours of TNR work includes crawling through the cobweb-laced attics and basements of homeowners calling about abandoned litters or spending an evening waiting for hours beneath a freeway overpass to trap a feral colony. They grab the cats on Fridays, house them with volunteers overnight, bring them to Fix Nation for surgery on Saturday morning and release them back to the locations they came from on Sunday evening.
In the past 10 months, Luxe Paws has fixed over a thousand cats this way, but according to Navratil, that’s just a drop in the bucket.
“From September 2018 to September 2019, kitten euthanasia in shelters has increased 155 percent,” she explains. “Any shelter worker would tell you the same thing- because of an injunction made by special interest wildlife groups nine years ago, the city of Los Angeles hasn’t been able to use the city spay/neuter funds to fix the cats. The situation in L.A. is critical right now — we need at least 10 more Fix Nations.”
Persephone Harrington, a brand strategist by day and Luxe Paws trapper by night agrees, “There’s an army of people trapping cats but nowhere to bring them!” she laments.
“Imagine if all of L.A. was burning and there were only two hydrants and they charged for the water?” adds Navratil making an analogy about the feline problem that highlights the lack to attention to the problem.
Lux Paws main objective right now is to partner with the newly formed nonprofit WillSpay to get a mobile spay/neuter clinic going before the end of 2020. But currently, they need all the assistance they can get.
“Everyone thinks ‘Oh, cats are so independent… they’ll be fine on the street,” says Gretchen Lanham, a professional photographer and dedicated Luxe Paws trapper. “They haven’t seen what we’ve seen! Help save kittens with us!”
Luxe Paws hosts Psychic Sunday 12-6 p.m. at Muddy Paws Coffee, 3320 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. All proceeds from readings go to the kittens. For more info about the event, to donate, or to fill out an application to foster or adopt kittens, visit savekittensla.org/