Ashley Jankowski volunteers at the Cat by Cat shelter once a week, providing direct care and socializing cats and kittens. “They all need socializing at some level,” she said. “Some need a little; some need a lot.”
Some of the cats are just shy; others are not comfortable around humans at all. Ashley sits with them and talks to them, eventually touching them on the back with one finger and progressing from there. “I build my relationship with each one slowly,” she said. “Whatever they give you is what you take.”
“It’s kitten season, so there are a lot of kittens in the shelter right now,” Ashley explained. “Some are okay with humans, some are not. Most adult cats have at least seen humans, been around them; but to kittens born outside to free-roaming cats, we are a whole new species. The approach is a little different.”
Ashley loves this work. She was introduced to community cats at her former home in Kenmore, when a tortoiseshell kitten showed up and started hanging around. At first Ashley just talked to the kitten, whom she named Rolo; then she started feeding her. Rolo brought kitty friends to visit, and before she knew it, Ashley was helping to support a community cat colony, providing food, water, and an outdoor shelter.
When Ashley and her future wife, Rachel, were preparing to move to Amherst, she worked with her neighbors to make sure the colony she was leaving behind would be cared for. Even the people who moved into her house were willing to help. “It was wonderful to find out how many caring people there are,” Ashley said.
Two years ago, after she’d moved to Amherst, Ashley found Cat by Cat Inc. “It popped up in my Facebook feed one day; they were looking for volunteers,” she said. “I signed on, and since then, Cat by Cat has filled a void in my life.”
Ashley and Rachel brought three cats to their marriage: Bruce, Elton, and Ripley. When asked if it’s hard not to take cats home from the shelter, Ashley laughed and said, “Yes, there are several I’ve been tempted to adopt. I have to remind myself I already have three at home.”
Ashley concluded, “I so appreciate Cat by Cat. Everyone does such great work, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to help cats in need.”
Cat by Cat appreciates Ashley in return. “Ashley is a quiet young lady who is truly a cat whisperer,” said director Sally Merritt Braciak. “We are so lucky to have her.”