Good Cat Network Donor Spotlight: Renee

Pictured above with her rescue cat, Orange Boy.

Renee has not only been one of our biggest donors and supporters, but she supplied us with the “seed” money to get our first few flights off the ground. This was even before Good Cat Network had a bank account to accept donations! In fact, we opened our bank account with her first donation check.

She is a compassionate and generous cat-advocate and makes a mean mango mojito. For those reasons and many more, Renee has the honor of our very first Donor Spotlight!

Believe it or not, I didn’t initially connect with Renee over cats, we instead connected over her daughter Acacia’s wedding. It was in the middle of the 2020 when our video production company, Ohana Films, was experiencing the unprecedented: 99% of our contracts were cancelled and our future was in limbo.

Events in Hawaii were cancelled mainly due to the quarantine that was mandatory for visitors. Upon landing, you had to prove that you were going to a location to quarantine for several weeks before going to any public places or interacting with anyone. This made travel next-to-impossible for most. Who can afford to vacation in Hawai’i for nearly a month, shuttered in a hotel room? And who would want to?

Since Renee lives part-time on Maui, her daughter Acacia and fiancé Jason decided to turn this whole Covid quarantine thing into an opportunity. They had their “bubble” at Renee’s house and their micro-wedding soon after. My husband and I filmed their wedding and some of the surrounding events, making it part of just a handful of shoots booked for 2020. We even filmed a bit of B-Roll during the last day of their quarantine in Renee’s pool, which is why I know that she knows a thing or two about making cocktails!

Over that mango mojito, I learned about Renee’s cats back in Seattle and Acacia’s cat, Kona, whom she rescued from a nearby Maui resort as a tiny kitten. Acacia told us quite the rescue story for little Kona, which included some difficulties getting a Health Certificate because Kona was so young. Acacia was determined to fly home with her, and worked hard with her veterinarian to meet the flight requirements to do so.

Acacia took a picture of tiny Kona inside of a coffee cup, titled it “Cup of Kona,” and submitted it to a photo competition. Of course, it won! Speaking of winning: this family won me over. Not only were Renee, Acacia and Jason proving to be awesome clients…they were cat people. Cat people become friends. It’s a fact.

When Renee was back on Maui for one of her extended stays in 2021, she texted me about an in-tact orange cat in her yard. I will never forget the picture. I saw a grainy, orange blob sitting contently under her outdoor shower. She named him “Orange Boy” or “OB” for short. I did my best to give her encouragement at the prospect of socializing OB, but also told her about the realities of getting to pet a seemingly feral cat.  

I could tell that Renee had one of the biggest hearts for animals by the communication that ensued. She started sending me texts and photos of OB getting closer and closer to her lanai door, or updates like, “I just got a slow-blink back!” “OB is right at the door this morning!” “He ate tuna off of a spoon!” “I almost touched him!” This is a woman who can spend her time sitting on the nearby Maui beach, going to resort dinners and entertaining her numerous friends with her bartending skills, but instead, she’s choosing to spend hours sitting on the floor, slow-blinking a feral cat, trying to earn his trust.

I explained the concept of ear-tipping an outdoor cat and why it was necessary to get him neutered and “tipped” as soon as possible. I loaned her a trap and a pop-up kennel and coached her on a few things. Renee was natural! She was gaining his trust, offering slow blinks at every opportunity and getting him used to a feeding schedule.

Despite the quick progress, OB would not go into the trap.

Since time was running out before Renee’s flight back home to Washington State, we decided to call in the drop-trap expert: Amber. So, Amber and I went over to Renee’s one night where Amber sat in the bushes for about a half hour, string in hand…but of course, OB decided to skip dinner that night! Renee’s flight was scheduled for the next week and we had to get him neutered. We lent Renee another cat trap and she once again rescheduled the neutering appointment with her vet.

She tried getting him used to eating near the trap, or in the trap, trying to use blankets to disguise the trap, but nothing seemed to work. A few days later, after days of definitive texts like, “He just won’t go into the trap.” “I don’t think I will get him this time, maybe you can try trapping him when I leave” I received a phone call from Renee. All I remember hearing was,

“I GOT HIM!!!!” 

My eyes started to well up. Coaching someone through their first trapping experience is so rewarding, and I knew that this was a huge relief for Renee. And OB didn’t know it now, but he had hit the jackpot! Within a matter of 30 hrs, OB was neutered, tipped, and released back into Renee’s yard after a luxurious overnight stay in a pop-up kennel in Renee’s bedroom. Renee didn’t waste a single second during his recovery in her house; she treated him to lots of fancy foods and hours of talking to him softly and slow-blinking, putting in the time and effort to build a relationship before she left.

Before flying back home, Renee set up a feeding schedule for OB with her neighbor Judy and an automatic feeder with security camera so she can check in on him whenever she wanted. But, dreams of petting him would have to be put on hold until her next stay.

Not surprisingly, Judy fell in love with OB and worked on gaining his trust as well. Every time she would feed him she would work on gaining his trust using the same tools that Renee used. Her interaction with OB was imperative to his socialization. Consistent and varied human interaction allows cats to not only trust humans but ensures that they learn that they can trust more than one person. Judy would share OB’s progress with Renee and she became known as OB’s “Auntie Judy.”

Every time Renee came back to Hawaii, she’d spent a lot of her time trying to get close to OB during feeding times. OB would get closer and closer to her but was still very skittish. I would get text updates on his progress. It really warmed my heart that Renee loved this kitty so much despite not being able to pet him. 

However, in December 2022, OB decided to give Renee an early Christmas gift: HE ALLOWED A PET. When I received the text, complete with video proof, I was shocked and elated for both Renee and OB! I know first hand how difficult it can be to do to pet a cat that was once deemed feral, and sometimes, cats never make it to this stage.

Since we had already scheduled a photo shoot for this Donor Spotlight feature, I now had a new mission: to capture OB’s portrait, too!

She also shared that a new cat had been hanging out on the property. She originally spotted him on the security cameras but started to notice him inch closer to where she and OB were interacting. He would observe from a distance or from her outdoor shower, just like OB used to do. OB didn’t act territorial at all and almost seemed to be the one that invited him over! Renee named this beautiful grey tabby boy “Mr. Grey.” He was already “tipped” so we didn’t have to worry about neutering him, but now Renee had another “project” cat!

When portrait day came, I went over to Renee’s armed with Temptations and catnip but I was absolutely shocked that I really didn’t need the lure. OB just loved being around Renee. It was so nice to see OB in person! It had been nearly two years of texts and video of this kitty – so to me he was a little bit like a celebrity. You could tell that he absolutely loved Renee by the way he danced around her legs and pushed up his little head up into her hand.

Mr. Grey hung out in the bushes, mostly, but was curious about what we were doing. I have a feeling that with Renee’s honed-in skills, I will one day soon get a text from Renee that says, “I just pet Mr. Grey!”

When I took OB’s portrait, I couldn’t help but be charmed by his lip that gets stuck on his teeth and his perpetually coiled tongue that says, “na na na na na, you can’t get me!” Well, Renee got you, OB! You’re not foolin’ anyone!

We’re all really glad she did.

"na na na na na, you can't get me!" (But we did!)

Renee gave us our “seed” donation that covered our first couple of flights for our Operation Aloha Cat Program back in 2021, and donated again late last year when we were looking to fund our OAC program for the first quarter of 2023. We are very grateful for her generosity and support.

So, in addition to this Donor Spotlight, last week’s Operation Aloha Cat flight of 14 cats was named by Renee.

The Kona and Orange Boy Operation Aloha Cat Flight took place on April 11, 2023, and honors both OB and Renee’s daughter Acacia’s Hawai’i rescue cat Kona. Both cats were found as “ferals” on Maui, and these cats were lucky enough to have people that went to great lengths to rescue and love them.

Unfortunately, Kona passed away the day that the flight landed in Seattle, on April 12, 2023. Kona succumbed to an unexpected diagnosis of FeLv. She was 13 years old. Kona brought so much joy to Acacia, Jason and daughter Frances. 

Frances and "Rainbow Bridge" chalk art to honor Kona. 

I am sure Kona would be happy to know that 14 cats flew to Seattle and got adopted into loving homes because of the efforts and generosity of the family that loved her. Rest in love, Kona. 

The Kona and Orange Boy Operation Aloha Cat Flight included 14 very special Hawai’i cats, but Sweetie’s story is extra special. To learn about Sweetie, click here. Sweetie’s story is told by our non-profit partner, Honi Honi Cats Maui founder Jennie Kalani Ben-Dayan.

If you would like to donate to Good Cat Network to help us fly Hawai’i cats to loving homes in Seattle like Renee did, please click below. Truly, every little bit counts!