The Founder of Lewis County’s Cage-Free Feline Adoption Program: Valarie Filer of Kitty Kat Haven

Kitty Kat Haven
Founder of Kitty Kat Haven, Valarie Filer at a Lewis County fundraising event. Photo courtesy: Kitty Kat Haven
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Kitty Kat Haven is more than just a nonprofit — it’s home to each feline entering the program. Founder Valarie Filer ensures the best possible atmosphere during an extremely stressful transition for the cats. She supplies an almost rehabilitative experience unique to each animal’s needs so they can thrive in her care. Cat toys, beds, and blankets are abundant at Kitty Kat Haven, and each feline can roam about the facility freely throughout the day and night.

Kitty Kat Haven
Kitty Kat Haven Cats safely enjoy the outdoors from their catio. Photo courtesy: Kitty Kat Haven

Cage-Free Kitty Kat Haven

Perches stacked to the ceiling offer dozens of cozy lofts for each cat to climb, scratch, and see their home from above. “It’s not without its challenges, but the cats usually find their spots and stay out of each other’s area,” Valarie explains. Each cat also has access to a catio built by Valarie’s husband, Nick Filer, which allows them to get outside and into the fresh air as often as they would like. On a sunny day, it is typical to see the catio filled with sunbathing felines, but during the rainy months, they typically enjoy a warm spot in front of the window.

It is characteristic to go into any shelter or rescue and see cages stacked on top of cages filled with misplaced felines looking for their forever home. That is precisely how Valarie found her inspiration — in her seemingly “unadoptable” shelter kitty, Sunset.

Kitty Kat Haven
Marple of Kitty Kat Haven is looking for her forever home. Photo courtesy: Kitty Kat Haven

“I didn’t like seeing the animals in cages,” she says. “So, when I saw this little orange cat in the back just being looked over for months, I knew it just needed love, so I took it home. Sunset saved my life at a time when I was going through a lot.”

After Sunset passed, Valarie promised that she would dedicate her life to making sure other cats had a loving second chance at finding their forever homes. “That’s what makes Kitty Kat Haven so unique because it’s 100% cage-free,” says Valarie.

Valarie’s Journey to a Nonprofit Leader

Kitty Kat Haven
Valarie Filer with her peers while conducting field research in Rainier National Park. Photo courtesy: Kitty Kat Haven

Valarie was born and raised in southern California with her single mother and four siblings until her mom brought the family to Lewis County for a teaching job at Centralia College. Valarie quickly became involved in local efforts and volunteered at various animal shelters and nonprofits throughout the county. In 2006, her ambitions during college took her on an incredible two-month journey to the Costa Rican rainforests, where she conducted field research on local species and their habitats. Valarie graduated from college with two bachelor’s degrees, one in wildlife ecology and the other in environmental policy.

Knowing she wanted to be an international field researcher focusing on mammal populations, Valarie went on to become a zookeeper at Northwest Trek, a biology tech for the Mount Rainier National Park, and an intern at Fort Lewis studying endangered squirrel populations. In 2008, she also worked as a wildlife technician in Indiana, studying opossums, raccoons, and small rodents.

Kitty Kat Haven
Founder of Kitty Kat Haven, Valarie Filer, at a Lewis County fundraising event. Photo courtesy: Kitty Kat Haven

“I just knew I wanted to work with mammals,” says Valarie. “Even though I loved what I was doing, nothing could make up for the loss I felt being away from my dog, Denali, and my husband, Nick, so I came home.”

Over the next couple of years, Valarie worked tirelessly to educate herself on ethically running a nonprofit for “challenged” felines in a cage-free environment. She became the founder of Kitty Kat Haven in 2011. Today, Kitty Kat Haven has a board of volunteers that assist in keeping the building clean and the cats socialized and thriving.

Daily Tasks at Kitty Kat Haven

Every morning, each cat is seen to ensure they are well and thriving. “Nose checks” are done, cleaning litter boxes, administering meds, checking the building’s safety, acknowledging and talking to the socially challenged cats, checking emails, and conducting intake interviews are just some of the tasks completed daily.

Kitty Kat Haven
Kitty Kat Haven gladly accepts donations at Chehalis Petsense. Photo courtesy: Kitty Kat Haven

“We take into account the square footage of the building. There’s an actual equation to how many cats can be happy in that space, so we make sure to maintain that,” says Valarie. “Cats are very territorial.” Volunteers supply a clean and comforting environment, which frees up time for Valarie to tend to her administration work to keep the nonprofit running efficiently.

Each year Valarie keeps up to date with her education and is always looking for new ways to improve the quality of care at the facility. “Balancing budgets and social events can sometimes be challenging,” she says. “We are still trying to get back up and running smoothly after the last couple of years.”

If you are interested in contributing to Kitty Kat Haven cats, please send your donations via the Kitty Kat Haven Facebook page, Amazon smile donations, from their Amazon Wishlist, and on the nonprofit’s website. Petsense in Chehalis also accepts physical contributions. Kitty Kat Haven cats can be adopted on Petfinder or at various community events throughout the year.

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