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Keeper of cats looking for feline homes

5/21/2009 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Linda Gilliland, of West Akron, enjoys time with some of the cats she currently has in her home. Gilliland, a founder of rescue group Friends of Pets, needs to find homes for about 40 cats she fosters.
Photo: Ken Crisafi
WEST AKRON — The cat lady is retiring.

Linda Gilliland, a West Akron resident who works with Friends of Pets to secure homes for cats and dogs, is trying to find homes for the 40 or so cats she has in her home so she and her newly retired husband can move.

“It just came to the point where we decided to downsize and rent instead of buy,” Gilliland said. “And I know I can’t take all these precious babies with me. I have about a year before we’re going to move, and I don’t know if we’re moving out of state or staying in Akron, but my passion is the cats, and I’ll never give up that work.”

Gilliland said recent health problems for herself and her husband, Bob, also contributed to their decision.

The 71-year-old said she helped found Friends of Pets about 14 years ago. The organization adopts out cats and uses foster homes to keep cats until they find a permanent home.

Gilliland has used her home to keep many of the cats awaiting homes, especially since the organization has run out of foster homes.

“I have a pretty large home, but at one point I had 150 cats in my home,” she said.

Her walk-out basement features a screened in cat room that cats new to her home are kept in until they can be updated on shots and medical care. Once they are kept there for a two-week period, they are free to roam her home.

“We don’t cage the animals,” she said.

Gilliland said she is allergic to cats, so as a child she wasn’t able to have a pet. After she married her husband, who was a colonel in the Air Force, she began taking in strays wherever they lived.

She’s still allergic to cats, she said, and relies on allergy medicine so she can enjoy them.

Anyone interested in being considered to foster or adopt a cat from Gilliland can call her at (330) 864-8579. More information about Friends of Pets is available at www.friendsof pets.info.

Gilliland said she carefully screens all potential adopters.

“I’m very particular,” she said. “The people that call me, I screen them very carefully.”

She added that adopters must agree to not declaw a cat and that renters must provide a copy of their lease to be considered.

This weekend, May 22 and 23, a garage sale to benefit Friends of Pets will take place at 715 San Moritz Drive in Fairlawn from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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