Dec 3, 2003   The Independent     Collierville,Tennessee
Book of inspirational pet stories to fund project

Andy Meek
Community Reporter

Local business owner Rita Wood has a special place in
her heart for cats. And now she is planning a special
haven for felines needing a good home.

"My dream is to have my own cat sanctuary with an
emphasis on humans that are terminally ill who want a
forever home for their feline babies," she said.

Wood, owner of Critters Pet Sitting, has kept cats as
pets nearly all her life. She has fostered them for
both the Collierville Animal Shelter and the Memphis
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and
has rescued several of her own.

The sanctuary, Purrever Ranch, will be near her home
in Fayette County, Tenn., where she hopes to operate
it with the help of volunteers. Wood said the ranch's
focus will be to provide care for the cats of
terminally ill pet owners who need to find another
home for their pets.

To fund the project, Wood is collecting short stories
for a book, "Through My Cat's Eyes." The book will
document what she describes as the "special
relationship" that exists between women and cats.
Funds from the purchase of the book will go toward
building Purrever Ranch.

"I'm looking for personal stories of how a cat helped
women through a difficult time in their lives," Wood
explained. "The bond between man and dog is well
documented but the cat is usually thought of as
something of an aloof, non-feeling being. I want to
shed that myth and share the powers of their healing

"The bond is so incredibly strong between a woman and
her feline that it is almost mystical."

Though it may seem like an ambitious project for one
woman, she calls it a labor of love.

"I'd tell you I've been rescuing cats since I was a
little girl, but truth be known, cats have been
rescuing me all my life," she said.

During hard times, such as divorce or loneliness, Wood
believes cats often give women a reason to "put two
feet on the floor each morning." It's a proven
statistic, she notes, that people who have pets live
"healthier and happier" lives. Wood refers to them as
"little therapists with fur."

"It's hard to stay inside your own head when you have
someone else to think about," she said.

The idea for the cat sanctuary had always been in the
back of her mind, Wood said, and it crossed over to
the planning stage when an elderly neighbor passed
away. The neighbor's pregnant cat showed up on Wood's

"Her son came over, and I asked him what he was going
to do with the cat," Wood said. "He said he was going
to drop it off in the woods, so I offered to keep it
and gave the kittens to clients."

"When people die, they don't often make arrangements
for their pet's guardianship. That's really what made
me want to get started on the sanctuary."

The idea for publishing a book to raise funds for the
ranch came naturally, she said. "My clients are always
telling me amazing stories," she explained.

Wood is already receiving stories sent to her through
a link on her website, and she has received offers
from individuals who want to volunteer at the

It's still a long way off, but once the sanctuary is
completed, Wood said she plans to have areas for both
indoor and outdoor cats. "There's really a great need
for something like this. A lot of times people just
assume that their families will take care of their
pets after they're gone."

For owners wanting a home for their pets, Wood said a
Pet Guardian form can be downloaded from her website

Wood encourages women of all ages to send their cat
stories to her at The
stories received so far include tender displays of
affection for cats, she said. "I've often heard
stories about women who go through things such as a
major illness," Wood said. "They always say that just
having the comfort you get from a cat, that
unconditional love, is often what helps them make it
through the day."


Cat lover building ranch for felines
D.B.KAY/The Independent