Animals still have a home at the former site of the Hamlett clinic.
Animals still have a home at the former site of the Hamlett clinic.

“I’ve had cats since I can remember,” said Jennifer Nosler, president and co-founder of the feline shelter, Look What The Cat Brought In. “I’ve just always liked cats. My other favorite animal is turtles, but I don’t have a turtle rescue.”

Nosler is from Texas, and her first cat was named Kitirik. KTRK-TV out of Houston had a cat mascot named Kitirik, whose name was a play on the station’s call letters. Kitirik was portrayed by an actress in a black cat suit, who had a children’s show that ran from 1954 to 1971.

Nosler worked as an attorney in Austin, but took care of stray, homeless cats. After moving to Colorado Springs, she volunteered at shelters but eventually decided to create her own.

“[Being] a retired attorney, it’s not as off the wall as it may seem,” she said. “Creating a new corporation doesn’t scare me or getting tax-exempt status. At that time, I could do it in my sleep.”

In 2014, Look What The Cat Brought In moved into Hamlett Spay & Neuter Clinic’s former building on East Boulder Street.

“I had always been fond of the Hamlett clinic. I had kind of thought I’d like the building,” she said. “You imagine something, and there it is. So, we were able to buy the building from Mrs. Hamlett’s estate. We refurbished, and it was just perfect. Since it was set up as a clinic, there were several things that were very appropriate [for our needs]. The building was built in 1977, so it’s 40 years old. My daughter, who is a veterinarian now, actually volunteered here when she was in college. I’m really happy to be here.”

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The shelter has three primary sources of funding. There’s a cat adoption fee, grants and the nonprofit receives donations from the public. The shelter does not charge to surrender cats to them, but people often voluntarily pay.

“It’s amazing!” she said. “It’s almost even between the three sources of funding. It isn’t exactly 33.3 percent, but it’s close.”

The shelter has four people who work part-time, adding up to the equivalent of about 1.5 full-time employees. At different times, the shelter may have anywhere from 10 to 20 volunteers, with 10 to 15 of those being regulars.

“We are a surrender and adoption service. We don’t normally take a lot of cats from out of state, but we recently took in 14 cats from Aztec, N.M.,” she said. “Eight of them were kittens. We will do whatever the cats need, provided that it’s not chronic. We have gotten a lot of cats who have had broken legs or serious eye problems. When a cat leaves here, it has been spayed or neutered; it has received a rabies vaccine and other basic vaccines, been examined and tested for illness. We do our best to provide a healthy pet.”

Look What The Cat Brought In also offers a cat café upstairs, available every Saturday afternoon, where people can come play with the resident cats.

The shelter has a new mural on its building, painted by Kim Polomka, who is responsible for other murals in Colorado Springs, including one for the U.S. Olympic Committee that can be seen from Interstate 25.

“We haven’t had a lot of name recognition, but since we’ve gotten the mural, it’s been amazing. We were in the [Give! Campaign a previous year], and we were brought to the attention of a management class at the Air Force Academy. Out of that, a group of cadets came up with a mural as a form of permanent advertising. They helped us find Kim Polomka, and Sherwin Williams donated most of the paint. The cat in the mural was actually adopted from here. He’s a special needs cat who has problems with his rear legs. He’s got a great life living with a family that donates to us. His name is Willie. It’s a portrait of Willie. … It looks so good,” said Nosler.

She added that a Girl Scout contacted the shelter about collaborating on her Gold Project.

“She’s put together a plan to build a ‘catio’ — a patio for our cats,” Nosler said. “It’s something that we’ve wanted from the beginning. She’s presented the plan to the Girl Scouts. If they approve it, we’ll get our licensing board to approve. The Department of Agriculture has to approve any major alterations to the building. With Give!, the goal is not to make the most money, necessarily, but to become more established in the community and to teach young people about philanthropy.” n CSBJ