"We clean their cages and disinfect them. We empty their litter, refill their food dishes and give them fresh water, clean bedding and most importantly, we give them lots of love." Nancy Harman is a longtime volunteer with Second Chance Pet Adoptions, a no-kill, nonprofit cat rescue operation in Huntington Beach.
Like the husband-and-wife team of Jane and Michael Walters, also helping on this particular morning, for years Harman has dedicated many long and fruitful hours to the cause. As a feisty little black and white kitty named Simon nips and plays with her, she tells part of his story.
"Simon was found in an abandoned truck here in Huntington Beach. Somebody noticed him going inside and out, and when they opened the truck door they found the litter of babies. It's how it often happens. That's when we get the call, and we step in to try and find homes for these stray animals."
Deanna Shapiro, former president and current member of the Second Chance board, said she found the group 12 years ago when her daughter, then in high school, was looking for community service work.
"One day we walked into the Petco at Warner and Springdale and saw the rescue area that Second Chance worked out of," she said. "My daughter volunteered for two weeks, and after she was done I just kept going. We adopted two kittens once we started volunteering, and today we have four cats, all from Second Chance."
Second Chance volunteers are at that Petco every day. People wishing to add a new cat to the family simply need to fill out an application. A coordinator will review it, checking basic things like any pet restrictions in the resident's area and whether the home's current pets are licensed and vaccinated. Applications are also available at http://www.secondchancepetadoptions.org.
"Cats are sort of at the bottom of the totem pole," Shapiro said. "Unlike dogs, cats multiply all the time. And unfortunately there are many irresponsible people that will simply dump their cats when they decide that they can't take care of them.
"Our organization is all about finding good homes for cats. We do whatever we can to help and animal welfare is our top priority. We have great and dedicated volunteers that work very hard to ensure that the adoption process works as well as it can."
Back at Petco, Chris Copenhaver, manager of the dog and cat department, gives the organization a lot of credit.
"They really are dedicated and they do a wonderful job," he said. "We have adoption partners at each of our stores. Rather than sell cats and dogs, by partnering with groups like this, we can help find homes for these stray animals."
Harman walked me to a play area at the back of the store where the cats are allowed time outside of their cages to roam around, stretch and have a good time with the other cats.
"We have all kinds," she said. "Of course, most people are looking for the kittens. But we take in all kinds of strays that need a loving home. Right now we have a cat named Sadie. She's 6 years old and she likes to bite. So she may be with us for a while. But that's OK because we'll keep her as long as we need to. Nothing bad will happen to her.
"Then there's Max, who is 12. He's just a big, loving guy that seems to prefer male company. I really hope somebody takes him home because he's a lovely animal."
Day in and day out, the volunteers will be at Petco, tending to these adorable yet forgotten creatures that want nothing more than a little food and a lot of hugs. In addition to hoping people adopt the cats, Second Chance Pet Adoptions is also interested in new volunteers and donations. All the money the facility collects goes to taking care of the animals, which I could see are genuinely well cared for.
The next time you are near Springdale Street and Warner Avenue, stop in Petco and visit. You may not need a cat today. But then again, after visiting you may find out that you actually do. Either way, the volunteers and the animals will be happy to see you.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 25 books, including the new "Huntington Beach Chronicles: The Heart of Surf City" from History Press. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at www.facebook.com/hbindependent.