Lifelong animal lovers Barb Knapp and Jenny Ellis have inadvertently created a cat shelter in the German Village area.

Lifelong animal lovers Barb Knapp and Jenny Ellis have inadvertently created a cat shelter in the German Village area.

Knapp and Ellis are the co-founders of Columbus Kitty Rescue and Adoption Center, 368 Whittier St., which works to place cats in homes. The building is owned by veterinarian Ken Nekic and is the future home to The James Herriot Memorial Veterinarian Hospital.

The more than two years old center has placed about 80 cats and is currently at full capacity with about 30 animals.

Though both women are animal enthusiasts, neither set out to create the center.

Knapp said the center grew out of her desire to save several kittens near her home.

"There was a farm down the way from me -- right on the road -- that had dozens and dozens of cats and kittens," Knapp said. "I went down there because some of the cats were getting in the road and getting hit."

Knapp asked for, and received, about a dozen kittens. Not knowing what to do with them she contacted Nekic, who suggested she bring the kittens to the Whittier location.

"It just escalated from that," Knapp said. "He was kind enough to let us use this building for the last couple of years."

Ellis said once people saw there was a rescue center the operation grew.

"It just snowballs," Knapp said. "Once people find out about you, everyone wants to bring you a cat."

Ellis added: "If two people know you rescue it might as well be 20."

The women have rescued kittens left on their door steps. Other times they have taken in cats because an owner can't afford them.

"We took in another group from a house were someone had been evicted," Knap said.

One of their best successes was rehabilitating a black cat named Marvin. Last year, Knapp and Ellis found the cat nearly hairless and emaciated in an alley.

"It was the most pathetic looking thing I've ever seen," Knapp said.

Still, as a volunteer organization, the center has a difficult time. A small group of volunteers keep the center going, while caring neighbors donate food and litter.

"It's still not enough," Knapp said. "We always need more litter. We always need more cat food. We always need donations because we have so many vet bills."

Ellis said what the center needs most is good people to adopt.

"People overlook the adult cats because they want kittens," Knapp said. "We've got some fabulous adult cats that had kittens. And of course their kittens have been adopted but the adult cat has been left behind. It's really sad because they are young and they have years and years of life left."

Both women said they are interested in rescuing, and have numerous animals.

"I dragged home every cat or dog I could find when I was a kid," Knapp said.

Knapp said there has been some concern about whether the center is properly taking care of the animals. She said the Humane Society visited the location and approved of the women's work.

The center's hours are by appointment and 1-3 p.m. Saturdays. Contact Ellis at 581-5123 or Knapp at 499-0528.

All cats are spayed or neutered, litter trained and have all standards shots. There is a small adoption fee and a background check.

dcross@thisweeknews.com