The Columbus Kitty Rescue & Adoption Center's shoestring budget is hanging by a thread.

The Columbus Kitty Rescue & Adoption Center's shoestring budget is hanging by a thread.

The nonprofit agency, 368 E. Whittier St., is seeking donations -- cash, food, kitty litter and volunteers -- to get it through a tough financial period.

"Every little bit helps," said Barb Knapp, who founded the rescue with Jenny Ellis. "When someone walks through that door with litter or food, I'm absolutely overjoyed. Basically we need all the little things to keep us going."

The rescue serves German Village, Merion Village and Schumacher Place. The center currently houses 50 cats -- 20 more than it was taking care of last year at this time, Knapp said.

With the economy in lousy shape and people losing their homes, she said, people are finding themselves unable to pay for their pets so they're dropping off cats at the non-kill shelter.

Of course, with more cats, the cost to care for them goes up, through spaying and neutering, shots and supplies, as well as utilities, Knapp said. It's all run by volunteers, she said, but it takes roughly $400 a week to cover expenses.

"It really is hard to put a figure on it," she said of weekly costs. "It's just escalated and escalated."

Clients must fill out an application before adoption, which costs $60. It includes all the necessary shots and spaying or neutering.

Knapp said the shelter is not taking in cats right now.

"We can't take them in if we can't adopt them out," she said. "That's one of our issues."

Knapp and Ellis, who lives in the neighborhood, started the rescue after Knapp noticed a number of strays living in a barn near her Canal Winchester home. She asked the farmer if she could take the strays off his hands. She brought home 14.

"I called Jenny and said, 'Help. What am I going to do with all these kitties?'" she said.

Those interested in donating to the shelter can stop by between noon and 3 p.m. any Saturday, Knapp said.

The Columbus Kitty Rescue & Adoption Center's story is not unique, said Jack Advent, executive director of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, located in Columbus. Pet overpopulation and the economy are having a dramatic effect on animal rescues across the country. While the state and many municipalities have mechanisms to deal with stray dogs, they don't have the same services for cats, Advent said.

"The principal focus is getting your pets spayed or neutered," he said. "And I think everyone would agree that's what you do when your pet reaches the appropriate age."