Published in Community Life • 10/11/2012 • Kathryn A. Burger
Lynn Cancro has been the driving force behind Caring About The Strays – C.A.T.S. – since she formed the nonprofit organization 17 years ago. The resale shop on Kinderkamack Road is really her “second home” and the temporary home of the some of the many abandoned, rescued and unwanted companion animals – mostly cats – that the organization takes in. The goal is finding all of them, “forever homes,” where they will be cared for, loved and appreciated.
She grew up Jersey City and now lives in Passaic County. She spoke lovingly of her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. as children during the Depression, her father from Prussia and her mother from Germany.
“My father was a baker and had a shop in Jersey City and we lived above the store,” she said. The “we” included her two older sisters. “I had a wonderful childhood. I had lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. But I couldn’t have any pets because the Board of Health didn’t allow it.”
When she was 13, her father died and her mother sold the bakery and the family moved to Bergenfield where her aunt and uncle lived.
Lynn said, “I’ve more than made up for not being able to have pets when I was child,” referring to the strays she and the volunteers at C.A.T.S. foster and place in loving homes.
Her own current pets include her dog, Donald, a rescued mixed breed who she’s had for three years, and two cats, Wolfgang, who is 21 years old and Leibling, who is 17.
Q: Why did you start C.A.T.S.?
A: I was living in an apartment complex that had a somewhat transient population – many people moving in and out. Some of them just left their cats behind. I’d see them at the door of their former homes waiting to be let in. I just couldn’t fathom how people could treat animals that way. They just threw them away like trash. I took a few of them in, and that’s when the “light bulb” went off and I decided I’d try to do something on a bigger scale.
I started doing some research. I’d worked with the volunteers at the old Pascack Valley Hospital and knew that they’d started a thrift shop as a way to raise money to support it. That was a great way to get the community involved. So I decided that’s what I’d do to raise money to establish C.A.T.S.
There was a colony of cats behind the hospital and one of the hospital trustees and her daughter would TNR them – that’s Trap, Neuter, Release. So I was learning about the magnitude of the problem [in the Pascack Valley]. I’d met Jeanne Thalmann, who was the manager of the hospital’s thrift shop and she became my mentor. I learned so much from her and just went with it. Jeanne was a volunteer at our resale shop and she was just wonderful.
Q: What do like most about your work?
A: Saving a life.
Q: What do you like least?
A: Not being able to help. Having to say we don’t have any more room. We do our best but there has been an explosion of abandoned pets because of the economy. We have to refer some of our callers to other groups because we can’t help – it’s the saddest thing. Right now we only have three people who foster pets for us and we need more. We supply everything so there is no cost at all.
Q: Where is your favorite place to relax?
A: My backyard. I enjoy being outdoors.
Q: Do you have a hobby?
A: I like to play tennis and I like to watch tennis.
Q: What is your favorite book?
A: All of Charles Dickens’ stories. He always shows the worst and the best in people.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Q: Do you have a pet peeve?
A: People who call up and have an animal they want to get rid of and don’t have any real connection with the animal. They sound angry and say things like, “If you don’t take her today, I’m putting her to sleep.” Some people can be very aggressive like that.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: Forming C.A.T.S. and that it encompasses so much – the community that donates items that might otherwise wind up in a landfill, so I’m proud to be helping the environment. I’m proud of all the lives that been saved over the past 17 years.