One of Medford's largest cat rescue and adoption agencies could be forced to close its doors in a matter of weeks if new funding doesn't come through.

One of Medford's largest cat rescue and adoption agencies could be forced to close its doors in a matter of weeks if new funding doesn't come through.

"It's not a new problem, but it's gotten to the desperation point," said Kristina Lanier, shelter manager of Committed Alliance to Strays. "Our funds are just depleted."

C.A.T.S., which operates on North Ross Lane across from Albertsons, rescues stray and abandoned felines in Jackson County and serves as an adoption center.

Jan Whetstone, volunteer executive director of C.A.T.S., said the shelter is as frugal as possible. Board members are not paid, and the shelter relies heavily on volunteers. Provided the shelter has no emergencies, it can operate on $15,000 a month (amount corrected).

But its income is significantly lower than that. Whetstone said so far this year, C.A.T.S. has earned $60,978, averaging out to just over $10,000 a month. About $49,000 of that came from donations.

Last year, C.A.T.S. had a negative net income of over $35,000.

"We've always taken nonprofit way too seriously," Whetstone said.

C.A.T.S. has been in the red nearly every month for as long as Whetstone can remember, but its reserves have kept the shelter afloat. This safety net is now depleted, and C.A.T.S. is $3,228 in the red, Whetstone said.

"If we can't pull it together and have everyone realize the importance of what we can do for the community, we have less than two months," Whetstone said.

The shelter has been struggling to survive since the economic downturn began, Lanier said. C.A.T.S. was forced to slash hours in 2011, and last month, it and three other animal shelters announced they were at capacity with cats.

In addition to the animals in the shelter, C.A.T.S. has a waiting list and animals in foster care, said Lanier, adding she does not know what will happen to them if the shelter is forced to close.

"There are a lot of cats at risk if we're not here," Lanier said. "Even being here we cannot save them all, and it tears you up. Even the cranky ones, you just want to save them."

In addition to feeding and caring for the animals, the shelter cares for the animal's medical needs, and those expenses add up.

All cats are spayed or neutered, tested for feline leukemia and immunodeficiency virus, vaccinated and given a microchip. They are also bathed and treated for sores or wounds they might have suffered prior to entering the shelter.

"It's critical that we continue to do that," Whetstone said. "That way we are talking the talk and walking the walk when we beg people to spay and neuter their animals and get them tested."

The shelter also does not discriminate on age, and has taken in cats more than 20 years old despite extra health costs that can arise with older animals.

The shelter spends about $200 on each cat from the time it's taken in until its adoption, but adopting a cat costs the owner only $75 for a kitten, $60 for an adult cat or $40 for a cat older than 7.

While adoption fees pay for part of the cat's care, the shelter relies on donations for the bulk of its expenses. It receives no government funding.

Even small donations add up, Lanier said, and monthly donations in particular provide the shelter a layer of security.

"Even a small $5 or $10 donation from enough people might carry us and allow us to stay open," Lanier said. "It doesn't have to be some huge amount."

Whetstone said C.A.T.S. has avoided aggressive fundraising efforts in the past because everyone is struggling financially. Volunteers send out letters asking for money only once a year. Their focus remains on caring for cats and educating the public about responsible pet ownership, Whetstone said.

"Pets aren't disposable," she said. "You don't just throw away a cat when it's no longer a kitten or it becomes inconvenient. We have that happen all the time."

Robert Fowler started volunteering at the shelter soon after it opened in 1990. He said it's difficult to see it struggling.

"If it closed, I would lose a big part of my life right now," Fowler said. "I've invested a lot of time, money and everything else into this place."

"We're all here for the cats, and that's the bottom line," Lanier said. "And for us to not be there for the cats is horrible to even think about."

Reach Mail Tribune reporting intern Kelsey Thomas at 541-776-4368 or Follow her on Twitter @kelseyethomas.