Cats for Katz

Ria Katz

Photo By Carli Cutchin

Ria Katz loves cats. A lot. Her modest suburban house positively swarms with kitties of all ages, sizes and colors. Some are painfully shy; others plant themselves in your lap with no apparent intention of ever getting off. She has about 50 cats in her unofficial, in-home shelter. Katz, who began rescuing unwanted cats over 20 years ago, gives asylum to strays, to cats whose owners have been evicted and to euthanasia-bound pound kitties. Cats fill every room in her northwest Reno home, although the back bedrooms are specifically for “quarantined” cats with communicable ailments. Katz, a 73-year-old widow and native of Switzerland, constantly talks to her feline roommates in a rich, lilting Swiss accent. The kitties dart about her ankles and answer her warmly.

How did this whole cat thing begin?

I volunteered at the animal control. They were overworked and understaffed. I started volunteering, and I got on the volunteer board. You cannot go there without taking animals home.

Where are you from?

Originally, from Switzerland. [In 1960], my husband said, ‘We go one year in exchange to America.’ I’m still here. It’s been a long exchange.

How many cats do you have?

I don’t count them, but I think we are up again, because I got lots of cats from people who got evicted in different houses. I’d say we’re up to about 50 now.

How do you find out about those cats?

The whole town must know about me. People just call. People need me. There was a guy in prison who had maybe three kitties. When he got out, he took his kitties [back]. He was calling me up maybe two times a month long distance to talk to his kitties. I thought that was good. [It] gave him something to look forward to.

Have you always loved cats?

When I was little, I lost my mother. I didn’t have brothers or sisters, not too many friends, so I had cats and dogs.

Do you have a favorite kitty?

I have a couple, yeah, but I like them all. I have one, Angel, who goes to bed with me and sits above my head. She watches over me, so I named her Angel. And I have one new one [who] was abused. She was thrown out and was full of fleas. And now she’s a baby—god, is she a baby.

What’s her name?


Do they all have names?


Do you have trouble keeping track of all of them?

No. When one is missing, I have a feeling, and I search until I find it.

Do you try to place the cats?

I try to find homes for them. I adopt [out] constantly. It’s a swinging door.

Do you ever get lonely?

No. Oh, no. I’m always so busy. There are always so many things I have to do. I need a larger bed. I have a twin bed and [all the cats] want to sleep with me. I get to the point where [I] wake up, and [I] don’t want to turn around. There’s no room.