The call for Kid Reporter applications is now open! Click here to learn more.

Caring for Rescue Cats in Hawaii

Lucia holds Shadow, a rescue cat at Poi Dogs and Popoki in Hawaii. 

If you have a cat or a dog, there are three important things you should know. “People should keep their kitties indoors, spay and neuter all their pets, and microchip their cats and dogs,” says Alice Maluafiti, board president of Poi Dogs and Popoki. The nonprofit organization rescues the animals on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

This summer, my mother, sisters, and I have been volunteering at Poi Dogs and Popoki. “Poi dog” is a local term for mixed-breed dogs. “Popoki” means cat in the Hawaiian language. Every Saturday, I play with the cats, clean their cages, and help facilitate cat adoptions. 


A curious kitten makes sweeping up more challenging after playtime.  


How a cat is rescued depends on whether or not the animal is friendly. When the organization gets a call about a cat needing help, one of two things happens.

“If the cat is friendly, we pick it up and put it in a kitty carrier,” explains Maluafiti. “If a cat is not friendly, then we have to use a humane cat trap.” 

Poi Dogs and Popoki helps locate families who want to adopt friendly cats. According to Maluafiti, the organization finds loving homes for anywhere between 700 and 800 kittens or cats each year.

Community, or feral, cats tend to be more wild than friendly, Poi Dogs and Popoki traps, sterilizes, vaccinates, and flea treats them, and then puts them back where they were found. The organization does this for about 4,000 outdoor cats each year.

“We want to be sure someone is feeding and giving them water every day,” Maluafiti says. 


Lucia with Sugar Bear, a cat awaiting adoption


Spaying and neutering cats is key to helping the environment. “By making sure that cats are not having more kittens, the population will go down,” explains Maluafiti. Evidence shows that outdoor cat populations can cause harm to native species. 

Every year there is a kitten season, when mother cats are giving birth to kittens and populating the outdoors with homeless kittens. “In Hawaii, our kitten season is heaviest from March through August,” Maluafiti says. On the mainland United States, kitten season is March through June. It’s a busy time for cat rescue groups.

Kittens are adopted more quickly than cats. While volunteering, I noticed that the older cats have bigger personalities, and I prefer their company to the kittens. I like volunteering because I can play with the cats and help them learn to socialize, which makes them more likely to be adopted.

Another volunteer for Poi Dogs and Popoki, Shoko Yokoyama of Honolulu, says that “we humans owe it to animals” to help them because of the environmental harm we’ve caused. Yokoyama adds that her son, who also volunteers, “learns so much about animals, and it helps him become a compassionate human.”


Photos courtesy of the author