At Helen Woodward Animal Center on Monday, three white kitties named Winter, Wonder and Land snuggled together on a pillow in their cage. Wonder meowed and Winter woke up, reaching its tiny paw though the cage bars.
Trisha St. George, the center's public relations supervisor, stressed that these adorable animals are orphans, not homeless. They have a temporary home at Helen Woodward, but they are looking for a forever home with some lucky, loving family.
"Don't let your new best friend spend another night behind bars," said St. George, tug, tug, tugging at the old heartstrings.
Within just one lunch hour at Helen Woodward on Monday afternoon, five pets had found their homes, including Winter and Wonder who were adopted together.
The successful adoptions are just a small part of the bigger Home for the Holidays program, which to date has found homes for 496,657 animals at more than 3,700 animal shelters and rescues centers across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
Home 4 the Holidays kicked off on Oct. 1 and will run through Jan. 4 with this year's goal of finding new homes for 1.5 million pets. Last year's drive met the goal of 1 million.
"We want to bring awareness to the community that people should be adopting, not purchasing, pets," St. George said.
Helen Woodward started Home 4 the Holidays in 1999, with just 14 animal shelters participating. In 2000, it grew to 130 shelters in five states.
Iams got involved in the third year, offering all adopters a "welcome home" kit with food samples and CD full of tips for new pet owners.
From its humble beginnings with 14 San Diego participants, there are now more than 3,300 shelters and animal groups involved in Home 4 the Holidays.
"Our little holiday event has just exploded worldwide," St. George said.
Many of the animals at Helen Woodward come from other shelters and rescue groups without the space and means to board them. Dogs and cats come from places like Arizona, Nevada and Utah, and St. George said many of them would have been put to sleep for lack of space. The Woodward Center has no time limit on their animals' stays and a strict no-kill philosophy.
"For many here, this is their second chance," St. George said.
Helen Woodward offers adoption deals as part of the Home 4 the Holidays drive. Two cats available for adoption are brothers Parka and Fleece. The 7-month old black-and-white males have been at the center since they were just 9 weeks old. They've grown up together and have bonded. St. George said they hope to adopt them as a pair, offering potential adopters a "two for one deal," where they only pay one adoption fee.
This week's pet of the week is Vail, a 10-month old hound blend, chocolate colored with caramel markings. He's called an energetic "mountain of love."
Check out all the animals looking for a home this holiday season at www.animalcenter.org.