The Feline Foundation is a fantastic initiative and non-profit organisation that has grown into an unstoppable force for good by way of three of our favourite things; positivity, creativity and cats. Founded by Sarah Menzies and originally titled Cat Tee Mission, The Feline Foundation raises money for partner charities who rescue unwanted domestic cats, and preserve the big cats of Africa. The organisation works hard to fundraise through t-shirt, merchandise and art sales, but is also big on events, keen to hold fundraisers, raffles, auctions and dinners in order to push the cause forward.
Founder, Sarah Menzies, has loved and supported cats all her life. Her desire to link creativity, protecting animals and spreading positive messages began with a blog to raise awareness about cat charities, followed by the sale of some artworks. in 2011 she launched Cat Tee Mission, a T-shirt company that aimed to spread the word about the plight of both domestic and wild cats, and donated 100% of its profits to support those cats.
Sarah also donates a portion of her cat-themed ceramic work to The Feline Foundation and is currently working on a ceramic collection of cat sculptures entitled ‘Cats of the World.’ These are fantastically unique little totems, hand-made and full of character. We got to know Sarah to find out more about her work with The Feline Foundation, her hopes to move forward with rescuing and protecting domestic and big cats, and to ask her advice on channeling creativity into a noble cause.
How did you come up with the idea to merge your love for cats and creativity to do good?
I knew I needed to do something charity-based for cats for quite some time, and I didn’t want to just start a charity and ask people for donations. I knew I wanted to give them an incentive, so I came up with the idea of selling tee shirts with a message about the plight of domestic cats, and giving all of the profits to our partners. It grew from there and after visiting Africa shortly after launching Cat Tee Mission, we decided to include big cats too. Since then we have continued to grow. We’re not just about tees anymore, and we’ve actually re-branded and changed our name. We are now called The Feline Foundation and we support big cats too.
Tell us a little about your partner charities and your focus on big cats and well as rescuing and rehoming domestic cats…
We started off raising money for domestic cat rescue orgs in several countries around the world who rescue, rehome and TNR (trap-neuter-return) street cats. We wanted to cover all of those areas of cat rescue as they are the biggest issues for kitties. In the domestic cat arena we support Cat Protection Society of NSW here in Australia, Cat and Kitten Care in the UK and Neighborhood Cats in the US.
In the big cat arena, we support conservation organisation, Naankuse Wildlife Foundation in Namibia, Africa. They do an amazing job with their carnivore research program. Namibia has a huge problem with human-wildlife conflict and big cats are often shot on sight by farmers who feel they’re a threat to their livestock. Obviously this is a huge problem for the plummeting number of cheetah, leopard and lion in the country.
Naankuse work with farmers to reduce this issue by fitting monitoring collars to any ‘problem’ animals and providing the farmers with updates on the whereabouts of the big cat. We funded a GPS collar for a leopard earlier this year, which in turn saved its life and allowed it to be released right away. An amazing accomplishment for us. You can read more about our partners here.
Tell us a little about the creatives that you work with…
Being a creative myself, in 2013 I decided to approach artists and designers who loved to draw cats and ask them if they’d like to be a part of our new program, Artist Exchange. Artist Exchange allows creatives to donate their artworks to us in digital form so we can put it on a tee and other merchadise for a limited amount of time, usually a month, with the hope of increasing promotion and sales. I’m happy to say that every single artist I’ve approached has said yes, and now that word has gotten around we get artists approaching us which is great. More info about Artist Exchange is here.
How important do you think the marriage between creativity and charity is?
I think it is so important as creativity is a way to increase fundraising. The Feline Foundation also has a membership option where if people become members they can get a free portrait of their pet cat. I’m also on the committee of Animal Works, another Australian non-profit organisation started by renowned artist, Nafisa Naomi. One aspect of Animal Works’ fundraising is selling Nafisa’s amazing drawings of elephants and other wildlife to raise funds for endangered animals. To me, it seems like a no-brainer to do something good with whatever talent you have and I think more people should do it!
Who or what inspires you the work that you do?
My main inspiration is the animals themselves. I’ve loved animals all my life, but I can thank my 9 year old cat Bosco for my deeper love for animals. After adopting him I became a vegetarian and really started to take my passion for animals more seriously. Bosco has taught me a lot, as have my other cats Oliver and Duma, and my dog Dexter.
Same goes with the animals I met in Namibia in 2012. They inspired me to expand my charity further and try to do even more. I’m also inspired by some humans! My fiancé who also loves animals, my family who have supported me my whole life, conservation gurus like Dame Daphne Sheldrick. And the list of artists I love is very long, especially those that give back.
Talk us through your process for creating your sculptures…
So just over a year ago I really got into ceramics. I had dabbled in it previously, but mainly when I was in school and then as a new teacher in 2005 , it was not a fun thing to teach to adolescents. Now that I don’t teach it anymore, I really love creating things with earth, water and fire. I give a portion of all of my cat-themed ceramic pieces from my Etsy shop to The Feline Foundation and
I’m currently working on my Cats of the World sculptures, which I hope to exhibit. They are created with stoneware clay, completely hand formed, and then glazed accordingly. I’m only a little way into it, and there are 55 species of cat in the world so I think this is going to be a long journey, but a fun one! Once completed, 50% of all sales from my Cats of the World series will go to The Feline Foundation.
What are The Feline Foundation’s plans for this year?
The planning for our first big event is underway. It will most likely be a dinner or cocktail evening with some original artworks auctioned, all cat-themed of course. We’re aiming to stage it at the beginning of next year and in Sydney which is really exciting. With just over two months until Christmas I already feel like we’re winding down for the year. We’ve had a big year with the re-branding stuff but we’re excited about holding actual fundraising events, as mentioned, next year. Every year we aim to raise more money and do more things for cats, and next year will be no different. I also hope to be able to get back to Africa to visit our research project ASAP.
What can we all do to help the cause?
The first thing everyone can do is visit our shop and buy some great merchandise. We actually have three shops run by third parties that print and ship on our behalf on a made-to-order basis. Between them all they ship world-wide. One ships from Australia, another from the UK and the other from the US. 100% of all profits go to our partner charities. The Feline Foundation is completely volunteer-run so you know that if you buy a tee you are directly helping the cause. You can also purchase my cat-themed ceramics which help, and we definitely encourage and welcome all creatives to get on board with Artist Exchange, especially if you love cats.
Do you have any advice on using creativity to make a difference?
Go for it! Be prepared for some hard, unpaid work, especially in the initial stages of setting up but it’s all completely worth it and so very rewarding! If you are looking to start a non-profit make sure you apply through the relevant authorities, fundraising without a licence is illegal in most countries and you wont want anything to jeopardise your partner charities.
If you have a talent or skill that you can bring to your fundraising, even better. Get creative and original with it, and make it your own so you can put your stamp on it. I can’t recommend using your passion to facilitate another charity-based passion enough. Do some good.
We’d love to hear from cat-loving artists, bloggers who want to feature us, or even Sydney-based people who’d like to volunteer their time. We’d also like to invite everyone to get on board with The Feline Foundation by following us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. You can also follow me on Instagram to stay up to date with my work.
Find more here
Words: Emily Beeson | @younggoldteeth