Cora Pogge is a genuine ailurophile.
Cora Pogge loves cats. Just ask her.
“They’re cute and they like to sleep in someone’s arms,” she said, cradling an orange tabby known as Ludwig.
In fact, Cora loves cats and kittens so much she decided she didn’t want any presents when her sixth birthday rolled around July 5.
Instead, Cora wanted to collect food and other supplies and donate them to a cat shelter.
“I thought they didn’t have a lot of toys and stuff to play with,” she said. Cora likes kittens the best, she said.
“It’s because they’re so small and cute,” she added.
Friday saw the realization of Cora’s determination as she and her mother, Natasha Pogge, brought a large cache of badly needed food, treats and other essentials to the Purrfect Haven Cat Rescue Center in Dover.
“The whole thing was such a nice gesture,” said Doreen Peterzak, one of the many volunteers at the no-kill shelter.
Purrfect Haven is in the Pet Smart store at 1390 N. Dupont Highway, Dover, and is 100 percent dependent on donations of food, supplies, and manpower to feed and take care of its adoptable dogs and cats.
“Every time someone does a little bit to help, in any capacity, I strongly believe that’s a good thing,” Peterzak said.
Her daughter always has been fond and protective of animals, Pogge said, it’s just that she’s got a special place in her heart for felines, young and old.
“About four years ago, Cora started going to an animal shelter in Virginia, where her grandmother volunteered,” she said. “It was kind of an opportunity to see where her grandmother worked, and from there she just grew to love cats.
“Now she thinks there’s nothing better in the world than cats.”
Cora and her folks, Josh and Natasha and younger siblings Lillian and Wesley, are all animal lovers, she said. But they don’t have a cat at home.
“We have a dog, and she’s 14,” Pogge said. “She’s older and she doesn’t really like cats.”
‘I like dogs, but …’
Cora’s idea for collecting cat supplies instead of birthday presents took root around her fifth birthday.
“Last year at the end of her party we started talking about how lots of people and animals in our community don’t have as much as she does,” Pogge said. “Then she started kindergarten at McIlvaine [Early Childhood Center] where they talked about giving, and there were a couple of instances during the school year where she mentioned the animal shelters.”
Cora and her parents talked briefly during the year about having a donation party, and the subject came up again as July 5 drew closer.
“That’s when she said she wanted people to bring stuff for the animals instead of presents,” Pogge said. “She decided donating something to her community was important. McIlvaine had a great deal to do with expanding that little thought we’d put in her head last year.”
Pogge went online to search for nearby animal rescue shelters, but Cora demurred when presented with an opportunity to help out some canines.
“She said, ‘I really like dogs, but I love cats,’” Pogge said. “So instead I started looking up cat rescue shelters.”
“I said, ‘How about Purrfect Haven?’ but she said it didn’t matter as long as it was for cats,” she said.
Peterzak replied with a text. listing supplies they needed: cat food, both dry and wet, treats, toys, paper towels and garbage bags. In June, the birthday invitations went out with an explanation of what Cora was trying to do.
Come July 5, “we just set a box at the front door and it was easy from there,” Pogge said.
A little more kindness
Cora’s generosity didn’t go unnoticed. She still received some “regular” birthday presents from family. But those didn’t quite matter to her as much as the cat supplies did.
“I was surprised by that,” Pogge said. “Leading up to her birthday party, I was wondering if she’d be upset if people didn’t bring things for her. But she never said, ‘I wish I had presents.’ This was just so natural for her.”
Pogge and her husband beefed up the donations with a few bulk items from Sam’s Club before making the delivery.
The Pogge family seems a bit overwhelmed by the response to Cora’s determination to help animals.
“This is kind of something simple, and we never thought we’d be getting calls from the newspapers,” she said. “But today kids have more than they need and it comes down to saying when you have so much you might not value those things so much.
“Josh and I just sat down once and had a mommy/daddy talk where we said we don’t want our kids to become ungrateful.”
The Pogges plan to make Cora’s donation idea into a family tradition: as Lillian and Wesley reach their sixth birthdays, they’ll be asked to come up with ideas for donation parties. Hopefully, the suggestion will spread, she said.
“If this gives another kid an idea for different charities, I’ll be happy,” she said. “We all need a little more kindness in the world.”