Keeping cats, dogs and other animals fed and healthy gets expensive, but that doesn't stop Johnye and Steven Saylor from doing what they can to improve their animals' lives.
To help fund the animal rescue, the Saylors happily stumbled into development of a special toy.
The idea of "Cruise Kitties" was born during a cruise Steven took with his parents and daughter, who was on staff as a singer. Johnye stayed home to care for the menagerie, but tucked a stuffed kitten into Steven's suitcase. For an on-board reception, he tucked the cat into his suit pocket, which garnered a lot of attention - and an idea.
Working with GUND toys, the Saylors are working on prototypes of Cruise and Cruisabell Kitties, complete with wardrobes and backpacks for carrying them. The plan is to distribute them on cruise ships.
The project has turned into a Northern Nevada enterprise. Alpine West out of Sparks is working on the backpack/lunch kit combo. The Saylors' new neighbor, Betty Herr, makes doll clothes designs and volunteered to make the wardrobe prototypes. A Disney animator who lives in the area is working on drawings for a coloring and activity book to go with the stuffed kitties.
"A good percentage of the profits will go to the Judy Project," Steven said of the project to build a no-kill shelter in Dayton. It's named after the late Judy Hartwell, who operated a cat rescue in Napa.
"GUND is amazing," Steven said. "They're all over this thing. (They consider it) a great product for a good cause."
They even have a New York designer planning to promote a special designer's line of clothes once Kittie has been out for a couple years.
"It's amazing how this all fell together," Johnye said. "Like, 'how are we going to get clothes designed?' and our neighbor designs doll clothes. Alpine (West) is in Sparks. And (the president of) GUND loves cats."