Whether they rescue big, fuzzy Maine Coon Cats or slim, talkative Siamese, the devotion that pedigreed cat rescuers have to “their” breed is unmistakable. Whether the rescue people are breeders themselves, or just people who fell in love with a particular breed, they all want give to something back to the cats they so adore.

“Most of the people who are into breed rescue do it because they love a certain breed, but still want to rescue an animal rather than going to a breeder,” says Kari Winters, who volunteers for California Siamese Cat Rescue (CASR). “Once I discovered how many Siamese there actually are at the various shelters, I knew I wanted to ‘specialize.'”

Betsy Piper, the founder and president of the United Maine Coon Cat Rescue League (UMCCRL), and a breeder of Maine Coons herself, became involved in breed rescue when she drove to get the cats of a breeder who had passed away. But instead of the half dozen Maine Coons she had expected, there were 85. “It was wall-to-wall cats,” she says. Over the next 24 hours, Piper placed all the cats in new homes, using the Internet. “People flew in from all over the country,” she says. Since then, she says, “we’ve done all the rescuing by putting people together over the Internet-it’s like a matchmaking service.”

Some breed rescue operations send volunteers like Winters into local shelters to look for cats who look like pedigreed cats. Since they don’t come with papers, these cats are often known as “wannabes” or “lookalikes.” Others, like the UMCCRL, use the Internet to match up registered cats with new owners. Piper will even track down the original breeder to see if they can help rehome a cat. Pat Filosa, who has been breeding and showing Himalayans and Persians for 20 years, networks at shows to find unwanted cats new homes. “Sometimes we bring the [rescue] cats to the show or other shelter cats and interview people for possible homes for them,” she says.

All rescuers share a strong belief in educating people about the particular needs of the breed. “Siamese cats are just different. They’re more sensitive and more high-strung,” says Diane Hayes, a board member of CASR who adopted her first Siamese at a shelter after he climbed into her purse. “Many are put with the feral cats at the shelters because they don’t like to be mishandled.” Barbara Galin, the North East co-coordinator for Siamese Cat Rescue, Virginia, adds, “Traits which are endearing to some are annoying and unacceptable to others who do not research the breed before they adopt one.” And, quite often, as a breed grows in popularity, abandonments grow along with it.

The Cat Fancier’s Association maintains an extensive list of breed rescue organizations at their website. Another online resource is Kyler Laird’s animal rescue resources at their website.