How a children’s book is helping to save Philly’s furry population

‘Gata Unbound: Volume 1’ by Lucy Nolan and Susan Russell, illustrated by Kaity Lacy.

Art is said to help promote education and change, and in the case of Kaity Lacy, a local artist and illustrator, that sentiment comes in tenfold. Lacy has been working for years now on combining two of her passions: animals and art. That culmination of enthusiasm and purpose has been highlighted through her portrait business, Shelter Art by Kaity Lacy, where she specializes in creating pet portraits for shelters over the course of three months. A portion of proceeds from her artistic fundraising efforts goes directly to help those same shelters, but for this illustrator that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Lacy has also been involved with numerous shelters throughout the Greater Philadelphia area—fundraising, donating, transporting or volunteering all along the way. Organizations such as Fishtails (located in Fishtown), One Love, PALS and more have benefitted from Lacy’s work and efforts, including the Brandywine SPCA where Lacy worked as a humane educator from 2018-2019.

All of the organizations the artist has worked with pull from the city’s main open-intake shelter, ACCT Philly. ACCT Philly rescues animals that may have been hit by a car or have diabetes or various medical concerns, so in short, the organization takes cats and dogs that need medical attention right away. As Philadelphians, we may not realize it, but there are more cases of that in the City of Brotherly Love than you would think. According to Lacy, ACCT is always “slammed and overfilled,” so by getting the word out about animal adoption and animal advocacy, the artist has been able to play a part in becoming a solution to a problem.

It’s a furry and very cute problem, but still a problem nonetheless. 

Lacy’s latest venture is a children’s book educating the younger generation on animals and what they have to go through, specifically strays and the process of TNR (trap, neuter, return.) ‘Gata Unbound Volume 1’, which is the first book in a series titled a ‘Book Series for Ailurophiles of All Ages,’ was created through Archimedes’ Printing Shoppe and Sundry Goodes. Archimedes was founded through TV personality and journalist Lucy Noland and the Philadelphia Animal Care & Control Team’s (ACCT Philly’s) previous executive director, Susan Russell. Over the years, Lacy has formed a friendship with both women and together, the trio have been able to create a series that will not only entertain children but inform them as well. 

Illustration by Kaity Lacy. Provided

“[Lucy and Susan] are two really strong women who are perpetually trying to make a difference in the way Philly handles its strays and its cat and dog population. They are huge advocates for trying to get ACCT Philly the funds that they need—all three of us are always having fosters in our homes too. I’ve had a friendship with them for a really long time and we really see eye to eye with the importance of helping the animals in the community,” says Lacy. “‘Gata Unbound: Volume 1’ was released back in the spring, it sort of sets the stage for our future books, which are centered around the concept of TNR. Some cities have ordinances that they are taken to shelters and are automatically euthanized because they are feral and not suitable to be pets in a home, so TNR is really the best way to humanely help those cats live out their lives and care for them in that way. The series does revolve around that, [but] it’s [also] comical and inviting, and has a whole host of fun characters.” 

The first volume of the series holds books 1 and 2 and introduces some of the furry and interesting characters while also setting the stage for what readers can expect to come down the line. 

“In TNR they clip half of their ear so that when people see they know that cat has been neutered and taken care of. Book 1 starts with Klein, he wakes up back in his territory and he’s missing half of his ear with no recollection of how this happened. So, he goes on to meet with his inventor friend Archimedes, who is helping him design a prosthetic ear, and it’s all about how he deals with the emotions of waking up confused and having no idea about what happened,” explains Lacy. “In the ongoing series, they’re trying to figure out through therapy sessions and group meetings what is happening in their territory and why the cats keep going missing and coming back with half of their ears gone.”

Illustration by Kaity Lacy. Provided

Volume 2, which will hold books 3 and 4, will still follow the same TNR journey for the felines, but it will also introduce new characters and new cultures. The release for the second volume is set for this fall. 

“[Volume 2] brings in the human characters that are the trappers and their whole stories and backgrounds and what brought them into this cat world. It [also] brings a whole kind of new world of different cultures and it spends time in Greece because that’s where some of the character’s roots are from. These new characters that are introduced [also] love Luchador Mexican wrestling, so there will be some Mexican influences too. The illustrations have been so much to work on because it has all these different cultural influences as well,” adds Lacy.  

The best place to purchase Volume 1 and eventually Volume 2 is through Archimedes’ website, There, visitors will also find a slew of other books including Archimedes’ second series ‘A**holes Need Love Too,’ which was co-authored by the founder of Diamonds in the Ruff Dog Rescue, Erica Brown; plenty of Archimedes apparel; a resource where visitors can check out a list of what to do about specific rescue situations; a blog highlighting feel-good foster and adoption stories; and much more. Archimedes is also going to be donating a percentage of the net proceeds of the ‘Gata Unbound’ books to different rescues listed on their website as well. 

Illustration by Kaity Lacy. Provided

“We’re hoping that this project can serve a lot of different purposes, definitely one of those being to help more animals in need,” says Lacy. “We are definitely hoping that we can make a difference in this world. That’s how the company was started by Lucy and Susan, and then I jumped on board. We really want to help the animals in the community, but also help educate people on how to do that, too. We’re hoping as an end goal [eventually] to be able go into schools and have lessons on how to recognize and help stray cats in the classrooms. Part of the solution is to educate people in a fun way about these cats, but also to be a resource.” 

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