BANGKOK — Inside an otherwise typical Bangkok shophouse are five floors of scurrying playful cats, many of whom have taken on surrogate parent roles to the even livelier kittens scampering under foot and paw.

Enter the home of PAWS to a meowing chorus of kitties roaming free or sticking their paws out of cages in an attempt to win attention.

In the middle of it all is Amy Baron, a computer programmer in one of her previous nine lives now dedicated to caring for these vulnerable animals. PAWS, founded as the Pet Animal Welfare Society, just celebrated its fourth anniversary last month.

Baron, 42, moved to Bangkok from her native California to pursue her dream of being a full-time animal volunteer, something financially unfeasible in the U.S.. After a former animal welfare group, Soi Cats and Dogs of Bangkok, shutdown in 2012, Amy took over its cat center to create PAWS.

PAWS’ mission? To humanely reduce the million-or-so number of soi cats in Bangkok.

Baron, who is given to occasional online rants about thoughtless people dumping unwanted or sick cats at her door, said though she faces many challenges, her work is far more rewarding than were she doing it back in the states.

Baron looks in on a room of adoptable cats at PAWS Bangkok
Baron looks in on a room of adoptable cats at PAWS Bangkok

“One of the reasons I’ve stayed is that the challenge here is to stop the cats reproducing, not killing them, which is often the case in Western countries,” she said. “I wanted to work with cats without having to constantly put them down.”

Train kitty, a bipedal wonder and PAWS ambassador feline, perhaps best embodies her philosophy.

Literally run over by a train, Train Kitty’s injuries would normally lead to euthanasia. Instead he had both his left legs amputated and PAWS supported his rehabilitation. He now lives a happy and active life zipping around on two legs.

‘Callie’ a cat with two paralyzed hind legs poses for a photo

PAWS, located in the Phra Khanong district, provides minor operations such as desexing, tail amputations, community education and an adoption program.

Some people mistakenly think it’s a place to dump off unwanted or sick cats. That combined with what Baron said has been a slow time for adoptions means she’s packing a full cathouse.

Baron said PAWS has desexed about 3,400 cats in its attempt to reduce the soi cat population.

Having survived four years, PAWS is looking toward the future. Baron would like to bring in an in-house Thai vet and nurses. She hopes this might eventually attract international veterinary students to volunteer and learn from the Thai staff.

The reach of these ambitions are mostly limited by resources. Baron said PAWS runs on such a tight budget that she often has to supplement with her own money when donations don’t suffice.

Visits to PAWS are by appointment only.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Baron’s home state. She is from California, not Oklahoma.