About Us

Learn about our sanctuary, our founder
and frequently asked questions.

The Sanctuary

Avalo Cat Sanctuary is a 501c3 nonprofit providing a loving home and quality care for our cats, while promoting animal welfare through talks, classes and other forms of education.

Nestled in the rural Midlands of South Carolina, our sanctuary is home to over 250 domestic cats, as well as 100 small exotics and hybrids.

We care for a unique collection of felines that includes Bengals, Jungle and Savannah Cats, Geoffroy’s Cats, servals and a Eurasian lynx. Our domestic breeds include Maine Coons, Highland Curls, Siamese, Lykoi and mixes of all types.

A number of cats at Avalo have special needs due to physical disabilities, such as cerebellar hypoplasia, or a severe illness like Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV).

While some of our domestic cats are feral rescues, other domestics and all of our exotics and hybrids come to Avalo because their owners can no longer care for them. Many owners make financial contributions for food, housing and medical care, but approximately half of our cat population depends on donations from the public for support. Avalo is currently not accepting new domestic cats or kittens due to a lack of space and financial support.

We always have domestic cats available for adoption; however, our small exotics and hybrids are permanent residents.

Avalo welcomes visitors of all ages by appointment.

House Front
About Us - Location Photo

Avalo Cat Sanctuary
346 Rawls Mill Pond Rd
Wagener, SC 29164

25 miles from Aiken, SC
45 miles from Columbia, SC
50 miles from Augusta, GA

About Us - Location - Map

Founder, Michelle Donlick

Michelle Donlick Altmeyer

Michelle Donlick Altmeyer has always been an animal lover. She’s also a veterinary technician, a dog trainer and a horse trainer, but she is, first and foremost, a cat person.

Born in England and raised in Canada, Michelle moved to South Carolina to continue her career as a vet tech while she taught riding in the heart of Aiken County’s horse country. In 2010, she met her first Bengal cat (similar to the kitty in the photo) and discovered the need for re-homing hybrid felines whose owners could no longer care for them.

Michelle slowly developed a section of her 16-acre property, building outdoor enclosures for hybrids and exotics. As word spread and more cats arrived, Michelle formally established Avalo Cat Sanctuary as a nonprofit, which has grown to house over 350 domestic, small exotic and hybrid cats.

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on these questions to get details about Avalo Cat Sanctuary

Avalo was founded to care for hybrids and small exotics whose owners could no longer care for them. The owners continued to financially support the feeding, housing and veterinary care of their pets. Over time, our mission expanded to include privately owned domestic cats. When possible, Avalo takes in feral and rescued domestic cats from shelters and other animal welfare groups.

Yes, Avalo operates under the S.C. Code of Laws, Title 47 for "Large Wild Cats," which are defined as Family Felidae, Genus panthera: lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cougars, cheetahs, snow leopards, and clouded leopards. Private ownership of these cats is illegal and none are housed at Avalo Cat Sanctuary. Avalo's hybrids and small exotics are not members of the Genus panthera.

No, most of these cats are sent to Avalo by private owners who can no longer care for them. In the case of Rune, the Eurasian Lynx, the owner put this pet up for auction. None of these cats are available for adoption, except "virtually" for ongoing care.

Avalo is currently not taking in new domestic cats or kittens due to a lack of space and financial support. Every cat at Avalo must be spayed or neutered, tested for communicable diseases and treated for parasites. All cats receive veterinary care when sick, which can include surgery and ongoing treatments. This level of care, along with the feeding and housing of over 250 domestic cats, produces a significant monetary burden. As much as Avalo would like to rescue every feral cat, we are limited by the donations we receive from the public.

Absolutely! The staff at Avalo can help you decide which cat or kitten is best suited for you and your lifestyle. There is an application to fill out, and while we don't charge for adoptions, we appreciate donations. If you cannot keep your adopted cat, for any reason, Avalo will take him/her back, no questions asked.

Avalo is Compassion

The word “Avalo” is short for “Avalokiteshvara,” the Bodhisattva of Compassion. In Buddhist tradition, a bodhisattva is an enlightened being dedicated to bringing happiness to others by ending their suffering.

“I thought it was the perfect name for my sanctuary,” said Avalo’s founder Michelle Donlick Altmeyer. “I try to be compassionate toward life in general, but especially animals. I want the cats who live here to feel safe and loved.”


About Us - Location Photo

Special Thanks

This website was made possible through the time and talent of the following:

Robert Clark Photography
Meghann Padgett Photography and Film
Karin Martin

Fitts Production Associates LLC
Meghann Padgett Photography and Film

Lou Kinard
Page Leggett

Lou Kinard
Kathy Khalifa

Josh Jacobson, CEO, Next Stage Consulting


About Us - Location - Map