Rachael Ray Kicks Off Tour to Help Shelter Cats in Need

Though Rachel Ray doesn’t have any felines in her house hold, her mother has rescued 15 cats.

At a chic studio space in New York, television host, foodie extraordinaire and pet lover Rachael Ray is in her element. She buzzes around the room, cooing as volunteers from North Shore Animal League gently place fuzzy, squirmy kittens into her tanned, toned arms. Ray smiles wide and tries to get a kitten’s attention by affectionately talking in a high-pitched voice. The young feline slowly settles down, and Ray snuggles the cat close to her face.

“I think animals give us a better understanding of what it is to be human, ironically,” says Ray, who is the proud pet parent of a 65-pound Pit Bull named Isaboo. “They remind us to be empathetic and loyal and compassion and even quiet from time to time.”

The event kicks off Ray’s “Shelter Cats are Beautiful“ tour, which will send expert teams from “One Picture Saves a Life” to 16 cities nationwide to offer professional grooming and photography services to help shelters photograph adoptable cats and place them into loving homes. Renowned pet photographer Seth Casteel and celebrity pet groomer Jorge Bendersky were also on hand at the launch event to beautify some of New York’s adoptable cats and get them ready for their glamour shots.

SEE PHOTOS: Rachael Ray Gives Shelter Cats Makeovers in NYC

“A photograph is one of the most important elements of the entire [adoption] situation,” says Casteel. “When you take one positive picture that represents a pet, it’s their ticket out.”

Though Ray doesn’t have any felines in her house hold, her mother has rescued 15 cats. Those family cats helped inspire Ray’s new Nutrish line of food for cats, which was released earlier this year. For Ray, extending the brand into cat food was always part of the plan.

“We wanted to get the initial launch of the dog food off of the ground, but eventually my mother started nagging me,” she says. “My mom’s cats actually tasted all of the wet food and they made some changes along the way.”

The Nutrish line for cats includes both wet and dry varieties that are made without artificial preservatives or flavors. First-quarter sales of the cat food will help raise money for North Shore Animal League’s new cage-free cat rescue facility. To date, sales of Ray’s Nutrish line have raised over $6.5 million for animals in need.

Ray, who rose to celebrity stardom as a Food Network personality and chef, says that she often takes the principles of cooking for humans and translates them into how she cooks and prepares meals for her own dog. “I cook for Isaboo all the time,” she says. “I make dog versions of what we make for dinner, but take out the onion or the garlic or any other ingredients that might be harmful.”

As part of the “Shelter Cats are Beautiful” kickoff, a newly donated mobile rescue and adoption unit was on hand for the day. Over the next few months, teams will travel to cities such as Philadelphia, Houston and Los Angeles for makeover and adoption events. Pet lovers can follow the progress of the campaign on ShelterCatsAreBeautiful.com.

Ray’s continued passion for adoption and animal rescue causes remains an authentic and defining part of who she is. “When you bring an animal into your home, you’re bringing that animal into your family,” says Ray. “Animals need attention, love, affection and commitment. It’s the same rules that apply to people.”

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