The following is from the Summer 2010 issue of Protecting Animals, American Humane’s quarterly journal for animal welfare professionals. Used by permission. To learn more, visit www.AmericanHumane.org.
By Peggy Weigle, Executive Director of Animal Humane New Mexico
Last year, we built our Robbie Jones Memorial Cat House, which provides communal living for cats in four indoor/ outdoor “pods.” We wanted potential adopters to go into the cats’ habitat to meet them on their own turf, rather than having to take the cats out of their comfort zone for a meeting.
– Each pod is 12 feet by 12 feet, and can accommodate six cats at a time, for a total of 24 cats.
– The pods have cubby space, vertical space, shelves and cat doors.
– The interior design was donated by professionals. A San Francisco designer provided the “checkmate” theme (in red/purple and red/mango) for two of the pods, which contain easy-to-build, 2-foot-square wooden cubes with colored Plexiglas fronts with circular openings that we stack for the cats. Local architects designed and built the other two pods: “Pish Posh in the Park” features a plywood cutout of a tree with perches and a picket fence to hide litter boxes, and “Tres Chat” has grey-and-orange ramps and shelves, along with a wall-size collage made of black-and-white cat photos.
– Each pod has fenced-in outdoor space with rafters, planks and perches, as well as nearby bird feeders the cats can watch.
– People seating is available in each pod, which makes it easy for the kitties to approach adopters.
– The Cat House is self-contained with its own sink and laundry. Each pod has its own dedicated cleaning materials, which makes it easy to manage hygiene. We also hang aprons on each door for visitors and volunteers to wear.
We received funding to build the Cat House from a capital campaign that raised $170,000 in three months. The cat people in this area opened their hearts and their pocketbooks, and were thrilled that we were doing this. To thank them, we offered naming opportunities for each pod; for a $10,000 donation, donors had their name and an image of their cat painted on a beautiful ceramic plaque designed by a local artist.
The best news is that adoptions have been higher in the cat pods than in the shelter’s traditional cattery. In February, we also opened a new adoption center – complete with its own “checkmate” pod – in midtown Albuquerque that houses 20 pets at a time. We were hoping to adopt out 45 animals in our opening month, but we adopted 118 in February alone! The location makes it easy for people to stop by on their lunch hour and see the animals, rather than having to come to the shelter.