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 Kathleen Beaver, Chief Operating Officer of Animal Friends in Pittsburgh, PA
When we designed our new facility, we made a conscious effort to put our cats front and center so people have to walk past the cats to get to the dogs (kind of like putting milk in the back of the grocery store!). Our shelter is designed to show the personality of the cats. The condo rooms are enclosed pods with glass fronts that allow visitors to see the cats without being aware of the dozens of litter boxes that are around. This also keeps the cats calm and stress-free. There is a special socialization room in between the two pods where volunteers can take the cats to exercise, socialize or just stretch out for a while in a homelike environment. Calming music, L-Lysine additive for their food and hiding perches are provided to keep the cats stress-free and healthy while they await adoption.
We also installed two free-roam rooms with glass fronts that hold up to 10 cats (all free-roam cats must be over 6 months old, non-contagious, and tested and vaccinated against FeLV). We choose cats for these spaces based on their ability to get along with other cats. We also look for cats that we feel might be with us a bit longer and need extra space, as well as cats that just don’t show well in the smaller condo cages. Volunteers have access to work with the cats in these rooms based on their experience level and number of volunteer hours they have put in. While we don’t have these spaces readily accessible to the public for safety reasons, we do allow the public in with an adoption counselor.
We want people to see cats in a normal home environment, so one free-roam room is decorated like a bedroom where cats can sleep in a dresser drawer, on the bed or in the cubbyholes of the shelving unit. The other room looks like a sunroom with comfortable furniture and a table and chairs. The windows at the back of both rooms overlook a yard with trees and bird feeders; we call this “Cat TV.”
We also just designed our new FIV suite, The Cat Cottage, that can house up to five FIV-positive, asymptomatic cats. This area has a combination of cages and free roam, depending on the cats in our facility at the time. We do a lot of education since these cats tend to be more difficult to place, and we adopt them only into homes with no other cats or with other FIV-positive cats.