by Barbara Moss
Sanctuary is paradise for cats and cat lovers
I was bursting with excitement when Habitat
for Cats secretary Phyllis Sweeney invited me to see the Sanctuary.
I followed Phyllis' car down a quiet country road. We turned.
Then turned again until our cars were creeping along a long single-lane
dirt and gravel driveway.
We passed a house, then lawns gave way to impenetrable viney woods.
We pulled up to a small house and shed - not a cat in sight. We
walked up to a gate. And that's when I saw them. Some 20 kitties
with round curious eyes and tails flying high were trotting toward
us. At the animal shelter where I got my cat Mo, kittens meowed
piteously at visitors and scraped at the front of their little cages,
but these cats were happy. They did not try to slip through the
gate to an uncertain freedom. Some purred around my legs. Most gazed
at me with frank feline curiosity judging my potential as an interesting
visitor. Apparently I passed inspection because we had quite an
entourage escorting us through the sanctuary. I didn't know that
Phyllis was carrying sliced turkey treats, but the cats sure
In the center of the sanctuary is a grassy meadow abloom with
wildflowers. Little cedar trees served as natural scratching posts.
As I looked around, cats were everywhere. None were obese or underweight
and all had fine shiny coats. I saw one pouncing at something in
the grass, a vole perhaps, and another sat up on her haunches batting
at a white moth. She was having a wonderful time and the moth seemed
to enter into the spirit of the game. He didn't come close to being
caught--not this time anyway.
The "Catty Shack"
is where the cat food is stored & prepared for feeding and it
is also a recuperation area for sick cats.
My guide showed me several sheds and hutches converted to cat winter
quarters for one, two or several cats. All were insulated and heaped
with fresh straw bedding. What really impressed me was that no entrance
way, no cat flap, opened directly into the main area. Each had a
little entrance hall, a foyer, or an alcove so no cat entering or
leaving would let in a blast of winter wind on the animals already
Around the meadow are woodsy areas where the more feral cats could
retreat to privacy. Phyllis explained how the Sanctuary worked on
a kennel system. New arrivals are placed in roomy fenced-off yards
so that they can adjust to the sanctuary environment and gradually
to the other cats . They remain in the kennels for two weeks to
a month. Kittens also have a special house and yard that protects
them from big bossy cats and where volunteers come to play with
and socialize the kittens.
We came to a gully crossed by a heavy board. Two cats were crossing
a little bridge as we approached. On the other side in a shaded
area was a giant sandbox that any daycare center would be proud
to own. It was a communal litter box to provide cats an alternative
to a walk in the woods. Feces were removed regularly and placed
into a nearby organic composter - a sort of chemical toilet. As
we completed our circuit I could not help but notice the beautiful
plantings on the property. I saw bulging orange rose hips belonging
to Rosa rugosa. A pear tree's branches ached bent with fruit. A
lovely hydrangea with huge conical white blossoms sent sweet fragrance
upon the breeze.
While we walked, Phyllis told me of the circumstances that brought
cats here. Now numbering over 70, most were feral but there were
cases of abandonment and cruelty. Surely this is the Garden of Eden
and a paradise on earth.
More Information about the Sanctuary
Volunteers come daily to care for the cats living at the Sanctuary.
Volunteers come from all walks of life and ages. We have families,
college students, retired folks and people that work full-time,
participating. Everyone finds
their own reward in doing this.
For the most part, the cats will live out their lives here. A description
and photos of a few of the sanctuary cats are shown on the Sponsor
a Cat page. Click here to Sponsor a Cat.
winter months are sometimes tough for the cats, but cat shelters,
small & large, are placed throughout the sanctuary. All the
shelters are filled with insulating straw and have wind blocks.
Heated water bowls keep water from freezing and some of the kennels
now have heated warming pads. This is especially important for the
Twice a year, spring and fall, volunteers come together for a weekend
of spring cleaning on the grounds. Leaves are raked, the overgrown
brush is pruned, and shelters are filled with fresh straw. Repairs
to the fencing and buildings are also made as needed. On these weekends,
only the bravest or friendliest of cats are seen during all the
If you would like to volunteer, click on the Contact
HFC link to provide us your information.