The Sanctuary

No one takes a job expecting to end up running a cat sanctuary seven years later. But that’s exactly what happened when our founder, Leticia Stivers, began working at the Austin Humane Society in 2007. Her job was to help start and manage a new feral cat program that employed a method of population control called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). She assisted the public with their cat problems, collaborated with animal control on cruelty cases, and coordinated a group of 75 volunteer cat trappers. She also did quite a bit of actual trapping, especially in the beginning.

What she saw and heard on a daily basis would break your heart. So many animals in need. But the cats that truly tugged at her heart were the special-needs cats. Those cats whose options were few and would likely be euthanized.

After her family moved from Austin to Northwest Arkansas in 2012, she became involved in the local animal welfare scene and discovered that the special-needs animals in the area had no options at all. That’s when the idea of forming an official non-profit became reality. The need to assist these animals at local shelters was great. She felt she could make a difference in the lives of these animals, while educating the shelters and the public about special-needs cats (and TNR, too!)

So in the Fall of 2013, construction began on her seven acre property to build a standalone building that would serve not only as the cat sanctuary, but also as her office and art studio.

The building was created with the cats’ comfort and well-being in mind. It has a kitchen, bathroom, laundry area and lots of storage. The cat room has three large windows with 12” deep window sills – perfect for birdwatching! There are two cat doors, one that leads onto the deck and another that leads to the side of the building. We created cute boxes specifically for the cats to jump on or sleep in and mounted them along the walls. Creating vertical spaces for them was important. But most importantly was adding an HVAC system for the building. It gets far colder up here than Austin so we had to make sure the cats would be comfortable in winter and summer. The building is also nicely insulated.

But what good is a sanctuary without the ability to enjoy the great outdoors safely? A deck was built attached to cattery so the cats can go outside for fresh air and listen to the birds. The deck is 10 ft. wide x 30 ft. long with a 12 ft. roof overhang.

An enclosure was built beyond the building to allow the cats to be cats. We moved in two large tree trunks from a tree that had toppled over on our property. One stands perfectly vertical to allow the cats to climb to the top and sit. For the ferals of the sanctuary, we included four feral “houses” that were generously donated to us by the Humane Society of the Ozarks. These houses are great for the unsocialized cats to hide in while we work in their yard or if a sudden rainstorm comes up.

Since the sanctuary is located in the country, the cats needed protection from predators; especially the blind cats. So a full sized net was affixed over the entire enclosure to protect them from hawks. The chain link fence is buried 8” into the ground to prevent the cats from digging out or predators from digging in. Every gap was closed and secured.

After adding a green privacy barrier to the chain link fence and a few bird feeders on the exterior of the enclosure, the area was ready for the cats. Moving a bunch of cats from Austin to Northwest Arkansas was no easy task. But after a long nine hour drive, they all arrived safe and sound.

The cats arrived in the late winter and before the enclosure was complete. So they remained indoors for several months. It was important that they acclimated properly. The window sills soon became prime real estate!

Once spring arrived and we started having nicer weather, the cats were finally allowed to explore their new outdoor playground. It was a hit…they loved it! They rolled in the dirt, they ate grass, and they climbed and scratched the tree trunks. We were so happy to be able to provide them a comfortable and safe home.

But our work on the Sanctuary is not yet complete. We discovered the deck porch is not sufficiently protected against rain and snow so everything gets wet. We hope to install weatherproof roll-up curtains later this year. The interior also needs more ramps and shelves. The work continues…