No one takes a job expecting to end up running a cat sanctuary 7
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 7 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 3 large windows with 12” deep window sills –
perfect for birdwatching! There are 2 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 4 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 9 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…