The past year has been a year of big changes for one of Chicago’s oldest, no-kill cat rescues – Felines, Inc. First, the non-profit changed its mission early last year to welcome dogs into the organization, becoming Felines & Canines. Then, they moved into temporary space while the old house they called home for 22 years was gutted and renovated.
“We were really smart with our money and we saved up for a long time,” says Abby Smith, executive director of the organization. “We moved the animals to another location and then gutted our current space and built a 3,000 square foot addition to the building. We now have this great bright space with lots of light and space for the cats and dogs while they are in our care.”
Home sweet home
Right after the holidays, the dogs and cats moved back into the shelter and it’s once again open for business in West Rogers Park. The 105-year-old house is now a beautiful space that makes it easier to care for the animals and to provide for a variety of cats and dogs that need a little extra space in the no-kill shelter.
“Our goal when we built it was not be a sterile lifeless environment. It was a house prior to the renovation and we wanted it to continue to feel like a home,” says Smith. “We used to lie on the floor to pet the cats. It’s now purpose built for us and we didn’t lose the charm – we really nailed it. There are windows and skylights and cats can look out on Devon.”
Before last year, the group focused only on cats. When they decided to add dogs to the mix, Smith says they decided to keep the number to 20 so they could do a great job with the dogs they took in. They have tempered glass kennels, glass blocks in the room and plenty of light as opposed to kennels that normally house dogs in shelters.
Special spaces for special kitties
They have also set up eight special rooms for cats that prefer not to hang out in the main room with the rest of the cats. That reduces their stress so it’s easier for those kitties to find a home. One of the really cool features is small window cubbies that climb up the side of the walls – a perfect spot for cats to curl up and bird watch or just enjoy the sun.
“We rescue from shelters that will euthanize when they run out of space – the Animal Welfare League and some other places,” adds Smith. “We take all kinds of cats but we’ve done a great job finding homes for the seniors – those 8 to 12 years old that are normally considered hard to place and don’t do well in a traditional shelter environment.”
Most cats are stressed when they find themselves in a shelter. However, the older cats that have spent their whole life with a family are even more overwhelmed. In the three weeks since the doors have opened, the organization has had a great wave of adoptions as people stop by to check out the space – 35 cats and 10 dogs have found homes. Last year, the organization adopted out over 500 cats – a new high – while working out of their temporary space.
“We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity that we have to do what we can for the cats and dogs,” says Smith. “I know it’s a hard time economically and we don’t take the time people give us or any donations – even a penny - for granted. “We are happy to be around for the animals and thankful for the people that come in to help with them while they wait for a home.”
If you’ve not had a chance to stop by the new shelter at 6379 North Paulina in Chicago, mark your calendar for Saturday, February 16. Felines & Canines will be hosting an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. to show off their new digs. There will be goody bags, snacks, tours and 120 wonderful animals looking for homes.
“We’ve been fortunate because we’ve saved and we have the whole project paid off,” adds Smith. “It was a big deal and we got it done, but now we are operating a shelter that is five times larger than before. We need donations, volunteers and adopters to continue our mission.”
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