By Susan Burgess

This is the first in a four-part series highlighting upgrades and improvements to the Seattle Animal Shelter funded by a 2012 grant from the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation.

The lobby of the Seattle Animal Shelter seems more spacious these days. Gone are the three long folding tables, each topped by a large wire cage housing a cat waiting to find his or her forever home.

In their place stands a modular cabinet in a warm wood-toned finish with white accents, reminiscent of something found at IKEA. However, this isn’t an entertainment center or bookshelf for humans – it’s a free-standing habitat that can house up to six cats. And it’s the first of several key Shelter improvements funded by a 2012 grant from the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation (SASF).

A better temporary home for Shelter cats

Each compartment in the “cat condo” consists of a two-room suite – a living area with a perch for lounging, and a separate smaller compartment for a litter box (or for hiding). Partitions between each condo can be removed to create a larger space for an individual cat, a bonded pair, or even a mother with kittens. Smaller details include casters that allow the unit to be easily repositioned, as well as recessed cabinet pulls, making it less tempting for curious human hands to open cage doors.

The Shelter had long wanted to improve the lobby environment for the cats, according to Kara Main-Hester, Manager of Volunteer Program and Fundraising. “Our small cat cages in the cat adoption room and cattery are just not adequate for many of the cats at SAS,” she says, “Cats need space to have their litter box separate from their living quarters. Also, some cats just simply need more space – and more engaging space.”

The project was made possible by SASF, whose grant of $100,000 to the Shelter in 2012 will fund several projects on the Shelter’s wish list this year. At $5,900, the condos are the first completed project. Additional projects will include upgrades to the dog kennels, sponsored adoption events, and the purchase of a high-end digital camera to aid humane animal law enforcement officers in investigating and documenting animal cruelty cases.

Once approved, the condo project took only a couple of months from the time the multiplex units were ordered from Shor-Line manufacturing, to assembly and “beta” testing with the cats. Shelter volunteer Robert Rowland, a professional cabinetmaker and exhibit installer, donated his time to assemble the condos, in addition to his weekly shift in the critter room.

“It was really easy,” he says, explaining that it took him only around two hours to complete. He then added a disclaimer: “But I’m really fast.” Regardless, Robert says he was happy to lend his expertise to help the Shelter.

The results: Less stress, more adoptable pets

The feline residents have been in place for several weeks now and the difference in their demeanor is palpable. “The cats really like the quiet and calmness of the new space.” Kara Main-Hester observes. “Sounder, a cat who had been fractious upon greeting, visibly decompressed when getting into the new space.”

The less stressed the cats are, the better they present to potential adopters, and the less time they spend in the Shelter. This in turn makes space for the Shelter to help even more animals.

This improvement in animal welfare is a direct result of the generosity of the Seattle community. You can make a difference: Please donate to SASF today.