Soft Paws: Shelter’s Pride and Joy: Free-roaming cat rooms | Columnists


If you haven’t taken a trip down to the shelter in the past few years, then you may not have had the pleasure of seeing one of the new shelter’s pride and joy locations: our free-roaming cat rooms.

Circa 1999, “Cat Room -2,” as it was called, was filled with cages, as was Cat Room -1. At some point in 1999, the cages were removed from Room -2 as it began the transition into what was to become our first free roam room. This room was designed with many purposes in mind, the primary one being for the love and well-being of our feline companions, whose happiness seemed to grow exponentially while allowed to meander in cat trees and cubbies, free from the burden of cages. The rave reviews from staff, volunteers, and the public alike confirmed that the free roam room was an indispensable attribute to the shelter.

As the room gave a more spacious atmosphere than the typical confinement (a 2′ cubical cage with one opening), the cat-per-foot ratio decreased in free roam, in turn making the cleanliness-per-foot increase. Cats in free roam are lucky enough to not be confined to a small area that is forced to maintain a bed, a dining table, and a potty in four square feet of living space. If a little food, water or litter is spilled in free roam, kitties can walk away without getting it in the paws, and it’s easier for humans to get into the corners and clean the messes up, too.

The cats that are allowed into free roam are frequently in one or more of three classes: elderly cats (the “senior citizens” premise!), cats that have been with us the longest (they deserve a chance to space out a bit), and under-socialized cats (who would otherwise sit in the back of their cages forever and never get adopted). Allowing these to socialize freely with other cats gives them comfort, and, in turn, naturally makes them more appealing to adopters.

Fast forward to 2014, and our new shelter was designed with not one but TWO free roaming cat rooms…with both having access to a safely contained outdoor cat play area. Anyone who swings by our facility — at any time of year — can see a kitty or two or ten enjoying a breath of fresh air outdoors or curled up in any of dozens of nooks and crannies or maybe sunning themselves by one of our large windows inside . Our two rooms can maintain a capacity of two dozen kitties just waiting for the right person to come by and call their own!

By far, the most important reason behind having a free roam room is that, time and time again, it has been proven that an animal’s state of mental health directly affects their physical health, and cats that are in these rooms are HAPPY there, even if they were troubled before. They are comfortable, knowing that they can sit on the floor, or on the counter, or in a kitty tent or tunnel, or up in a tree. They can eat at their leisure. They can stay away from those they don’t like, and snuggle with those they do. Our free roam cats are the healthiest felines in the whole shelter. Isn’t it remarkable to give so many homeless animals the chance to be content?

We’d love to have you come see our free roam rooms and get your opinion…and while you’re at it, maybe find the perfect furry buddy that’s missing from your couch at home!

Our Food Bank is in dire need of cat food…especially bags of dry food. The needs of our felines are greater than ever, and it’s our commitment that our Food Bank will never run dry!

Aaron Clause is an Administrative Assistant at the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA. He can be reached at cghsaaron@gmail.com.

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