In an effort to create a healthier environment and to help the felines at the Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals find their pet parents, the organization has created a communal colony-style cat room. The room encourages adoptees to discover the personality of a cat that can fit well into their household.
Inside the room, cats can roam about freely; play and interact with one another; and climb and peek from the windows. There are multiple covered litter boxes for privacy. Toys encourage play and keep the cats busy. The room has ample water and food bowls and plenty of perches.
Vickie Stryker, executive director of the SPCA, said given the chance to visit with six cats at a time instead of one helps potential pet owners find the right fit.
"Based on my experience, being in here right now, I see which cats come to me and which are lap cats and which want to be petted," Stryker said.
Shelter supporters Donna and Jim Sortman approached Stryker last year about the possibility of creating a cat room.
"We talked about adding a free-roaming cat room and they were willing to make it a possibility," she said.
Stryker said a study done about the health of shelter cats shows that when they have more room to play and living quarters where food, water and litter boxes are kept separated, those cats were healthier and happier.
Last spring, volunteers started work on the room, which was finished in mid-August. Six cats already are living in what hopefully is their temporary home.
The cats are from a large seizure in which officers with the Lycoming County SPCA removed 11 cats, four dogs, 12 rats and one turtle from a residence along Fourth Avenue.
They seemed to have settled very nicely into their new and temporary living quarters.
The room has been named "Four Seasons" because the paintings on each wall represent the seasons.
Staff members and former staff members came up with the wall designs and donated their time to paint the murals.
Shelving, which is placed at different levels on the wall and wraps all the way around the top of the room, gives the cats a bird's-eye view of the room and provides places to perch, play and nap.
The shelving was designed, placed and donated by Bentley and Collins Co., a cabinet company in Muncy.
"We looked at other shelters and what they have done and gave them free reign to do whatever they think the cats would like," Stryker said.
The Kuranda beds were donated by supporters through the SPCA website at www.lycomingspca.org.
Anyone who visits the shelter and is interested in a cat from the room can enter, but only with permission from the staff and after a potential adopter form has been completed.
Stryker said the finished cat room is a project the shelter and its donors have been anxiously awaiting.
Stryker said that, ideally, the shelter could benefit from having six more of these rooms.
"The cats will be happy and healthy when they are in a room where they can run around and play and look out the window," Stryker said.
The shelter recently received a $100,000 grant through the First Community Foundation Partnership's "Great Grants." The funding will be used to help build a new holding area for incoming felines for evaluation and sterilization; a multipurpose room for canine behavior evaluation, modification and training for owners; and a future surgery room.
"I like to think we are advancing every day," Stryker said. "We are constantly evolving, improving and adding things to help the animals," she said.