Lakeland Animal Shelter in Delavan expanding and remodeling to showcase felines

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Saturday, March 22, 2014

TOWN OF DELAVAN—Here's the premise behind Lakeland Animal Shelter's remodeling and expansion project: Cats in cages are sad.

Free-roaming cats, on the other hand, are more likely to get to know you, and to try to discover how you feel about stuffed mice and canned tuna.

Then, if you're happy and the cat is happy, Lakeland Animal Shelter staff feel like they have done their jobs.

The shelter is in the middle of a $25,000 remodeling project that has transformed a room with more that 50 cats in cages into one where felines can wander around and find their own space.

The project also will include transforming and slightly expanding what was previously a outdoor area for cats into an indoor room, and remodeling yet another space to accommodate felines.

“We average about 1,800 cats a year,” said Executive Director Kristen Perry. “In 2013, we had well over 2,000. That's a trend that's going to continue.”

The shelter has an adoption guarantee policy, meaning any animal that is adoptable will be cared for until a home is found. In 2013, less than 100 cats were euthanized.

Having cats in cages might be the most efficient use of space, but it doesn't promote adoption, Perry said.

Previously, the shelter had one area for free-roaming cats. These were cats that were older, might have had some medical issues or were overweight, Perry explained.

It's not that they weren't good animals, they just might have been considered less desirable than others, she said.

Here's what happened: About 90 percent of the potential adopters went home with a cat after interacting with one of the free-roaming, “less desirable” cats. About 50 percent of potential adopters went home with a pet from the room with cages.

“I think people are overwhelmed by it,” Perry said. “They see the room full of cages and they think, 'I'm only taking one.'”

 Whatever the issue, “adopters weren't making connections with the cats,” Perry said.

With the open rooms, cats are staying at the shelter for “weeks instead of months.”

 “People walk into the room and cats come up to them, saying, 'Here's my personality,'” Perry said.

Ultimately, Lakeland hopes to have a new building. The earliest that could happen, however, is next year, Perry said.

The remodeling and expansion was made possible by a significant grant by the Byers Family Foundation and donations from other community members.

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