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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Jenn Cherry, community cat coordinator with H.O.P.E. for Animals, poses with clinic mascot Sophia on a shelter for community cats.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016 6:25 pm

Simple shelters for community cats

Frank Gray

It has probably been 40 years now since some genius got the idea of making doghouses cast in the shape of igloos.

They were easy to stack in stores and no assembly was required. Throw one in the back of your truck and you were done.

The idea caught on like wildfire and before long those little igloos could be found everywhere, especially in the countryside.

The idea appears to have been copied by a lot of people. There are various iterations of the doggie igloo available online.

One can’t help but wonder, how come cathouses never caught on the way dog houses have?

H.O.P.E. for Animals, 1333 Maycrest Drive, off Lake Avenue near Catholic Cemetery, is changing that.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, using storage bins, Styrofoam and straw, the organization hopes to build 100 cat shelters that people can place in inconspicuous places in their yards or behind their sheds.

The shelters are simple enough. They’re made of 30-gallon storage bins and lined with Styrofoam sheets and a little pile of straw on the floor. Making one is pretty simple, says Jenn Cherry, the community cat coordinator with H.O.P.E.

The notion is this: The city is full of cats that are called community cats. No one owns them. They just live in the neighborhood. Some people feed them, but by and large they live on their own.

That’s not necessarily bad. Cats can help control pests, Cherry said.

Like any animal, though, once in a while they need cover.

Two years ago, the city passed an ordinance that made it legal to capture these community cats, have them neutered and then release them again.

That’s a good thing because we still have cats that can catch mice and that, but we don’t have to worry about them popping out six kittens every six months or so.

Community cats can live a healthy life outdoors, Cherry said, but in the winter they do need a place to find shelter. That’s where these cathouses come in. Two to three cats can take shelter in one of these at night and stay warm and dry in the dead of winter.

Cherry hopes the Saturday hours will help people out. H.O.P.E. is usually open during business hours during the week, but people who have jobs can’t necessarily make it to the clinic to pick up a cat shelter. By scheduling the building session on Saturday, she’s hoping people can show up, help assemble a few, take one for themselves and leave the rest for others who might need one later.

Funding for all those storage containers and foam comes from Three Rivers Federal Credit Union and a private donor, Cherry said, so the shelters are free.

Meanwhile, on Oct. 20 H.O.P.E. will microchip animals for $5, no appointment necessary.

If you don’t want a shelter but would like to donate, you can do so by going to

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.