From the outside, it seems like any other house on a quiet suburban street in Vancouver.
Inside, the walls of Furry Friends’ secret headquarters are lined with sprawling cat trees, scratching posts, empty shelves for climbing or daytime napping and just about anything else you might imagine you’d find in a feline dreamland. Each room of the no-kill cat rescue has a special name, like the “Garden of Kneadin’,” and no people live there, just approximately 23 cats waiting for adoption.
The nonprofit moved into the new headquarters two years ago, and 2014 marks a milestone for its small staff of volunteers. This month, Furry Friends made its 2,000th adoption here in its 15th year in business.
The deal came when the rescue found a home for a fuzzy pair of 2-month-old kittens named Noodles and Nonnie. Larger shelters tend to reach that mark much faster, but for the small nonprofit, the milestone was reason enough to pause and reflect on the work its volunteers have done over the years for many cats without homes.
“You can always grow larger and larger, but that isn’t always good,” said Linda Rader, who runs the rescue’s foster program for kittens. “In our case, we decided to stay small and concentrate and do what we do and do it well.”
Each day, a handful of volunteers come by the house to feed and clean up after the cats. And each year, several bring their work home, caring for dozens of kittens at their houses until they’re big enough to join the older cats at Furry Friends’ headquarters.
The arrangement is part of the rescue’s foster program, which currently houses nearly three dozen kittens, Rader said. It’s time-consuming work for the volunteers, who start out feeding the kittens by the bottle or syringe several times a day.
Many of the kittens were abandoned before ending up in the foster program. And often the older cats come to the rescue from owners who could no longer take care of pets due to declining health, aging or a move to a place where cats aren’t allowed.
The folks at Furry Friends keep the location of their headquarters under wraps to deter people from dropping off cats at their doorstep. If that happened, it wouldn’t take long for the three-bedroom house to become overrun with the little critters, Rader said.
Workers refer to the place as a halfway house for cats, because it’s where they stay before finding a permanent home. Every day, the volunteers bring several cats from the house to the Hazel Dell PetSmart, where they’re shown for adoption.
The rescue has changed quite a bit from its early days, said Rader, who began volunteering there in 2001. Since she’s been with Furry Friends, the rescue has moved into several different locations of varying sizes and it’s taken in greater numbers of cats.
It began in October 1999, when founder Nancy McMartin teamed up with five volunteers to form the nonprofit. Today, the rescue’s crew fluctuates but it tends to have more than 40 volunteers at any time.
The rescue began renting the house from a friend a couple of years ago. Before that, all of Furry Friends’ adult cats stayed in an 800-square-foot commercial space, less than half the room they have in the house.
“We would like to have our own place, but that takes a fair amount of money,” Rader said. “In the meantime, this is home, and it’s not a bad home.”
Inside the halfway house, the cats move freely about the hallways from room to room and outside to their very own “catio,” a patio built for cats. The catio is enclosed with chicken wire to keep the cats in as they jump up to their perches to nap in the sun or watch some squirrels and birds.
“It’s like TV for them,” Rader said. “It’s awesome. When the sun’s shining and they’re out there just basking away, oh my goodness.”
Furry Friends also works to educate the community about the need to spay and neuter cats. Each year, it offers financial help to pet owners on low or fixed incomes, but the funds are limited.
Those interested in adopting a cat or becoming a volunteer can contact Furry Friends at 360-993-1097.