A Grand Reopening for a Grand Cat Shelter

The smiling cat face on the sanctuary's logo says it all: this place caters to cats. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

The smiling cat face on the sanctuary's logo says it all: this place caters to cats. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

by Thea Feldman

The Patricia H. Ladew Foundation, a Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’S Animals participating organization located in Oyster Bay, Long Island, celebrated its grand reopening with an afternoon party and tour of its newly renovated shelter.

The multi-floor house, which has been a sanctuary for homeless cats since the late Patricia H. Ladew, an ardent cat lover, bought the property in 1975, was especially redesigned with its feline occupants in mind. The shelter is a cage-free environment with plenty of spaces for the cats to roam and things for them to explore. For instance, there is a “catwalk” (reachable via a cat-sized staircase) that extends throughout the house, thanks to cutouts in the walls.

Cats who want some fresh air have the choice to take their daily stroll outdoors in one of the sanctuary’s brand new “catios.” These fenced-in outdoor runs can be reached through cat flaps installed in the sanctuary’s windows. “Cats have unrestricted access to the catios during the day, but, just as a safety precaution, they are brought in at night and the flaps are closed,” says Dr. Susan Whittred, the facility’s director and Director of Veterinary Medicine.

A cat who wants a break from climbing, walking, and running might opt to spend time watching cat movies, which play frequently on a custom-built television on the main floor. The television, built at cat height, shows videos of high-interest material for the feline film fan, including footage of squirrels, birds, and fish. The screen is even equipped with a protective Plexiglas cover in case the viewing audience cannot resist the urge to try to touch the films’ stars.

There is an additional cat TV in the house, as well as a wide assortment of toys. And there are plenty of cozy places to curl up in for a nap, including cat nooks placed at various heights on the walls.

A paw print-studded sidewalk outside the main house leads to the sanctuary’s clinic. In addition to providing veterinary care for the shelter’s cats, Whittred performs low-cost spay/neuter and other services for local shelters, rescue groups, and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) organizations working with feral cats. “I’d like to help other rescue groups even more,” says Whittred. One way she hopes to do that is by obtaining an x-ray machine for the clinic, which will allow her to increase the services she can offer.

One of the adoption rooms, complete with overhead catwalk, redesigned to reflect the founder's dream of providing a home-like atmosphere for homeless cats. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

One of the adoption rooms, complete with overhead catwalk, redesigned to reflect the founder's dream of providing a home-like atmosphere for homeless cats. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

Who are the cats that have found their way to the Patricia H. Ladew Foundation Cat Sanctuary? The organization does not accept cats from the public (unless arrangements have been made for Surviving Pet Care, a fee-based program that allows the shelter to take in and provide for cats you can no longer care for). The majority of its residents, says Whittred, come from Animal Care & Control of NYC (AC&C) shelters, where they would be at risk of euthanasia due to health issues or overcrowding. The Ladew facility pulls up to 15 cats at a time from AC&C. The cats then go into a month-long quarantine, which is essential given the free-roaming nature of the sanctuary. After the month is over, some cats join the population of shelter cats up for adoption, while others, due to on-going health or socialization issues, become “Pat’s Cats,” cats who will most likely live out their lives at the sanctuary. Whittred affectionately calls these cats the “quirky” ones and hastens to add that some of them do indeed get adopted. She sited as an example a young couple who fell in love with and adopted an older cat that will need daily medication for the rest of her life.

The shelter currently has about 70 cats in residence and is open to interested adopters by appointment only. Potential new cat parents can first meet the cats on the sanctuary’s blog and then can either fill out a form online or call the sanctuary. Whittred actually likes when people call. “I can get a good sense of people from a chat and get a sense of which cats they should visit with, if and when they decide to come out to the sanctuary for a scheduled visit,” she says.

Any Patricia H. Ladew cat has a home for life. According to Whittred, if an adoption doesn’t work out or a person’s circumstances prevent them from keeping their pet, the shelter will welcome the cat back.

For those who want to help the Ladew cats but cannot adopt, there is a sponsorship option. For as little as $25, you can sponsor a cat for a year and receive a “personalized” letter and photo from the sponsored cat. Gift sponsorships are also available.

Hurricane Sandy struck one week after the sanctuary’s grand reopening. The shelter’s manager, Lynn Manno, moved all the cats up to her apartment on the top floor, where they stayed for the duration of the storm. While the shelter did lose power for a few days, the property suffered no damages, even though part of a tree did fall down. And, as the photo below indicates, the cats apparently took the storm in stride. It seems they sense that, while a forever home might be best, in the understated words of Whittred, “If they don’t get adopted, this is a nice place to live.”

At the sanctuary's ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 21, 2012, (L to R) director Dr. Susan Whittred; Tatum Christiansen of Insperity; Doug and Lisa Herman; Jack Hausman of Hug; and contractor, Roland Gerwald. Tatum's company, Doug, Lisa, and Jack provided funds for the outdoor cat runs. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)
One of the adoption rooms, complete with overhead catwalk, redesigned to reflect the founder's dream of providing a home-like atmosphere for homeless cats. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)
A view from the house of one of the outdoor
Cats have a choice of cozy wall nooks for napping — or for contemplating a nap. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)
Murray is just one of the shelter's cats whose individual needs are met. He prefers to be away from other cats, and spends a lot of time high up in his box in Susan Whittred's office. (Photo by Susan Whittred)
The smiling cat face on the sanctuary's logo says it all: this place caters to cats. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)
The shelter's cats calmly crunched kibble around a hurricane lantern while Hurricane Sandy raged outside. (Photo by Lynn Manno)

At the sanctuary's ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 21, 2012, (L to R) director Dr. Susan Whittred; Tatum Christiansen of Insperity; Doug and Lisa Herman; Jack Hausman of Hug; and contractor, Roland Gerwald. Tatum's company, Doug, Lisa, and Jack provided funds for the outdoor cat runs. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

One of the adoption rooms, complete with overhead catwalk, redesigned to reflect the founder's dream of providing a home-like atmosphere for homeless cats. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

A view from the house of one of the outdoor "catios" that allow cats to have safe, fun runs in the sun. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

Cats have a choice of cozy wall nooks for napping — or for contemplating a nap. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

Murray is just one of the shelter's cats whose individual needs are met. He prefers to be away from other cats, and spends a lot of time high up in his box in Susan Whittred's office. (Photo by Susan Whittred)

The smiling cat face on the sanctuary's logo says it all: this place caters to cats. (Photo by Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals)

The shelter's cats calmly crunched kibble around a hurricane lantern while Hurricane Sandy raged outside. (Photo by Lynn Manno)


Thea FeldmanAbout the Author
Thea Feldman is a lifelong animal lover, who is also a writer and editor. She has written many articles about animals and more than 100 books for children. She lives in New York with her favorite companion animal, Zoe Louise.

Alliance Participating Organizations, Animal Care & Control of NYC, Cats, Feral Cats & TNR, Pet Adoption, Spay/NeuterPermalink