Cat World at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Homeless cats receive individualized and specialized care and accommodations at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Cat World, a unique feline refuge.
By Heidi Losleben

This article appeared in Best Friends magazine. You can subscribe to the magazine by becoming a Best Friends member.

Every one of the animals at Best Friends receives care according to his or her individual needs. In Cat World, where felines live at the Sanctuary, cats are thoughtfully placed in the house that best suits their temperament, behaviors and any medical issues they may be facing.

No matter where the cats come from — whether it’s from a shelter nearby or a rescue organization across the country — or what challenges they have to overcome, each is treated with love, respect and dignity. Many get adopted, of course, but those who don’t are welcome to call the Sanctuary, and Cat World in particular, home for life.

Fun facts about Cat World

  • Cat World is home to about 550 cats at any given time
  • Since 1998, Cat World has welcomed more than 9,000 cats
  • 4,397 people volunteered in Cat World in 2016 alone
  • Cat World uses 245,000 pounds of litter per year, about 670 pounds a day

Giving cats the best quality of life

Cat World has a staff of around 40 people devoted to the fortunate cats in their care. “Whether cats are here for a week or their whole lives, we do everything we can to offer them the very best quality of life,” says Jenn Corsun, Cat World manager.

The caregivers at Best Friends know that cats’ and kittens’ emotional health is as important as their physical health. Through a variety of enrichment activities, including stroller rides and walks outdoors (on a harness and leash), the caregivers make sure that the cats stay happy and engaged.

Learn more about enrichment
for cats here

Cat buildings with hidey-holes and catios and a mini vet clinic

Leo the cat peeking out of a hidey-hole in the shape of a cat silhouetteThere are 11 buildings at Cat World. Each one is designed for the comfort, safety and well-being of the cats who reside there. All feature indoor rooms and enclosed outdoor “catios” that provide plenty of space to climb and romp around, as well as hidey-holes for privacy. Cats can choose how to spend their time; they can schmooze with people or look down from the rafters if they prefer. Here’s a look at where the cats of Cat World hang their hats, so to speak.

The aptly named Hope House is where all cats arriving at Best Friends start their journey. They stay here for a bit to ensure they’re healthy before moving in with their new feline friends. During these initial weeks, caregivers observe and interact with the cats to get to know them better and to determine where they are most likely to thrive.

Hope House also features an on-site mini-clinic. With a full staff of veterinary technicians and veterinarians at the Sanctuary, the clinic is able to provide most medical services and treatments as needed. For major surgeries – spaying and neutering, for example - cats head on over to the main clinic.

Specialized accommodations for cats with various needs

Cat Headquarters, more commonly referred to as Cat HQ, is where Sanctuary visitors go to get their volunteer assignments. In all the Cat World buildings, volunteers can help socialize shy cats, walk or clicker-train cats, entertain them with food puzzles, just hang out with them or clean their rooms. Cat HQ features 20 rooms and caters to cats who prefer to live alone or in small groups of two or three. Of course, a few rooms are set aside just for kittens.

Volunteer at the Sanctuary

A woman wearing a blue T-shirt with Save Them All on the sleeve bumping her forehead with a gray tabby cat in her lap

The felines of Cat HQ might stay there because they need a little extra help with behavior issues, as do some of the residents in the area known as The Colonel’s Barracks. With room to roam for close to 100 cats, The Colonel’s Barracks is the largest part of Cat World.

Benton’s House and Quincy House are home to cats who are incontinent, have mobility or neurological issues, or are just getting up there in years. These cats are available for adoption just like all the others, because (while it goes without saying, we’ll say it anyway) they still have plenty of love to give.

A group of four cats playing in, on and around a cardboard box

Casa de Calmar is the living quarters for cats who have feline leukemia, which can be spread to cats who don’t have it. Those who live in Sinjin’s House are watching their waistlines as members of the Biggest Winner’s Club (a positive spin on the Biggest Loser’s Club). Sinjin’s features a kitchen, a laundry room and a break room for cats who crave a more home-like environment. (Although we’ve yet to find a single cat who can take care of his or her own cooking or laundry.)

The outside of one of the Calmar rooms with cats in beds and cat trees

Morgaine’s Place is home not only to adult cats, but kittens, too. (Cuteness overload is a risk most visitors are willing to take.) And the lobby is where you’ll find cats who might not move through the world in the same way as others do, because of various conditions that affect their neurological systems. They might be a tad wobbly, but they’re immensely popular as greeters.

Jill’s Diner, Mondrian’s House and Vinnie’s House are three of the smaller buildings in Cat World. Mondrian’s is a cozy, comforting place for shy and older felines, and several of the residents of Vinnie’s get special diets necessary to keep them feeling their best.

A closet area in Cat World, containing lots of colorful folded blankets with a black cat lying on one stackc

Daily miracles for cats

Simply put, Cat World offers the best accommodation option for every wonderful cat who comes through the doors – taking into consideration each cat’s unique needs and disposition.

Peter, a gray tabby cat, on some wooden beams, looking at the camera

“In the 14-plus years I have had the privilege to work in Cat World, I have seen it grow and change,” Jenn says. Yet despite the evolution, she notes, “One thing that has never changed, though, is the love and dedication of everyone who works here. I am especially proud of our current team of caregivers and medical technicians. They make miracles happen every day.”

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Rachel the caregiver leaning over to give a white cat a kiss

Photos by Molly Wald and Sarah Ause Kichas