The mile-high kitties

It’s time for the Best Friends’ rafter cats to come down to earth.
By David Dickson

Some decisions in life are easier than others. Even if you walk into a Baskin Robbins and get a brain cramp from trying to choose among all those flavors, odds are you’re going to come out okay in the end. It’s the decisions that don’t offer an immediate reward that seem to be the harder ones, such as saving money for a big toy instead of spending it on a bunch of little toys. Or, if you’re a shy cat, coming down from the rafters and letting people help you when you’re sick.

Only problem with that second one, the truly shy cats tend to not come down even then. Not when they’re sick, not ever, which has led to another decision at Cat World. They’ve decided to lower the cat rafters. It’s been a hard decision to make, but one that is already paying off.

For years and years the catteries at Best Friends have offered the cats a variety of places to explore and climb. This has always included some rather high rafters which were designed specifically to allow the cats some privacy from people. If a cat wanted some alone time, she’d climb up there and find a dark corner to wait it out. No doubt, it’s a pretty neat setup for a cat in many ways.

Problem was, some of those cats liked to park it up there for good. They’d eat, sleep, and live up high. No matter the heat, no matter if they were sick. And when it came time for medical treatment, catching them out of the rafters with stepladder in hand was no pleasant task, nor was keeping them in a tower until treatment ended.

Beyond the immediate benefit of easier medical care, however, there was an even bigger reason for lowering the rafters that trumped all others. The rafters, while they did offer a sort of safe haven, also prevented cats from becoming socialized and finding homes. That single point, on its own, is worth the tradeoff.

Rafter cats who never allowed the caregivers near them are now starting to confront their fears and realize these friendly faces they’ve watched from a distance have equally friendly hands. They are walking over to be petted, to receive affection, and to make friendships. In time, it’s a safe bet this will lead to new homes and lives saved.

Cat manager Bobbie Foster explains it this way. "If I could give all the cats a choice, I would." Bobbie has always seen the positive sides to the rafters. "But in a group setting," she continues, "and with the population always changing, it’s just not possible to provide rafter access only for the cats who are healthy and social."

Sometimes in life, decisions are essentially between good and bad options. Those are the easy ones. In this case, however, it was about choosing between something good (the rafters) and something better. Not as simple, but certainly worth the payoff.

Help make their transition down to ground level easier. You can make a difference by donating items on the Best Friends animals wish list, such as Temptations cat treats.

Photo by Sarah Ause