Living conditions at the new Cat Depot are so cozy and pristine that the furry felines up for adoption could refer to it as a palace.
Eco-friendly by design, the Cat Depot rescue, adoption, education and resource center now features moisture-resistant building materials, cat-tested, non-porous furniture and a double-filtered air-conditioning system that prevents the circulation of pet hair and dander. Add to that energy-saving daylighting panels coated with honeycomb plastic that can withstand 160 mph winds, plus a back-up generator, and you’ve got an extra shelter in case disaster arises in Sarasota.
The design and construction of the new 10,000-square-foot facility, formerly 2,400 square feet, began in 2007 and were a collaborative effort led by architect Barron Schimberg and general contractor Don Sutherland, of Beyond Design Contracting.
“We talked with architects all over the United States, trying to find out who had the most innovative facility for cats,” said Executive Director Shelley Thayer. “We tried to create the best environment possible to keep them healthy, both physically and mentally, while here.”
Even with the warehouse already in place, the design started from the ground up. The floor, poured with a non-toxic and stain-resistant epoxy paint, keeps the environment clean and sanitary, without odor.
The daylighting panels mounted on the building’s structure diffuse light, save energy and allows the facility to use natural lighting for 65% of the day.
“We also have a litter box cleaning room that restaurants would vie for,” said Executive Director Shelley Thayer. “That design came from our co-founder (Ken Slavin), who has a restaurant background and wanted something to really disinfect and also be easier to clean.”
Right down to the furniture — brought in from St. Louis — the Cat Depot team searched for a material that could withstand time, everyday cleaning and cats.
“Since we’re a nonprofit, we needed something that could do everything,” Thayer said. “We looked at marine-boat materials and worked with designs from cardboard boxes that would give privacy and visibility for their well-being and adoptability.”
The center is designed with Trespa, a world leader in the production of high-quality panels for exterior cladding, decorative facades and interior surfaces. The panels also provide exceptional durability.
“It took weeks and weeks of research to find this labor of love,” Thayer said.
Just beyond the center’s cat-themed lobby and gift shop, which even sells Cat Depot fair-trade coffee, is a grand space featuring 10 free-roaming “pod” areas, each designated for 12 to 14 cats. Seven pods, called suites, contain lavish outdoor enclosures where cats are free to take siestas on the lanai and get fresh air. Each pod provides seating for visitors, enabling adopters to play and socialize with the cats.
For timid cats who lack social skills and graces with people or other cats, the center offers a cat-schooling program where cats are handled a minimum of four times per day.
“Once they sit in our lap and allow touching and petting, they can go into a pod with the rest of the cats,” Thayer said. “This keeps them from hiding in the pod and also makes them more adoptable.”
Among the kitchen, cleaning and welcoming rooms on the opposite side of the building is Cat Depot’s first surgery suite. With operating stations for two veterinarians to perform spay and neuters, in addition to other on-site surgical procedures, the center won’t always have to rely on veterinary clinics to do the job.
To help with operating costs, the hallways have become an art gallery and will feature the work of one artist each month. Cat Depot receives 20% of the profit for each piece sold.
“We hope to turn the space behind the building into a memorial garden and trail,” Thayer said. “Visitors will be able to leave a memory of their kitty there before they adopt another.”
CAT DEPOT RIBBON CUTTING AND OPEN HOUSE
WHEN: The ribbon-cutting ceremony takes place at 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15; open house to the public runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16 and Sunday, Jan. 17 and features music, face painting, prize wheel, refreshments and tours.
WHERE: 2542 17th St.
NEW HOURS: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday