Tree House Volunteer Feature: Meet Brian

Volunteers are a vital part of enabling Tree House to do the work we do to help thousands of cats each year. We currently have just under 200 volunteers working in many different areas of our organization. Together, they give hundreds of hours of their time.

We are grateful to all of our volunteers for all their efforts to help the cats.

Since June is Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat month, we wanted to share a volunteer’s perspective from one of our adoption team volunteers. Meet Brian – who also recently adopted a “shelter cat” from Tree House and talks about his experience.

In what department do you volunteer at Tree House?

Adoption department

How long have you been volunteering at Tree House?

I’ve been volunteering at Tree House for about five months. Interestingly, the day I was scheduled to start in adoptions, a request came up that help was needed to pick up some cats who were being transferred to Tree House from another animal control center. Since I had a car, I knew I could help out. It was an interesting experience, and I was surprised when I met the cats. They were so eager to see me and jumped up in my arms. I then began my regular volunteer activities at Tree House helping in the adoption department.

How did you first hear about Tree House?

I heard about Tree House through a friend in my neighborhood. She knew my love of cats and told me about the brand new building on Western. So, I had to check it out myself. It is pretty awesome. The cage less, spacious, and open building offers a more natural environment for the cats and is beneficial to both the cats and potential adopters.

What drew you to volunteer at Tree House?

My job allows me some free time during the week, so I wanted a way to do something fulfilling with my free time. After visiting Tree House, I thought it was a great organization and a cause worth my time. I appreciate how the organization treats the cats and guests. It is a no pressure [adoption process] that allows adopters to get to know the cats. The adoption counselors are very helpful both during the adoption and after. [The adoption counselors] help people find a cat who is a good fit vs. just trying to get a cat into a home that might not be a good match.

What do you find most rewarding about volunteering at Tree House?

The most rewarding part is watching people get “chosen” by cats. When potential adopters come to visit the cats at Tree House, there is always that one cat that is drawn to them and who develops an instant connection. I love it.

Why do you believe having an organization like Tree House in Chicago is important?

Tree House is vital to Chicago because they not only place cats in wonderful homes, they provide essential programs like the Community Cats program which offers TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) services to help keep the feral cat population under control and healthy. Tree House also assists pet parents with cat behavior advice through their Behavior Hotline. They also have a compassionate stance towards FIV+ (feline immunodeficiency virus) cats. I previously had an experience at an animal control center that treated FIV+ cats negatively. Cats with FIV can live long, happy lives and can live together with cats who do not have FIV. Tree House places FIV+ cats in the same adoption rooms as cats without FIV and gives them a chance. (Brian recently adopted a Tree House FIV+ cat).

What are your thoughts on the work that Tree House does?

I think the work that Tree House does is amazing. I’ve been to many shelters, and Tree House has the most humane set up I’ve ever seen. The cats are clearly happy.

Adopting a cat from Tree House

Brian is also a recent Tree House adopter – having been “chosen” by a Tree House cat. Brian quipped that his cat is now French, having named him Henri. In honor of Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month, we wanted to share more from Brian’s perspective as a Tree House adopter!

Henri is not afraid to let Brian know when it is quiet time.

When did you adopt your Tree House cat?

I adopted Henri on Feb 15, 2018. He was my Valentine’s gift to myself.

Do you have any other pets?

I have one other kitty named Charlie who I adopted from the ASPCA in New York City in 2016. She is a Tuxedo just like Henri.

Why did you choose to adopt a cat from Tree House?

I was looking for another cat to keep Charlie company. At many shelters, the cats are kept in separate cages, and it is difficult to predict how they will get along with other cats. I also had a very negative experience at another shelter. At Tree House, since the cats are in cage-free adoption rooms, it is easier to get an idea of how a cat will interact with a companion. Also, as a volunteer, I’ve seen how well the cats are treated at Tree House and the extensive records that are kept, so I knew I was adopting a cat who had been well cared for.

Tell us about your adoption experience.

The adoption counselors provided a lot of information and assistance. I was nervous about bringing a second cat into my home and at one point thought it wasn’t working out because my first cat, Charlie, is a little shy compared to Henri who is an outgoing and friendly cat. The counselors were there for me to help out with tips and things I can do to create a peaceful cat home.

How are the cats doing at home?

They are doing very well. The two cats continue to improve with how they get along with one another. It is funny to watch how they figure it out with each other. I’ve caught Charlie playfully instigating things a bit as she flips her tail in Henri’s face. Then, when Henri has had enough, he goes back at her. One of the tricks I learned is to give Henri a time out when he gets too aggressive, which is fine with him because he loves the bathroom and drinking from the faucet. I’ve discovered that if I wait until he is calmly sitting on the floor when I open the door – it’s a sign that he has calmed down and is ready to come out. Henri also loves to take walks on his harness. He is like a dog. He will grab his leash off a cabinet, jump down and drag it over to me, meowing to ask to go outside.

We are so grateful to Brian for not only all his help as a Tree House volunteer but for giving an FIV+ cat a loving home.

Interested in finding out more about volunteering?

Abandoned in a Shoe Box, Dabble has a New Home

We are thrilled to share an adoption update on a special-needs cat who has come a long way. Some of you may remember a story we shared over the holidays about a kitten named Dabble.

Tree House staffers found Dabble abandoned on our front ledge. Someone had placed him in a shoe box, punched holes in the top, taped it shut, and left him at our door.

When we found him, his legs were listless at his side. With months of physical therapy, socialization, and treatment, Dabble began to thrive, seemingly unphased by his disability.

We were grateful to receive a cat wheelchair that was donated by an organization that offers pet wheelchairs for cats and dogs. Dabble took to his new cart quickly. Yet, he also figured out how to maneuver very well on his own – scooting and crawling – gaining incredible upper body strength.

What had happened to Dabble remains a mystery. We determined his condition is most likely neurological.

We began introducing Dabble to other cats and people in our cat adoption rooms. Little did we know it would not take long before a chance encounter would lead to a new home.

A Chance Meeting

Josh, Meredith, and their two children came to Tree House looking for a cat to add to their family. They were not specifically looking for a special-needs cat, but when they met Dabble, they could not resist. It was a triumphant day when Dabble headed to his new home.

It has been several weeks, and Dabble has been doing remarkably well and is very happy having a loving home of his own.

Dabble, now named Toby, loves spending his mornings basking in the sun and snoozing in his basket by the window “looking overwhelmingly content.”
Meredith homeschools the children. Therefore, the family is home during the day providing a stable environment for Dabble with daily attention and care.

 

Meet the cook’s apprentices (a.k.a. the sniff masters). Dabble spends time in his cart each day (although he prefers to get around without it). He enjoys roaming in and out of the kitchen while Meredith cooks. He is often joined by the family dog, Bob, whom Dabble finds incredibly interesting. The two of them are endlessly fascinated by the various spices and curiously sniff each one. Here they are eagerly waiting for the next sniff test (or perhaps a little morsel).
 
Dabble is a great study buddy (or perhaps more often a distraction – but that is what cats are for). And we’ve learned he thinks Roxy, the family’s other cat who is taking a nap here, is the coolest, most interesting thing in the world. Dabble spent so much time in recovery, he had limited interaction with other cats. It is wonderful to find him so intrigued by his new cat sister.

 It’s Been Worth It

“Thanks to you all [at Tree House] for taking such good care of him! He’s such a people-oriented cat — it’s obvious that he has been surrounded by kind folks his whole life. He’s learning to climb onto the furniture, so whenever he sees an appealing lap, he’ll scamper right up and settle down for a snuggle.” Meredith went on to comment, “Toby’s (Dabble) an awesome little guy. It would be great if his story inspires someone else to take a chance on a cat who needs a little extra care. It’s been worth it for us!”

 

We wish the entire family – human and furry – many happy years together. We are grateful to Josh, Meredith, and their children for giving this special cat the home he deserved.

Give a Special-Needs Cat a Chance

At Tree House, we believe stray cats deserve a chance at a caring home, including those who might need extra care or who have physical disabilities or chronic illness. The joy and love these cats give in return is immeasurable.

Tree House Names New Executive Director

We are pleased to announce Raissa Allaire as Tree House Humane Society’s new Executive Director. She will be joining the organization effective Monday, May 21, 2018.

Raissa brings a wealth of experience in nonprofit leadership including various roles over the past 12 years at The Center for Economic Progress (CEP). The Center is an award-winning, mid‐sized organization focused on improving the financial lives of 20,000 families in 15 Illinois communities. Most recently, she served as the Chief Operating Officer, overseeing the agency’s administrative operations and direct services and serving as a member of the organization’s leadership team.

During her tenure at CEP, she was responsible for developing and leading the organization’s fundraising and re-branding strategies.

Prior to joining CEP in 2006, Raissa served as a vice president for a Chicago museum and developed and managed communications campaigns for major non-profit clients as an account executive for a top-ranking public relations firm. Raissa earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Humanities from the University of Chicago. In 2016, she was selected for the Allstate Foundation’s Greater Good Leadership Program, created in partnership with Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management to help leaders transform their organization, community, and the nonprofit sector through year-long coaching and academic instruction.

Raissa, her husband, and two sons live in Berwyn. In 2016, Raissa and her family adopted Sulley and his son Sal, a pair of orange tabbies rescued from a hoarding situation. Since then, the family has made it their personal mission to find ways (small and large) to advocate on behalf of homeless cats.

Looking forward to her new role, Raissa comments, “I’m honored for this opportunity to help realize a world where every cat is valued. I am excited about building on the many successes Tree House staff, Board, volunteers, and partners have achieved to date – saving thousands of lives, creating an innovative  21st century shelter, and providing valuable services to Chicago’s community cats.”

The Tree House Board and staff look forward to working with Raissa to expand our efforts to save sick, injured, stray, and feral cats.

Please join us in welcoming Raissa to Tree House Humane Society.

I Need a Home

A Tiny Cat with a Big Heart

Due to his small stature and playful nature, many assume they are meeting a kitten upon first introduction to Purrnino. But this handsome boy is really an adult cat inside a kitten’s body.

We transferred Purrnino to Tree House from an animal control center in 2016. Paperwork listed Purrnino as a pregnant female kitten, approximately six months old. To our surprise, during his initial clinic exam at Tree House, we quickly discovered that not only was Purrnino not pregnant, she…was a he.

A Frightened Cat – A Remarkable Change

When Purrnino arrived, he was very frightened, and our staff had difficulty handling him – he would back into a corner of his cage, hiss, and place his ears flat against his head. But with care and work on his socialization and environment, this little guy’s progress has been remarkable. He has become increasingly comfortable and now enjoys visitors. He will roll around in a cat bed asking for pets. With the recent adoption of our longest-term resident, Mitch, Purrnino has now been waiting at Tree House the longest for a forever home.

Why Isn’t He Growing? A Rare Disease

Shortly after arriving at Tree House we noticed Purrnino was drinking and urinating excessively. And, he was not growing. Various tests finally revealed a rare disease called diabetes insipidus. With this disease the body does not properly conserve water, causing the excessive drinking and urination. Purrnino responded very well to medication, and his condition is stable. His prognosis is very good and with medication and management of his illness, he can live a good quality of life with a normal lifespan. He never physically matured and remains the size of an older kitten which may be related to the diabetes or an issue with his pituitary gland.

His small size makes him very cute, but he has the personality and independence of an adult cat – all of which makes him even more adorable!

Purrnino Needs a Home

Purrnino loves playing with other cats. With an ever-changing population, he greets new cats, ready to have a new buddy. Yet, shelter life can be very stressful, and Purrnino is a cat who has been challenged with the constant change and uncertainty of his environment. We know this pretty little cat would do better in a stable home of his own, especially with some cat buddies.

Stop by and meet Purrnino and help us spread the word to find him the forever home he needs.

 

A Special-Needs Cat Gets a Second Chance

Recently adopted, it is wonderful to see how well Juicebox is doing in her new home! This sweet cat has been through quite a bit in her life. We transferred her to Tree House from an animal control center when she was about a year old. We don’t know much about her background or what might have happened to her. She didn’t have to wait long before she was adopted. However, after eight years in a home, Juicebox was returned through no fault of her own. She was suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease – a chronic illness in cats.

So…where’s dinner?

Juicebox’s Secret Admirers

With a special diet and medication, we were able to stabilize Juicebox’s health, and she began to do very well.  Besides being an incredibly beautiful cat, she is very gentle and loving. She eagerly greeted visitors and sought affection.

We hoped that someone might give this girl a chance. What we didn’t know was that Juicebox had admirers. After learning about Tree House from a neighbor, they had been browsing our website and saw her photo. They decided to come for a visit.
Initially, we were slightly apprehensive at the thought of adopting a special-needs cat, but Tree House patiently explained her treatment and answered all our questions about additional expenses.
Juicebox’s adopters took the time to understand her illness and how to manage it. In addition to a limited diet, she needs monthly B12 shots, and her adopters spent time with our veterinarian to learn how to administer her injections.

A Forever Home

It is heartwarming when people are willing to take the time to learn more about special-needs cats and their care. While it might seem intimidating, there are many illnesses that can be managed with the right care, diet, and medication. With a stable home environment, consistent schedule, and familiar humans who love them, cats often become increasingly comfortable with their treatments.

 

Juicebox settled into our home almost immediately. She’s found her favorite windowsill to watch birds and isn’t shy about jumping on us in the morning for breakfast (she’s a natural alarm clock). Juicebox has been the perfect companion when we work from home, punctuating any silence with little snores. Her IBD flare ups are something that we accept as an occasional incident rather than see as a hindrance. Recently, we’ve been introducing Juicebox to cat music and showing her the magic of a laser pointer. We’re getting along very well, and we’re very grateful to Tree House for all the help to make this process as simple and stress-free as possible!
We are so grateful to Juicebox’s adopters for taking on the care of this special cat and giving her the patience, understanding, and home she deserves.

 

We hope this story will help give other special-needs cats a chance and encourage people to learn more and consider a special-needs cat. While many cats at Tree House are not perfectly healthy – they are all perfectly wonderful and deserving of a loving home. 

 

Help support our efforts to save, rehabilitate, and adopt – sick, injured, and stray cats.

 

Support Spay/Neuter Month – Help Cats Like Amelia

 

Imagine being outside, pregnant, malnourished, searching for shelter, and scrounging for food – then giving birth – and living through this three to four times a year for approximately seven years! This is not a good life for any cat!

A Solution to Cat Overpopulation

Amelia was born outside in a neighborhood that struggles with a high population of stray and feral cats. Cats in these situations live very difficult lives outside in cold winter temperatures struggling to find food and shelter. Many cats are malnourished, ill, and injured.

She was TNRed (Trap Neuter Return) and has a different story. Trap Neuter Return is a proven solution to cat overpopulation. Stray and feral cats breed at a very high rate. With TNR, cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, and returned to feral cat colonies. This breaks the reproductive cycle for these cats, eliminating the birth of hundreds of kittens year after year.

Cats at Work – Saving Displaced Feral Cats

Unfortunately, Amelia did not have a safe place to return to. Enter Tree House Cats at Work – a program that gives displaced feral cats a chance to live out their lives while providing a “green” solution to rodent control.

Amelia’s caretaker shared that her yard was overrun with rats. “It was so bad, I had to shuffle my feet so the rats would move when I walked across the backyard to our laundry room.” We placed Amelia, along with several other cats, together. Within a few short months, the rats are all but gone. A cat’s presence alone is often enough to send the rats running.

Caretakers for cats in the Cats at Work program provide shelter, daily food and water, and veterinary care for the cats.

The cats live in a cat haven – an old carriage stable that was converted to a cat house, complete with perches, a landing, scratching posts, and throw rugs. It stays warm thanks to adjacent rooms that are heated. The cats can come and go through a cat door.

57,500+ Cats in Just Ten Years

A cat like Amelia can begin having kittens at just five months old. Still very young, she would struggle to find food and shelter for herself, let alone to protect and nourish a litter of kittens. She would continue to have litter after litter of homeless kittens.

In ten years, a pair of unsterilized stray or feral cats can lead to approximately 57,500 new cats!

Support Spay/Neuter Month and Be a Part of the Solution

Give for one spay or neuter surgery. You can help us reduce cat homelessness and give feral cats a better life. Just 15 cents a day or $55 pays for a spay or neuter surgery.

Catfe Final Stages Begin! (Closing for Construction – Fri., Feb. 9)

The Next Phase

We are so excited to be starting the final stages of Tree House’s Cat Cafe Purrfect Roast Catfe.

This past summer, we opened the Catfe Lounge to visitors and began serving complimentary coffee and tea. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to visit the cats as well as rate the coffee and tea to help us make menu selections.

Closed for Construction

The Catfe will be fully closed Friday, Feb. 9 at 5:00 pm while we complete construction.

Stay Tuned for the Opening

We’ll be getting ready for the full Catfe and Lounge opening in the coming weeks.

Uniquely located inside Tree House, the Catfe is an extension of our work. As a nonprofit, 100% of the proceeds go directly toward helping save sick, injured, and stray cats. The Catfe will include a full-service counter and barista, free wi-fi, and cats, of course.

The menu will include:

  • Hot and iced brew coffees
  • Hot & iced tea varieties
  • Espresso beverages (latte, mocha, and more)

A Special Saturday for Three Special-Needs Cats

A special update: Recently, Tree House had a very special Saturday when not one but three cats with special needs found loving homes!

Andee, who was featured for our Lights of Love Tributes, Abbie, and Flyboy have all had challenges in their lives. On the Saturday of Tree House’s Black Cat Ball, they all received the home they so needed. Text messages came in from the shelter as staffers and volunteers were setting up offsite for the evening’s event and word spread that not one, but two, and then three special-needs cats were adopted! It is heartwarming when cats whom some might think are not worth all the effort, or who are overlooked by many people due to their challenges, get the home they truly deserve.

Andee’s pet parent and cat brother had both passed away, and she was all alone in the world trying to find her way. Like many senior cats, Andee battled chronic health issues. She dealt with arthritis in both elbows, urinary crystals causing her discomfort, a chronic ear infection that left her with a “crumpled” ear. She won over staff and volunteers alike with her quirky deep meow and sweet nature.

A supporter of adopting special-needs cats, Kathleen had previously volunteered at Tree House’s Bucktown Branch Spay/Neuter Clinic. Recently, Kathleen and Tim had lost Señor Meow, a special-needs cat they adopted from Tree House several years ago. Kathleen decided to stop by our new location, if only to visit with the cats. She noticed Andee with her “crumpled” ear and was curious. Andee started meowing and rubbing against Kathleen’s legs and hopped up into her lap the moment she sat down. When Tim met Andee later, he also knew that she was the one.

Andee content at home

Kathleen shares that “Andee clearly loves being in a home of her own again. She has surprised us by showing us that even though she’s an older cat, she still enjoys playtime. She found our stash of cat toys on her own, and once a day she carefully selects one of them and initiates a soccer or hunting session. Her arthritis doesn’t seem to slow her down, and she sprints through the house a couple of times a day, and when it’s time for dinner she takes the stairs like a cat half her age.”

Abbie

Abbie had been waiting for a home at Tree House for a couple of years. Tree House saved her along with several other cats who were living in a home that was overrun with cats. The cats had been suffering from long-term lack of proper care. As a result, Abbie, who is a sweet and gentle cat, was very wary of humans. She simply needed a patient adopter who would give her a chance. That chance came in the form of a young boy in search of a cat with whom he could bond. They visited Abbie several times, and this young man’s mother shared that he looked at his Mom one day and let her know it was the day, and Abbie received the best gift – a new home! What a wonderful story. Often, animals and young people have a special language.

Flyboy

Flyboy struggled with the shelter environment. The sweet cat inside was masked by his outer fear which caused him to become easily overstimulated. He would communicate his tension with nips which made it difficult for people to understand. Yet, he would also lounge on the laps of volunteers, signaling that he had a tender side. His adopter saw his photo online and came for a visit. She took the time to get to know Flyboy and “listen” to what he was trying say in his own language. She explained that when she was growing up in Germany, “red” cats were known as “devil cats”. She really wanted to give a red cat a chance. Once he became comfortable, Flyboy settled onto her lap for nearly an hour, enjoying forehead pets, while she learned all about his special care. It was a perfect match!

We salute all the special people who open their hearts and homes and take on the care of senior cats and cats who have special medical and emotional needs. While not every cat at Tree House is young or perfectly healthy, we believe that they are perfectly wonderful and deserve a home and a chance at happiness.

Give a cat like Abbie, Flyboy, and Andee the home they deserve. Help us spread the word.

Volunteer Roles Adopt A Cat Button

Holiday Open House & Lighting Ceremony Highlights

We are grateful to everyone who joined us for our first Holiday Open House since moving into our new shelter. We were glad to welcome nearly 250 Tree House friends and supporters to celebrate the season at our new home. The evening featured our Lights of Love Lighting Ceremony during which we lit thousands of lights as a symbol of the Tributes our supporters made to honor and remember the special people and pets in their lives.

A Night to Remember and Honor

Thank you to everyone who donated for a Tribute Light. What a wonderful way to celebrate someone special in your life while giving back to homeless cats. We cherish the beloved people and pets whom have been lost with white lights and celebrate those still in our lives with multi-colored lights.

Stop by at This Special Time of Year – The lights will remain lit throughout the month of December. You can still make a Tribute Light donation for a beloved person or pet and learn more – here. We welcome everyone to stop by during the holiday season to see the shelter “dressed” for the holidays.

Guests enjoyed refreshments, the cats (who were eager to greet visitors – the kittens enjoyed showing off a bit), our silent auction, and meeting new friends and fellow animal lovers.

A kitten named Dabble also made an appearance. Dabble was abandoned on our front ledge just a few weeks ago. He had been left in a shoe box, unable to move his back legs. Learn more about his heartwarming story of perseverance here.

Thank You & Happy Holidays

It really is all about the cats and together we are making a difference in their lives. Proceeds from this event as well as Tribute Light donations are an important part of helping us continue our work.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season

~ Your friends at Tree House

We Need a Loving Home

Toby is an incredibly sweet cat who was TNRed (trap-neuter-return) as part of Tree House’s Community Cats program when he was approximately a year old. Toby tested positive for FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) but other than that was in good health. At one point, we thought Toby would be a good candidate for Tree House’s Cats at Work program. This program places community cats (or outdoor cats) in a managed outdoor colony where they have a caretaker who provides the cats with shelter, food, and veterinary care. These cats then provide “green” rodent control; their presence alone is often enough to deter rats from an area. However, it was soon apparent that Toby was incredibly friendly. He was also closely bonded to another cat named Pegasus.

Toby and Pegasus were placed together in a foster home, and their loving and gentle sides further emerged. Over time, the cats’ foster parent became attached to the boys and wanted to adopt them. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be, and Toby and Pegasus were placed on our adoption floor. The pair was so tightly bonded that it was important for them to be adopted together, making it more challenging for them to find a forever home. The two cats waited a year and a half before they were finally adopted. It was wonderful to receive updates on how well Toby and Pegasus were settling into home life. Sadly, due to no fault of their own, the cats were returned to Tree House this past May, shortly after celebrating their one-year adoption anniversary.

Upon his return, Toby was diagnosed with several health concerns including early signs of a URI (upper respiratory infection), something that can become very serious for an FIV+ cat if not quickly managed. Tree House was in the midst of moving into our new shelter, and Toby was one of the first cats to stay in our new clinic isolation ward to recuperate. Meanwhile, Toby’s cat brother, Pegasus, was placed on a wet food diet to assist with his weight and health. We transitioned Toby to an all-wet-food diet so that he was able to join his brother in one of our new cat adoption colonies for cats on wet-food only diets.

The pair was among the first residents of our new shelter and quickly made themselves at home in one of our new adoption rooms. This duo has become quite the shelter ambassadors since our July opening. Both cats are sweet when meeting new people and have a tendency to show-off, playing and chasing one another. They love hanging out on our “catios” (cat patios) as well as receiving attention from visitors. The cats enjoy children and welcome cuddles and pets from many of our youngest visitors.

Both Toby and Pegasus have moved around quite a bit in their lives and are ready to settle into a home together. If you are interested in meeting these two wonderful cats – learn more about Tree House adoption here. Plus, help us spread the word about these loving, happy guys.