There’s an Eden in the heart of Blaine.
It has brightly painted walls that recall the color and warmth of summer and cozy beds to snuggle up in. A tree stands in the center of the room with widespread branches, and music plays softly in the background. It’s the perfect place to curl up for a nap – if you’re a cat.
Eva’s Eden offers a unique alternative to traditional cat shelters. With its cage-free approach, cats are allowed to find whatever perch is most comfortable and interact with their visitors in a more authentic way.
“We wanted it to be a place where they felt comfortable,” assistant director Nicole Walker said. “We didn’t want it to be scary
The cats have free rein over the garden room, and on any given day more than 35 cats lounge around waiting for new families.
They perch on windowsills or in the tree, eyeing every new visitor that walks through the door. A separate space just off to the side houses kittens six months old and younger.
“The cats stay with our foster families at night and when we are closed,” Walker said. “And they come here to the shelter to find new families who want to adopt them. It’s kind of like a kitty daycare.”
The shelter utilizes more than 30 active foster families to help socialize the cats, learn how they interact with children and pets and identify what their personalities are like. Kittens under six months old are sent home in pairs to ease the stress of the transition, and to make them feel at home with their foster families. Walker said it’s really beneficial to know these character quirks because it helps her place the right cat with the right family – when she gets to have any say in the matter.
“More often than not, the cat chooses its owner,” she said. “The person will walk into the room and say, ‘I want an orange tabby,’ but then a black cat plunks down into their lap and it’s over. It happens all the time.”
Dawn Younkins found just that on her visit. She walked around the room slowly with her husband, Tim, looking carefully at each cat. She stopped to pet a few along the way. There to replace a cat lost to old age a year ago, the Younkins were looking for a cuddler. It wasn’t long until Sage found them.
Sage, a sleek, dark gray cat, was nestled into one of the cat towers, but perked up right away when Dawn came over. Before
long she was curled up in Dawn’s arms and Dawn was convincing her husband that she, in fact, was their new cat. An hour later they had filled out an application to start the adoption process.
It was the Younkins’ second time adopting from the shelter, so they were familiar with the routine. “We came here before and absolutely loved it,” Dawn said. “But our daughter took the first cat we adopted with her to Arizona. I like it because it’s so inviting and it gives you a chance to sit down and really get to know the cats. It’s not just a transaction.”
Tara Graybill, an Eva’s Eden employee, said that it’s not uncommon for people to come to look for a cat and get lost in the calm. “People will come and stay all day. We had a couple from Everett come up recently, and they got here at 11 a.m. and were here for hours. They ended up leaving with two cats.”
While same-day adoptions are possible, it ultimately depends on the situation. Walker said that sometimes they have to check references or confirm with landlords that it is OK for the adopter to have pets. Eva’s Eden requires that all adopted cats be kept indoors and that they are microchipped, receive all their vaccinations and get spayed or neutered before they can leave.
Now in its second year, the shelter is ready to expand. The building is for sale and they are looking for a new location so that they can take in more cats as needed. “We never euthanize for space,” Walker said. They hope to send 100 cats to new homes in January and are offering a special price of $20.13 to encourage would-be adopters to make the leap.
It’s everything that the crew at Eva’s Eden envisioned it would be. The shelter, born out of a death, is meant to bring life. When director Sheryl Walker’s cat Eva, a Scottish Fold, contracted distemper despite her vaccinations and died in 2011, Sheryl acted immediately.
She had already been working with another rescue group, but decided to go independent and create the cat haven that exists today as a tribute to her beloved pet. She took the 82 cats she was working with along for the ride.
A registered nonprofit 501(c)3, the shelter exists solely on donations from supporters each year to take care of the hundreds of rescues they receive.
For those who don’t want to or are unable to adopt, the shelter welcomes visitors and volunteers to visit and play with the cats.
The shelter is located at 495 Cherry Street and is open Thursday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with hours extended to 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
For more information about Eva’s Eden, visit evaseden.org
or call 360/778-1724.