Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Visiting Best Friends Sanctuary: CAT WORLD


If I had to sum up my visit with the cats, volunteers and care givers of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary's Cat World, it would have to be Love. My prayers answered would mean forever homes for every single one of the 550 beautiful cats that Best Friends cares for in their 11 kitty-comfortable and well-appointed cat houses. But if you're a cat waiting to be adopted or getting help to become adoption-ready, this is the place to be. 

It's so peaceful. There's a calming energy present that reminded me how important it is to slow down and appreciate the small and the subtle. I was on such a high, arriving at the sanctuary and taking everything in. From the ruckus of the chatty parrots to the boundless energy of puppies on their first walk, it was like a marathon for my animal-loving senses. But when I walked into Benton House, the original and first cat building on the sanctuary grounds, everything slowed down. It was like I'd found my zen.

Benton House is home to many of the special needs cats at Best Friends. I quietly entered one of the five cat rooms, each home to anywhere from 10-15 cats, and sat down on the floor. One by one, the cats came over to check me out, say hello and take a peek at the big camera I was toting. 

Saying hello back is something you have to take slow. But gaining trust came easy. The cats reminded me of the importance of taking the time to enjoy the simple things. Neck scritches, head butts, soft and gentle conversation. 

And love.

The Best Friends Experience: Part Two
Welcome to the second of three chapters of my Best Friends experience. Katie and Waffles are taking the week off and turning the blog reins over to me (Glogirly) for the first time in the eight year history of our little cat blog. Don't worry, they'll be back to their usual antics in no time, that is once they forgive me for bringing home cat hair of every color. I hope you enjoy this series much as I've enjoyed sharing. And I hope Best Friends touches you as they've touched me.

Catio Heaven
Each of the 11 houses, has about five individual cat rooms where a group of cats who, for the most part, get along reside. The spacious rooms all have places to sleep, climb, scratch, play, hide, look out the windows, eat, drink use the litter box. And each of these rooms has it's own catio.

The catios, shown in the above photos, are glorious. The cats can enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors in a safe and stimulating environment. Some can even catch a passerby leaf or lizard through the mesh walls.

The climbing structures are made from repurposed wood used to build some of the first structures on the sanctuary ground and provide a perfect path up into the rafters where a kitty super-highway awaits.

The Super Highway
Way up high in the rafters of each catio is a network of ledges and runs for the adventurous cats as well as a place for some to just get away from it all. The entire time I was there, Jingles the orange boy, maintained his position high atop a carrier secured with bungee cords to one of the upper beams. It was clearly his spot and he could survey the entire area from his perch. Bruce (upper left) was on the move, jumping gracefully from beam to beam and Daisy, (bottom) was busy checking out the girl with the camera.

There was also a litter box, water dish and hidey hole box bungeed to the beams. ...a whole up-in-the-air world for cats that like to get high.

Volunteering is Pure Joy
There are two 3-hour volunteer shifts everyday at Best Friends. People come from all over the country to volunteer, often as part of a family vacation. I met Numi, the sweetest young girl who was volunteering with her mother, Isabelle. They had driven in from Salt Lake City. Their job was to simply socialize with the cats. They were just peacefully sitting on the floor in one of the rooms with cats all around them ...and on top of them. Numi was reading to the cats.

The gift of just being with these beautiful cats was so moving. And Numi's soft voice filled the room with a presence that meant the cats were anything but alone.

Is it Dinnertime?
In addition to socializing, volunteers help out with whatever needs to be done. With so many mouths to feed, there are a lot of meals to prepare and dishes to be done. Each house has it's own washer and dryer for laundry and there's always some scooping to be done too. 

I met a husband and wife from Virgina who make the trip to Best Friends every year so they can volunteer with the cats. They were so gracious to the care givers, the cats and to me. But they are not out of the ordinary. Everyone I met at the sanctuary was so friendly, so full of joy and so in love with the animals.

Hello Slidell
The first cat to greet me when I walked into Benton House was the sweetest little girl with huge green eyes. Slidell is a 5-year-old special needs kitty. Shel can't use her back legs, but they don't cause her any pain or slow her down. She's FIV+ and incontinent, so needs to have her bladder expressed and she also takes some daily medications. She's not a fan of her daily baths, but she always cooperates.

Like all the special needs cats of Benton House, Slidell doesn't know she's any different. She just knows she's a cat.  A beautiful, loving and trusting cat. She just needs the right person to come along and be her 'one.'

Special Needs
Benton House is home to many of the special needs cats at Best Friends. Some are FIV+, deaf, blind, partially paralyzed or incontinent. It absolutely broke my heart to learn that due to tail pull injuries, some of the cats were incontinent and would be for the rest of their lives. 

This is Aaron. He was lounging on top of a cat tree and was right at eye level with me when I walked into the catio. Before I could even say hello, he was greeting me with purrs and head butts, reaching out to me with his paws. He's a lover. He's 4-years-old and is clicker trained to shake hands. He suffers from incontinence so he needs a diet high in fiber and must have his bladder expressed daily. Despite his challenges, he's a happy kitty who loves people. 

Have Stroller Will Travel
Some of the kitties at Best Friends enjoy going for walks, both on harness and leash as well as in strollers. The Meowzers Meander is a beautiful path created just for the cats. It winds through the trees and bushes, connecting many of the cat houses. There's a shaded gazebo with benches for resting in the breeze.

Holly, the beautiful calico girl pictured above, LOVES going outside in her stroller. We went for a stroll and roll so she could smell the sunshine. 

The Lovers Room
One of the things that touched me the most about my time in Benton House was how special each and every cat is to the care givers. They know them all by name, they know their stories, their personalities, and silly little habits. They know who their buddies are and what makes them happy. They do absolutely everything they can to help each cat become ready for adoption, at their own pace and in their own way.

One of the last cat rooms I visited was called the lovers room. All of the cats in this particular room were so affectionate with one another. They groomed each other, exchanged head butts and just stuck together like glue. If two cats have bonded, the care givers make sure that they are adopted together. No exceptions. Just look at Nero and Maisie above.

Next Up: Part 3 ANGELS REST
It's with great emotion that I'll be sharing a very special glimpse into Angels Rest, the final resting place for those Best Friends who now fly with the angels: Where Angels Rest

Catch Up with Part One
If you missed part one's introduction to the sanctuary including horses, pigs, goats, parrots, cockatoos and puppies, you're in for a treat:  Visiting Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

See the Entire Gallery of Photos
There's SO much more to see! I'd like to invite you to view my entire gallery of Best Friends photos.
Here's how:
  1. Visit Glogirly on SmugMug
  2. Select Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
  3. Enter password: SaveThemAll
The best way to view them is to click on Slideshow. Enjoy!

A Destination Vacation With Purpose
Many people and families visit the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary as a vacation. I had the pleasure of meeting a number of people volunteering while I was there that did just that. It's an inspiring and meaningful way to experience the sanctuary, help the animals and enjoy the gorgeous landscape. For more information on how to turn your bucket list wish into reality, visit HERE.

Special thanks to Melissa, Hannah, Barb and the entire Best Friends family for hosting my trip to the sanctuary. You've each touched my heart and have inspired me by the kindness you show each other and the animals in your care.


  1. What a wonderful expression of your experience. I'm sure you wanted to bring them all home

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  3. Ooh man,.. Choking back the tears here. You have gifted us a lovely insight into a wondrous and amazing place. Thank You.

    Marjorie and the Dash Kitten Crew

  4. Wow! What a fantastic experience! That's an AMAZING place!

  5. What a wonderful garden for those lovely cats - the tears are flowing down my face as I go back and read your Cat World Sanctuary over and over again.

  6. OMC, my human would never leave Best Friends' Cat World, ever! In fact, I'm wondering if I should even let her go there... I might not ever see her again!

  7. What a beautiful piece - and beautiful place. I had tears in my eyes after reading your post.

  8. Glogirly, you are a wonderful ambassador for Best Friends. Thank you for sharing the experience.

  9. Wow. I wish all shelters could be like this. What a truly wonderful place. ~Island Cat Mom

  10. I am so enjoying your series on Best Friends. What an amazing place! I've been to Kanab before but had no idea this place existed. Thank you for sharing your experience.
    Angels Normie and Mika, Sasha & Grady Lewis

  11. What a beautiful place for the kitties while they wait for their forever homes! Our mommy would love to visit and volunteer there!

  12. Best of luck to all of these wonderful felines!

  13. Another wonderful post! It does sound very peaceful. I love that all the cat houses have screened in porches.

  14. Dat's really pawsum awnty Debbie. So glad you had a good time and fanks fur sharin'. Luv da fotos. Of course we think all da kitties are just gawjus.

    Luv ya'


  15. whoa....I knew best Friends cared for cats; but I didn't know to what extent
    { number wise }...this is totally awesome; as is the number of people who volunteer ...high paws to each of them....

    it's nice to hear the cats get along so well....the last photo is priceless ♥♥♥

  16. What a cool place. There should be one in every state
    Lily & Edward

  17. I've the privilege of volunteering with the cats there. But seeing it through your words and beautiful pictures, it's like a whole different place! Your photos are just so beautiful. It's like BF deserves nothing less than your wonderful photography skills.

  18. Cat World looks like a truly amazing place! No wonder you found your zen there.

  19. What a great experience! I love seeing it through your eyes.

  20. I'm in tears and absolutely in awe of this incredible place. Any chance humans are allowed to move into Cat World???

  21. Excellent post. I had no idea there were 550 cats cared for there. I am glad they keep the ones that bond together when adopted. I would love to go volunteer here someday.

  22. Wonderful simply wonderful. We donate to help in our small way and when Dad retires this is a trip he will make. We will have to stay home but I am sure we will hear all about it. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and background on this slice of heaven

  23. I thinks you have given mum another thing to do when she retires! She might never be home to play with me. Happy that all those kits are getting lots of loves.

  24. Wow, Cat World sounds heavenly! Thank you so much for sharing about your experiences at Best Friends. We want to go even more than we did before!

  25. What a wonderful place. Thanks for sharing.
    Sue B

  26. We treasured your inspired and loving words and pictures about this inspired place.I had been to their website but not read your article. I have always been interested in Best Friends, since there's a sanctuary here in CT modeled after their loving concept where I volunteer. Missed your article the first time around so was grateful to play catch up. Thank you for writing it - it's lovely.

  27. Excellent post. I had no idea there were 550 cats cared for there. I am glad they keep the ones that bond together when adopted. I would love to go volunteer here someday.

    best outdoor cat houses


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