Gimme Shelter – NYC’s Third Annual Architects for Animals Giving Shelter Fundraiser and Benefit Inspires Hope for Nationwide Outdoor Cats

This was Gracie, one of the Loews cats at her feeding station that was built by hotel employees to keep the cats sheltered and protected. Gracie is no longer with us, having passed on, nor are these iconic cat mansions that have been taken apart by Loews to be destroyed in the trash.

Ironically, it was a year ago that I began blogging about feral cats when I became involved in trying to save the small colony of outdoor cats residing on the once pet-friendly Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. They were part of a very successful and managed Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program for over twelve years, but due to unyielding management mandates, they were eventually trapped and removed from the premises for relocation, despite the massive outpouring of concern from citizens and cat advocacy groups to keep them on the property.

While it may seem like a loss on the surface, in the long run it was a victory for feral cats. The visibility of the story brought the misconceptions of feral cats to a broader audience and it has become much more commonplace to see groups advocating to help these animals. One such enterprise is the NYC Feral Cat Initiative of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals which is holding its Third Annual Architects for Animals Giving Shelter fundraiser and benefit.

Being held on Thursday, January 10, from 6:00–8:00 pm at the Steelcase Showroom, 4 Columbus Circle, New York, NY, I heard about this event from Tamar Arslanian of the popular blog I Have Cat who wanted this story to be shared with a wider audience, so she contacted some of her fellow bloggers such as myself, Janiss Garza of Sparkle, and Christine Michaels of Riverfront Cats to spread the word. We all share the same compassionate and logical wish for these cats – that if they have to live on the streets and within communities, that they are allowed to do so with dignity and with proper food, shelter, and medical attention as managed through proper TNR programs.

Gathering an impressive team of New York architectural giants, the event will feature a mind boggling display of innovative, functional, and artistically beautiful animal shelters and attendees will be able to vote on their favorites. At the end of the evening, the shelters will be donated to community cat caretakers around the city. Admission to the event is a $20 donation and if you cannot attend but would still like to donate to the cause, please click here for details. To follow are some of the shelters that were part of the events in 2010 and 2011 – quite incredible to say the least!

I love the clean and simple feel of this white shelter that looks like a bird house. Photo by Dana Edelson.

This urban piece of architect takes the streets to the shelter with its clever use of tires for feeding bowls. Photo by Christine Rangel.

What cat wouldn’t love a cozy ball of yarn to curl up in!? Photo by Dana Edelson.

This lattice shelter gives plenty of room for several cats to bunk in. Photo by Lucio Santos/FXFOWLE.

The tubing design of this shelter is both ingenious and artistic. Photo by Lucio Santos/FXFOWLE.

While this is certainly an impressive initiative and I wish that all communities could rally for such a creative endeavor, for most of us in the cat caring world, these works of art are but an elusive dream. It would be wonderful if communities could work together in tangent with rescue groups to coordinate shelter building projects and invite high schools, colleges, and other public operatives to help build these houses and to raise funding and community awareness on the plight of feral cats and cat overpopulation in general. Perhaps sponsoring contests between  cat advocates, rescue organizations, artists, students, community members, and architects to design cat shelters in local communities would be a great way to to both educate people and safely and humanely manage cat populations. How wonderful if something like this could catch on nationwide as we start the New Year!

The problem is, we still have a long road ahead of us educating people that outdoor cats are not a dangerous menace to society. Not everyone will embrace the thought of sheltering cats, especially with beautifully built structures that are subject to theft and vandalism. Despite that, I applaud the example New York City is setting and I hope this benefit will bring more attention to the forefront to other communities as to how important TNR programs are to effectively managing feral cat colonies by reducing their numbers over time.

But, even without these beautiful works of arts, there  are many types of shelters available for outdoor cats if you want to help cats in your own community – from inexpensive homes that can be made from large Rubbermaid bins (click here for easy to assemble directions), to ready-made shelters that can be purchased. Alley Cat Allies has a fantastic list of sources available, all with practicality in mind. The bottom line is, we just want these cats to feel safe and to be protected from the harsh elements and predators.

This shelter made from a Rubbermaid container is one the easiest, most inexpensive, and popular ways to help keep outdoor cats safe from the elements.

We thank all the participating architects at this year’s Third Annual Architects for Animals – Third  H3 Hardy Collaborative Architecture; Francis Cauffman Architects; M Moser Associates; Callison Barteluce; Stonehill & Taylor Architects, with a team of students from City College; Zimmerman Workshop; Kathryn Walton of The American Street Cat (TASC); and Pilot Projects Design Collective and hope the fundraiser is a huge success that will be used as a positive example nationwide as to how communities can successfully embrace outdoor cat populations with grace, beauty, and dignity. For more information, or to register to attend, please click here.

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  1. Marg says:

    Maybe more people will get interested in helping the feral cats if there are fancy houses like those available which would keep the area looking really nice. Good stuff.

  2. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    grate storee Mrs Z; we reeeeely like de ball oh yarn house; N we trooly hope de eye dea catches on;…..if we may bee purrmitted; petfinder haza videe oh on their site that haz sum grate tips

    http://www.petfinder.com/helping-pets/feral-cats/building-feral-cat-shelters/

    hope everee one haza marvelous mackeral monday !!

    • Deb says:

      We like the ball of yarn house, too, da tabbies! Thanks for the link and we also hope you got a chance to read about Zee’s shocking revelation over the weekend!

      • da tabbies o trout towne says:

        whoa…we iz knot a loud ta play online on caturday or sunday…we will checks it out rite now….

  3. It is very sad that the Loews cats were still moved out even though there was so much support to keep them there. As you say though, if it has raised awareness of the feral population, then some good has come of it. Those are some fancy shelters. Maybe if people find them pleasing on the eye, those who never gave a thought to ferals before will more readily accept them.

    • Deb says:

      Yes, it is very sad Eric and Flynn – the Loews cats were completely harmless and it is a shame their whole lives had to be uprooted when they could have been used as a positive example of how well TNR works when managed. I hope that you are right, that these beautiful shelters will help people accept these cats more readily.

  4. Tamar says:

    wonderful job my friend. I like how you incorporated the practical into the post too! xo

    • Deb says:

      Thank you for sharing the concept with me, Tamar. It was my pleasure to write about it and I hope it inspires other communities to follow suit.

  5. MizzBassie says:

    I think the key is education. People don’t like feral cats because they don’t like cats, period. Maybe if they realized that cats keep down rodent populations, they would be better disposed towards them.

    Those are lovely cat houses but the humble Rubbermaid box is a good thing, too.

    • Deb says:

      MizzBassie – education is key as well as practibility and that is why I felt it was important to show the Rubbermaid shelter. And you are right, many people just don’t like cats and that is the scary part. We want to help feral cats, but we also don’t want to draw attention to the lunatics who might want to harm them or worse…

  6. Vicki Cook says:

    The Loew’s cats were just one battle in a war that we will eventually win! More and more people are becoming aware of TNR, and it is only a matter of time before there are more of us (supporters) than there are of them (critics). Stories like this help to educate people regarding the practicality of TNR – really the only solution to the feral cat problem. Plus those are some pretty cool designs! ;-)

    • Deb says:

      I sure hope you are right, Vicki, and I love your positive outlook! We just have to keep trying and I do feel that more and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of TNR.

  7. OMG, was it a year ago? I’m saddened to hear Gracie is dead and lovely shelter gone. Progress is slow but we must keep fighting. I’ll post about the Mayor’s Alliance event tomorrow and will of course attend.

    • Deb says:

      Layla… I know… a whole year already! Anyhow, how wonderful that you will be attending the benefit. I look forward to hearing about it and really wish I could be there.

  8. meowmeowmans says:

    Thanks for sharing about this event, Deb! Tracey and I will be attending (I work about 5 blocks from where it’s being held), and are really looking forward to it. :)

    • Deb says:

      Meowmeowmans – I had no idea you worked so close to the city! That is so pawsome that you will be attending and I look forward to you posting about it!