Rental squeeze putting pressure on animal rescue

Are you a cat person? The Chilliwack Animal Safe Haven could use your help to care for the 150 cats that are waiting for a forever home.

Leah Uittenhoeut says the rental situation is just one of many circumstances that bring cats to the Chilliwack Animal Safe Haven. They are currently caring for 150 adoptable cats who are waiting for their forever home.

Furry felines curl up in open cupboards, watch birds through breezy windows, chase each other through the halls, and snuggle up for a snooze on the linen shelves.

Chilliwack Animal Safe Haven is not only a haven for cats and kittens, but for the volunteers as well.

Office Manager Leah Uittenhoeut started volunteering with the organization 11 years ago after utilizing their low cost spay/neuter program. As her involvement with and passion for the organization grew, she – like many she works with – says it changed her life completely.

Carrying on the legacy that Ena Vermerris started back in 2003, dedicated volunteers have since adopted out nearly 1,200 cats who otherwise would have been homeless.

There’s a lot of work to be done to care for the 150 cats currently living there. Relying solely on community generosity, the financial and volunteer resources are stretched very thin.

Leah tells the story of each kitty she passes as she leads a tour through the repurposed farm house and the roomy shelters that have been built in the yard.

Cheeky, a talkative five-year old jumps down from a table. Bert, a robust 26-pound fellow lounges on the floor. And Oreo wraps himself around you like a baby when you pick him up.

Across the room is Shadow, a 14-year-old long-hair whose previous owner was distraught to give up.

“A very desperate owner threw him at me,” Leah said. “You hear about the housing crisis? Absolutely.”

Leah explained to the owner that they were already full, but he was facing eviction. He loved Shadow since he was a kitten, and he was heartbroken to have to leave him.

“People are desperate. People are living in tents,” Leah said. “They don’t know what to do because they can’t find housing for themselves, nevermind one that’s pet-friendly.”

The housing situation is merely one of many extenuating circumstances that bring cats to the Haven’s doorstep. Once in the no-kill shelter, volunteers do what they can to ensure that cats are cared for, happy and loved until they find their forever home.

Vet bills through Cheam View Veterinary Hospital vary monthly as Haven cats receive spaying/neutering, medication, dental work and other care to keep them healthy and ready to be adopted.

Visitors’ expectations are often changed and exceeded when they visit the Haven. “Sometimes people say they want a short-hair, female Tabby cat – and then they walk out with the opposite,” Leah laughed.

And as visitors explore the rooms and take a seat on a couch or a step, it’s the cat that often finds the perfect owner, rather than the other way around.

The most important requirement of the adoption process is an understanding that owning a cat is a commitment. No matter their age, a cat provides great company and has a lot of love to give, but they require responsible and devoted ownership.

Those unable to adopt a cat can still help out in many ways.

The Haven hosts barnyard sales each month (next up to shop at or donate to is July 30), collects bottles and cans to recycle, and hosts bake sales and other fundraisers year-round.

Animal lovers can sponsor a favourite cat for $10 per month, become a member, or donate much-needed supplies like paper towels, plastic bags, clumping litter or dish soap.

Time is perhaps the greatest gift.

Volunteering is huge, even if it’s just once a week or once every two weeks. Without the volunteers we couldn’t keep going,” Leah said.

In addition to their year-round volunteers, they have students come in for work experience, individuals from the Chilliwack Society for Community Living helping out, as well as seniors and children stepping up.

Many of the cats have been at the Haven for years, some will be there for their whole life. While it’s not ideal, it’s okay – because they’re loved.

It’s not a home, Leah pointed out, but it’s the next best thing.

Learn more about volunteering or view cat adoptee profiles at www.thesafehaven.ca.

Just Posted

PHOTO: Add flavour to your weekend with the Chilliwack Garlic Festival

The annual garlicky event runs Saturday and Sunday at Fantasy Farms

Fleeing helicopter that landed in Chilliwack part of major cross-border drug bust: documents

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Vedder Rotary trail network in Chilliwack will be closed for five days on the south side

The upgrade will take until Friday so trail users asked to take alternate routes

Chilliwack encouraged to commemorate liberation of Holland

Planning already underway to mark the 75th anniversary of the event

UPDATE: RCMP confirm body of missing Chilliwack senior found

Ethel ‘Grace’ Baranyk had severe dementia

VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Wink, Blink and Nod at the Chilliwack SPCA

These three male tabby cats are some of many kittens up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA

B.C. VIEWS: Pipelines set to roll as federal politicians posture

Projects to drive B.C., Canadian economy in years ahead

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

Border crossings across Lower Mainland seeing lengthy delays

Sumas, Peace Arch and Surrey-Blaine border crossings seeing long wait times

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Most Read