Whatever you do, don't call it a cat house. The official name is cat room expansion, the preferred nickname is “kitty cat condos.”

Whatever you call it, it's good news. The Ridgecrest Animal Shelter, the IWV Humane Society, the Ridgecrest Police Department, the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce, City Council representatives Mayor Peggy Breeden and Councilwoman Lindsey Stephens and contractor Brian Horton joined forces Friday for a ribbon cutting and ground breaking on the much-anticipated addition to the local animal shelter.

The shelter has long needed upgraded facilities to house cats, and the expansion is designed to fit the bill. The 1200 square foot facility addition will house up to 64 felines in separate “kitty condos.” The facility addition will also include a visitation area.

Project cost is estimated at $166,000 and the timeline until completion is approximately six months.

The project is being mainly funded by the IWV Humane Society, which will donate the facility when it is complete. According to Humane Society Project Manager Larry Trowsdale, “this particular project is from a donation from the Marcia Thigpen trust.” Trowsdale added that a lot of volunteer labor will be going into the expansion.

“It is very exciting and long overdue and I can't wait for the finished product,” Ridgecrest Animal Shelter Supervisor Mary Stage told the Daily Independent. “It's coming at a time when we really need it.” Stage said the new design should be healthier for the animals by reducing the transmission of feline diseases.
“We're hoping that it is going to cut down on disease as well as provide an atmosphere that's really welcoming. And we will have a visitation area as well, so we can close the doors. It will be set up with a couch or sofa seat, toys and cat trees. Sort of a fun place for the cat as well as for people to spend some time to see if they are a match,” she said.

Flanked by animal supporting luminaries, Stage did the honors and cut the chamber's traditional red ribbon as dogs barked in the background. General contractor Horton also symbolically broke ground with a shovel. (See the Daily Independent website for video.)

Ridgecrest Police Chief Ron Strand spoke, thanking everyone present. He joked that most of the shelter staff was currently working. (Animal Control is part of the police department).

Strand thanked Stage, whom he called “the heartbeat of our organization.” He added, “this is her life work, keeping the shelter going. She does a great job.”

Strand also thanked Trowsdale, saying “You have done this free of charge for us out of the goodness of your heart, you should be commended.” Strand also noted the cat room is the third project that represents a collaboration between the city animal shelter and the humane society. The other two were the solar project and the animal surgery center.

“This is the one we have been talking about the most for several years, the actual expansion, so we can expand our cat room, expand the shelter,” Strand said, “because currently we are underserving our kitty cats in the community. This should allow us to have more marketing for the adoption of our animals and take better care of the ones we run across.”

He also thanked Horton.

Trowsdale also thanked everyone and noted the IWV Humane Society can always use donations, both for construction and operating costs.

Stage also spoke. The relationships among the humane society, the animal shelter and the city of Ridgecrest are very close, she said. “We have a lot of the same hopes and dreams and wishes for our animals in our community.”

She described the addition as a project needed for “many, many years” especially around cat season.
Stage also noted that “donations can be made to the humane society for the benefit of the shelter or they can be made out to PACT for the benefit of the shelter . . . thank you humane society, thank you city of Ridgecrest for making this project happen.”

Breeden spoke up, thanking everyone in the community “for recognizing that animals are part of us.”

In addition to making donations, residents who qualify can help in another way. Stage pointed out that dog adoptions are currently offered at a reduced rate and cat adoptions are currently free.