Tabby House boosts cat adoptions in Beaufort County

(Hilton Head) Island PacketMarch 4, 2014 

Cats come up to greet Betty Garvin, who had stopped by The Tabby House on Friday to apply to become a volunteer. The cat adoption center, operated by the Beaufort County Animal Shelter in Beaufort Town Center, has made strides since opening in 2012, adopting out 260 cats and euthanizing 18 percent fewer animals. The Beaufort County Animal Shelter also reports other successes, such as an increase in the number of lost animals returned to their owners.

JAY KARR — (Hilton Head) Island-Packet

As one of the longtime residents of Beaufort County's all-cat adoption center, Nala has had a good perspective on its first year.

From her perch in the middle of the Tabby House, the tortoiseshell cat has seen murals appear on the walls, adoption fees drop and traffic from helpers and visitors rise. She also witnessed many of the center's 230 adoptions in 2013. Moreover, the outlook is good she will find a home as well.

Of the 4,537 animals that came to the Beaufort County Animal Shelter in 2013, 741 were adopted, up 31 percent from the previous year, according to a news release from the shelter. Another 653 animals were returned to their owners, up 41 percent from 2012, the release said.

The majority of the animals were transferred to other groups.

Overall, the shelter euthanized 18 percent fewer animals last year than in 2012, the release said.

"The Animal Shelter underwent some significant changes in 2013, but one thing that didn't change was the staff working hard to make sure more animals were going back to their own home or finding a new home," shelter director Tallulah Trice said.

The Tabby House, which the shelter opened in December 2012, has been a critical addition. Of the 230 adopted cats, about 60 percent might have been euthanized without the center, the release said.

To save more animals, the center has dropped its adoption fee from $45 to $25.

The goal is simple: Whatever it takes to move cats out the door, volunteer Diane Voge said.

While the new fee covers only the cost of microchipping the animals, the center benefits from donations and a wide network of people willing to help socialize the cats.

"I think the separation from the shelter makes a big difference," volunteer Chris Zilko said.

Tucked into a corner of the Beaufort Town Center, the Tabby House allows its cats free rein and invites people to stop in even if they aren't looking to adopt. A sign outside tempts with the words "Free Wifi."

Some residents are put off by the environment of the shelter or its far-off location on Hilton Head Island, Voge said, as she stooped down to check on a set of gray paws.

"Mopsy's a doll. She started out being an under-the-desk cat, but sometimes she comes out and sits next to me."

The Tabby House is a different breed of adoption center, she said -- one where cat beds, toys and comfortable nooks far outnumber cages.

"The Tabby House is like coming into your own living room, where there just happen to be 25 cats," she said.

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