Here's the Sheffield animal charity that has been re-homing cats in the city for 122 years
‘Respectable woman wanted as helper to caretaker. Abstainer preferred, good character indispensable.’
The wording of the newspaper advert sounds old-fashioned - and with good reason. It was printed in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph on Monday November 27, 1905.
“It was placed by The Sheffield Cats Shelter Charity, which was already nearly ten years old at that time," smiles Kathryn Elliott, the charities current manager.
“We’re a bit of a hidden gem, tucked away here in Broomhall, not many people know that the shelter is one of the city’s oldest animal charities.”
The charity was founded by wealthy society woman, Jane Barker, who served at the time on the Ladies Committee of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal. It was first known as ‘Miss Jane Barker’s Home for Cats’ when it opened its doors on Broomspring Lane in January 1897. After acquiring the Duchess of Portland and the dowager Countess of Wharncliffe as patrons, it became known as The Sheffield Shelter for Lost and Starving Cats, which it remained until around 1950, when it became The Sheffield Cats Shelter. In 1964 the charity relocated to its current premises in Travis Place.
Records show that by 1902, the shelter was taking in around 1,600 cats and kittens a year. As late as the 1930s, pet euthanasia was the only option for many people who, in pre war Britain, feared for their pets because of bombing, displacement and food rationing.
Today, the work being done by the shelter bears little resemblance, with its primary mission to find loving homes for the many cats that come through its doors each month, and promote responsible pet ownership in Sheffield.
“We never put a healthy cat to sleep," says Kathryn.
“Most of our cats come to us from people moving into rented accommodation, or after their owner has passed away. We also have a lot of cats whose owners have moved away and just abandoned them.”
The shelter is currently home to 34 cats and kittens, which live in small rooms, or suites, that can house up to three or four at a time.
“We don't want our cats in cages, and try to replicate a comfortable home life as much as possible for them" Kathryn explains.
“We provide health checks for them, veterinary care, neutering and micro-chipping.”
And while 34 is a fairly comfortable number, Kathryn says the shelter has housed as many as 50 or 60 at a time.
“That’s more than we’re comfortable with, but – while we generally see around 25 cats a month adopted – some months there are just not enough cats finding new homes.”
“Our main issue at the moment is that we're simply bursting with lovely, healthy cats, and desperately need some people to adopt them.”
The charity is entirely self-funded, and Kathryn reveals it costs around £200,000 a year to keep the shelter’s doors open and the charity running to full effect.
“Our vet bills are enormous,” she adds.
“Around £30,000 a year and we really do rely on our supporters to keep us able to do what we do.” The shelter has five full-time staff, and three part-time staff, plus the help of around 30 regular volunteers. The charity also has two Sheffield shops – on Ecclesall Road, and in Hillsborough – being run by two full-time staff members.
“It's a great team,” Kathryn confirms.
“We also have some long-term fosterers who work with us, who take in some of our cats when they’re quite poorly, and look after them for us until they're back to full health.”
And when it comes to criteria for those wishing to adopt, Kathryn says there are just a few things the team looks for.
“We tend not to let people adopt cats who live on main roads. Also, if you’re in rented accommodation, we like to see something from your landlord to confirm you're able to have a cat. Other than that, we'll happily consider every person who comes through the door.”
Those interested in adopting a cat are invited to call the shelter and make an appointment to visit, and meet with all the different cats to find the best match.
“We have an appointment system, which people can access by visiting out website and filling out a form,” says Kathryn.
“That way, we can ensure a dedicated time to show that person around, and make sure they have plenty of time to meet the cats and have a good look around.
“We do charge £85 for each adoption, but all of our cats are healthy, neuterred, vaccinated, and microchipped with their new adopters details by the time they’re taken away. If you bought a cat from a store, or via a private sale, you'd have to sort all that yourselves.”
The Sheffield Cats Shelter Charity is hosting an open day on July 13, for those interested in finding out more about the work being done, and about the process of adopting a cat.
“We’re going to be offering guided tours around the shelter from 1pm to 5pm on the day,” says Kathryn.
“We’ll also have refreshments, and stalls in the back garden, plus some things for kids to do, like quizzes and games.
“It gives us a chance to throw open the doors and show people what we do here, how they can get involved, and even the opportunity to meet a new potential pet.”
Visit thesheffieldcatsshelter.org for further details.