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Hobart shelter says a “working cats” program could reduce overcrowding while serving public

Volunteer Mike Williams hopes other city departments will consider using older shelter cats even if Park Board isnt interested idea.

Volunteer Mike Williams hopes other city departments will consider using older shelter cats, even if the Park Board isnt interested in the idea. | Post-Tribune File Photo

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Updated: January 16, 2014 6:44AM

HOBART — Walk into the Humane Society of Hobart and it’s evident that volunteer Mike Williams loves every cat in the building.

He plays with them, holds them, gives them names.

Sandy Hays, who describes her functions at the shelter as being in charge of the cat room and an all-around employee, calls Williams “the best volunteer ever for cats.”

Still, more than anything, Williams would like never to see these cats again. He would prefer they find loving homes for the rest of their lives.

To help achieve his goal of emptying more cages at the shelter, especially those holding the harder-to-adopt adult cats, Williams approached the Hobart Park Board last week about taking a few of the cats and putting them to work.

Williams, who told the board he’s in charge of finding ways to alleviate the overcrowding of cats at the shelter, wants to follow a successful working cats program implemented in Louisville, Ky.

He said Louisville places cats inside city storage buildings to eliminate the rodent problem and reduce the damage rodents cause to equipment and materials stored there.

“My proposal is to put two to three cats inside park buildings to keep mice from destroying anything during the winter months. In exchange, the cats would get food, drink and a place to stay warm,” he told Park Board members.

“I’d like to use Hobart as a model to propose the same to other cities,” Williams said.

Williams said the department’s maintenance garage on West 8th Street is one place he’d like to place two to three cats.

He said there would be no charge to the city for the cats and the buildings won’t have to be heated. He said all the cats would have their shots and would be spayed or neutered so there is no fear of their multiplying.

Williams also is looking for sponsors for the program and businesses to donate the food so it wouldn’t cost the city any money.

The Park Board tabled action on the request so members could discuss it further.

“Someone could be allergic to cats,” member John Hevel said.

Hays said she hopes the Park Board will agree to adopt the cats. She said there were more than 80 in the shelter one day this week.

“The other day we had 13 cats adopted and 21 brought in. None are feral. Part of Mike’s job is to acclimate them and get them used to people,” Hays said.

She said in the summer, the shelter gets more than 300 kittens a month.

The Kentucky Humane Society’s website,, touts the program not only for warehouses and garages, but also for barns and horse stables. The group did not return a telephone call seeking details or comment on their efforts.

The website said its working cats are animals that are not suitable for traditional home adoption but that thrive in suitable indoor/outdoor homes, such as barns, warehouses or garages.

The program in Kentucky is so popular, according to the website, there is typically a one- to four-week waiting period before adopters are matched with their working cats.

Among the adoptees of working cats in Kentucky are the president and CEO of the Kentucky Humane Society and her husband, who have three working cats in their barn, according to a 2012 article in the society’s Paw Street Journal magazine.

At one time, no shelter would think of placing cats in an environment other than inside a home. But times have changed, according to the article.

The article said it’s been recognized that some cats thrive in barns or warehouses while they wouldn’t do well inside homes, as long as they have access to shelter, food, water and some companionship.

Individuals or municipalities interested in adopting one or more cats can call 942-0103 or visit the shelter at 2054 E. Indiana 130 in Hobart. Hays said older cats can be adopted by individuals for $10.

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