Imagine a place where you and your friends could socialize, nap, eat dinner together and explore in your golden years.
Sounds pretty good, right? Well, Terry and Bruce Jenkins have created this community in their backyard—but not for people. Their Lutz, Florida, sanctuary is retirement living for older cats, who get to stay forever.
“Most of them have come from hardship situations, and we don’t adopt out. The cats live with us for the duration of their lives,” says Terry, 77. “Our mission is to rescue senior cats that need a home.”
The effort started in part because the pair were looking to adopt a kitten and Terry visited their veterinarian asking about a young cat. Someone there overheard her request and asked her to consider adopting an older cat there to be euthanized. “Of course, I took the cat,” Terry says.
“I found a real purpose in caring for these animals who, in many ways, were a reflection of where I was in life, too,” Terry says.
The backyard is a haven for the cats or a cat “Disneyland,” as Bruce, 77, calls it. The couple repurposed a “Frontierland” play area they had constructed for their children — complete with a hotel, a general store, a saloon and a sheriff’s office. They adapted it for the cats, and now it also includes feline play areas, napping spots, scratching posts and more.
“We had a vision where they could be free the way I think cats would like to be free outside, but protected,” Terry says.
“They feel secure here. The fact that they can go and sleep up on a bridge over a lake — I mean, how good is that?” Bruce says.
Cats come to Cats Cradle through veterinarians’ offices and private homes, particularly where someone might be ill and unable to take care of their pet. The couple have rescued more than 350 cats over the years and plan to continue their efforts.
“We discovered the special quality of older cats. They had qualities in their older years that young cats don’t have,” Terry says. “Maybe that’s true of people as well. You just have to discover it.”