Hephner, a 2-year-old black and white cat at the SPCA of Wake County, has become an avid TV viewer.
From a shelf near the television screen, he watches scenes of enticing critters. His eyes follow birds as they fly across the screen, and he’s intrigued by mice that burrow into dirt.
Purina Cat Chow recently awarded the pet-adoption shelter with a $25,000 makeover. Now the cats have plenty to keep them occupied – a treadmill, a feline-safe herb garden and the soothing sounds of music.
The changes will make cats’ stay at the shelter more healthy and comfortable, said Kim Janzen, executive director of the SPCA of Wake County.
The goal is also to help the cats adjust so they will be friendly to visitors who might want to take them home, Janzen said.
“It will show cats’ very best side to adopters,” she said.
Volunteers from Purina Cat Chow visited Thursday to outfit the shelter with top-of-the-line cat toys and to spruce up the 11-year-old building.
The local SPCA won the makeover because of its past support of Purina’s promotional contests.
Most recently, the shelter participated in a competition that honored one cat volunteer in every state. Sam Daughtry, who volunteers at the SPCA of Wake County, represented North Carolina.
Although Daughtry didn’t win the competition, Purina donated $1,000 worth of cat food and toys to the shelter.
“(The SPCA of Wake County) has just been such a great partner, we thought they’d be perfect for the makeover,” said Jon Lubitz, Purina’s assistant brand manager.
The makeover is part of a larger effort to help cats at the shelter find forever homes.
Currently, the shelter has about the same number of cats and dogs, Janzen said. But cats tend to stay almost twice as long as dogs, annual reports show.
In the first quarter of 2014, dogs stayed at the SPCA of Wake County an average of 26 days. Meanwhile, cats stayed an average of 48 days.
About a year ago, the SPCA of Wake County began an effort to find cats permanent families sooner.
Staff members put fewer cats in each “bedroom” to give them more space. When donations allowed for it, cats also received more toys.
Cats enjoy personal space, which can be hard to come by in shelters. They also like vertical space and need other ways to stay busy, Janzen said.
Unlike dogs, who can play outside or go on walks, she said cats are limited in how volunteers and staff can play with them.
“We’re really lucky Purina came forward this this great makeover,” Janzen said.