Editor's note: Gorgeous George was adopted the day this article came out, but Heartland Humane Society has several more friendly felines for adoption.
Gorgeous George races employees up and down the stairs, occasionally bats at a yarn pompom, and is known to meow a friendly hello when customers walk through the door.
The new king of the Stash yarn shop, however, is most fond of lazily observing his surroundings from his favorite perch.
“During business hours, he gets to wander around as much as he wants, but most of the time he holds down the chair. That has become his spot,” Stash owner Sonia Ruyts said.
George is one of Heartland Humane Society’s first shelter cats to participate in a new program, Cat About Town. The aim, according to program coordinator Juanita Gomez, is to find permanent homes for adoptable cats by showcasing them in local shops.
George moved into the downtown yarn shop on Dec. 16 and, if all goes well, he’ll live there until a customer falls in love with him and adopts him through Heartland. The 4-year-old short-haired cat — mellow, vocal and affectionate with kids and adults — has won the hearts of employees and customers.
“We’ve had people specifically come in the shop to see him,” said employee Hannah Mahler. “He loves everybody.”
“It’s so nice to have his little spirit in the store because he just attracts people to him, usually the non-yarn shopper,” she said. “It’s nice to have someone to visit and play with while others are shopping. We’ve been surprised that he hasn’t been adopted yet.”
Heartland’s shelter, with rooms of caged animals and the echoes of barking dogs, can be stressful for some people who are seeking feline companionship, Gomez said. A shop offers a more relaxed space for potential adopters, and it is more conducive to seeing a cat’s true personality.
Additionally, every cat fostered out is one less cat taking up room at the shelter.
“We always need more space,” Gomez said. “… It was an idea that you can have the animal there (at the business) and love them and take care of them, yet find them a permanent home, which helps us out, of course.”
The Cat About Town program is not a completely new concept, Gomez said. For years, Animal Crackers Pet Supply at 949 N.W. Kings Blvd. has been a Heartland satellite adoption center. It houses about a half-dozen or so cats that are available for adoption.
In addition, Heartland already had a strong foster program — 86 cats currently are housed at the shelter while more than 100 are being cared for in private homes. However, the home foster program has a different focus than Cat About Town. It’s largely for cats that aren’t ready for adoption, such as kittens too young to be separated from their mothers.
The Cat About Town program is a good deal for an interested business owner, Ruyts said.
“They made it really easy for us,” she said. “The foster coordinator just asked us a day that would be convenient and she brought toys, the cage, a litter box and food.”
In exchange, Stash employees are keeping George safe, comfortable, happy — and well-advertised.
A flier about George is taped to the storefront, and Stash’s media-savvy employees have sent word out about their new furry companion through yarn-themed posts on Facebook and Twitter.
“We’ve had a lot of fun taking pictures of him,” Ruyts said. “It’s been great for social media stuff.”