Like nearly all cat lovers, Gail Ventzke has loved cats since before she could remember. Her childhood days spent on her grandparents’ farm helped to seal the deal. “They couldn’t have had more than ten cats at any given time,” Gail remembered, “But to a little girl, it seemed like there was a new litter of kittens behind every other hay bale. I always loved playing with them, watching them looking for mice, or if there were no mice, for a sunny place to lie in. I wished that every cat could be so content.”“My grandpa always called me ‘Kitten.’ He must have known I would carry my love of animals into adulthood.”
About ten years ago, Gail began volunteering for a local non-profit dedicated to spaying and neutering dogs and cats as a way of combating their overpopulation. She and her associates encountered many cats in need of homes during their work there, and couldn’t help but start taking them in. This presented a real problem — the charity she was then working with wasn’t a rescue shelter, and couldn’t accommodate the fast-growing clowder. Where would all these cats go?
They would go to Cats Cradle Shelter, founded by Gail and her affiliates Carol, Jill, Amber, and Jill in 2011 as Fargo’s first-ever no-kill refuge exclusively for kitties. “Before we opened,” said Gail, “Anywhere between 400 and 700 perfectly healthy and adoptable cats in our area were put to sleep annually. There was just no other place for them to go. Now, thanks to our volunteers’ and sponsors’ efforts, that number has dropped to zero. We have effectively eliminated feline euthanization in the Fargo-Moorhead area.”
The people behind Cats Cradle Shelter believe in giving their guests the most comfortable stays that they’re able, which means free colony accommodations. “Keeping each cat in their own cage has some advantages,” explained Gail, “But not enough to justify the boredom and isolation that would subject them to. In free colonies, several cats share a big, open room together. There they enjoy their own cubby holes, window shelves where they can watch birds, and comfy cat towers for napping.”
“Free colonies also make our cats much more adoptable,” Gail continued. “When cats have free reign over a whole room, it relaxes them and gives them more opportunity to let their personalities shine when visitors come. That way they can walk up and give you a nuzzle if they like you. It’s hard for a cat to bond with you while they’re confined to a cage.”
Adopting a cat from Cats Cradle Shelter is a fairly simple process: Go to their shelter at 9 Ninth St S in Fargo from 4:00pm to 7:00pm on Tuesday or noon to 5:00pm on Saturday, take a tour guided by a volunteer to determine which of their cats you’re most compatible with, and then visit with some of the furry tenants to see which one best clicks with you. If you find a cat you like (you will find several, in all likelihood), you can fill out an application form, interview with Gail, and if approved you may be able to take your new friend home with you that very day! You can visit catscradleshelter.org for a better explanation of the adoption process, as well as to see some of their cats currently available to take home.
“Our cats have usually come from rough backgrounds,” said Gail. “Many times they’ve had to fend for themselves on the street. We’ve rescued cats from boxes left on the side of the road, from dumpsters. We give them any medical attention that they need on arrival, and give them warmth and comfort. You can tell they’re truly grateful for the care they receive after having had it so hard. That gratitude they show every day makes them the best companions. Every cat knows how to love. Sometimes they just need a little help to show it!”
By David Scheller