Some of the biggest stars of the Internet could soon be purring the praises of Chicago’s oldest, cageless, no-kill cat shelter. Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub, Keyboard Cat and others could be the stars of a video campaign aimed at helping Tree House Humane Society raise funds for their new shelter that is planned for Rogers Park.
The campaign featuring some of the biggest social media stars of the feline world is the idea of Tree House Development Director Jenny Schlueter. A shelter supporter had featured her Tree House alumni kitty in a video called Catalog that was recently featured at the International Cat Film Festival in Minneapolis. When she asked Schlueter attend the festival, the idea was born.
Courting the cats
“I went and I tried to meet as many of the famous Internet cats as I could,” says Schleuter. “I made up little kitty care packets with cat toys, t-shirts, and information about Tree House and our planned new shelter. It was amazing how receptive everyone was to helping us out and helping us promote the campaign on their social media sites.”
Tree House has been around for 42 years – long before the no-kill movement was in vogue. The shelter has always taken in the stray, injured and sick cats that many other organizations would tend to turn away. Many of the cats are special needs cats – from FIV+ to those with health issues to cats missing an eye or a limb or senior kitties.
“Lil Bub is from Bloomington, Indiana and his person – Mike Bridavsky– loved the idea of helping us out,” says Schlueter. “He’s willing to come to Chicago to help promote what we are doing with the new shelter – although Lil Bub most likely won’t make the trip. We’re excited to see the videos that will be in the works soon to support the shelter.”
Lil Bub was the runt of a litter rescued from a feral cat colony. She has a form of dwarfism and other issues as well. Her cat guardian is intent on keeping her healthy. That will limit travel if it’s not right for her.
Grumpy Cat – whose real name is Tartar Sauce – also has a form of dwarfism. Keyboard Cat had many health problems when initially adopted – her family worked to get her back to health (and refused to return her to the shelter) before finding her unique talent.
“When her family saw how popular her videos had become, they wanted to use that popularity for good,” she adds. “They live in the Seattle-area and are big supporters of rescue there. They are very excited about working with Tree House to help us promote the new shelter.”
Tree House's new home
Tree House has been at their current location in Uptown since the 70’s and it has outgrown the facility. Plans are in the works for a state-of-the-art shelter in Rogers Park that will house over 250 cats and eventually have a low-cost veterinary clinic. The shelter will also have plenty of room for Tree House to conduct outreach programs, cat behavior counseling and adoption events for other groups.
“These are all things we do on a smaller scale now but just don’t have the space,” says Schlueter. “We work with a lot of smaller organizations with our spay and neuter programs and it would be great to have adoption events for them. Most of all, this gives us a place for cat lovers even after adoption – with a store, behavioral people and other events that will make Tree House a destination.”
Schlueter hopes to finalize the participating cat stars – Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub, Keyboard Cat, Nyan Cat – are all on her list. Henri Le Chat Noir’s Will Braden also is excited about the project. The goal would be to have the PSAs or videos ready to roll at the Black Cat Ball on October 17.
“We are finalizing the shelter plans and working on donations. It’s our goal to break ground next summer,” she adds. “We’re working on the strategic plans, promotional materials. We are so excited. The building is a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie-style design with lots of light and each cat room area will have a sunroom.”
The past few years have seen lots of positives for the homeless cats of Chicago. Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs have taken root with Tree House managing around 300 colony caretakers. Adoption organizations big and small are seeing an increase in cat adoption and volunteers at Chicago Animal Care and Control have worked very hard to increase the transfer rate of cats, greatly decreasing the euthanasia rate.
Chicago celebrates cats
“It’s an exciting time in Chicago for cats and I couldn’t think of a better way for us to celebrate than with the famous cats of the Internet,” she adds. “We post cute pictures of cats all day and have a pretty good following, but the following these cats have is just amazing.”
“Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub have such precious faces and a will to live a dignified life, just like our special cats. I hope the campaign will also encourage more people to not only adopt a cat but to consider a special needs cat because that relationship is so fulfilling. At Tree House or somewhere in Chicago, there is a cat for you.”