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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Ella’s CatHouse & Catnip Bar - Showcases And Shares Napa Felines

Has Napa gone to the cats?! When Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch (JARR) opened Ella’s CatHouse & Catnip Bar, their cat adoption lounge in downtown Napa, the hope was that allowing guests to visit in a cage-free environment would help promote more adoptions. So far, the effort has been incredibly successful with 21 cats adopted within two months of opening.

Ella’s opened to the public on January 27, 2017 with a ribbon cutting ceremony officiated by Napa Mayor Jill Techel, as well as Napa County Board of Supervisors members Diane Dillon and Alfredo Pedroza. The event was also attended by supporters, volunteers and Vanessa Conlin and Curt Pajer, whose cat Ella is the namesake of the cathouse and catnip bar. Conlin has been a dedicated

supporter of JARR since the early days. Therefore, when Conlin’s beloved cat Ella passed away last year, it seemed fitting to name JARR’s first feline adoption lounge after that cat.

Many of the visitors that pass through the doors of Ella’s don’t necessarily come to adopt a cat. Guests are encouraged to come and visit, whether they want some quiet reading time, to enjoy the company of cats because they aren’t allowed to have them in their apartments or because they simply love cats. One of the volunteers said that visiting the cats helped her get through the death of her mother. Others have come because they want a respite from their stressful lives, or are healing from medical issues. One enthusiastic visitor came in because she was celebrating being declared cancer-free!

The CatHouse and Catnip Bar was created to help solve the problem of over population of cats in Napa County. In 2014, JARR co-founder Monica Stevens was shocked to discover the abysmal rate of cat euthanasia in the area. At a staggering 48%, Stevens decided something had to be done. By June 2015, working with the rescue organization Wine Country Animal Lovers, she worked to get an initiative on the ballot that would reduce the euthanasia rate of animals in the shelter. The measure passed in 2016.

To assist in helping to find adoptable homes for cats, the concept of Ella’s was born. Inspired in part by Oakland’s Cat Town, and the work of Ann Dunn, Stevens worked closely with volunteer Janeen DiRienzo and staffer Deassa Binstock to conceptualize an open cage cat house. The initial phase was built at the home of a benevolent vintner where the first cats were housed. Quickly discovering that the property, while it did save mature and senior cats lives, was too far away for volunteers to help, Stevens decided to find a permanent location in Napa where cats were free to roam, play and interact with humans.

Ella’s is currently open four days a week, Friday through Monday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Lead Cat Specialist Susan Bell leads the lounge along with a staff of volunteers who are responsible for cleaning litter boxes, feeding, administering medication, grooming and giving the cats love and attention. “Leading the team of volunteers at Ella’s empowers and confirms that each of us contributes something special to the well-being and comfort of our cats,” said Bell, “Ella’s volunteers come with an amazing level of commitment. Most volunteers end up staying way beyond their shift.” JARR’s Foster Care and Adoptions Manager, Deassa Binstock (RVT) keeps an eye on any cat that needs a visit to the vet or those that have health issues requiring medication.

The cat residents come to Ella’s through various routes. Some have come from the shelter, others because their humans have died, or because their humans had to move into an assisted living center. “Because we wish to change the outcomes for cats being surrendered, we are asking our community to help us save more cats by providing foster homes,” said Stevens, “These foster homes are necessary for a two- to four-week transition period before they can join the cats at Ella’s.”

Most of the calls from people wanting to rehome their cats are fielded by Amanda Vollstedt, Emergency Fund Manager, who gets about fifteen calls a week. Stevens also receives more than five calls a week herself, just for cats.

Some of the calls can be remedied with financial assistance, but there is still a pervasive attitude that cats can survive on their own outside or can be disposed of when they become inconvenient. One goal of Ella’s is to provide education on the care of cats, and to that end JARR has invited veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Conrad to present her documentary “Paws Project” on June 13, 2017 at Revana Family Vineyard in St. Helena.

Special classes are also taking place at Ella’s, and more events are in the planning. Yoga with Cats was scheduled for every Thursday in May with instructor Sara Chappellet, and an Essentrics stretch class begins in June with Julie Webster.

A local and collaborative effort, Ella’s logo was designed by Napa Valley artist Michael Roche; a whimsical mural inside the “quiet room” was created by Tammy Marie Luke and local artist, Sue Osborn is painting murals on the other walls. JARR’s partner, Pet Food Express connected JARR with Nulo pet foods that donates the food for all of the kitties at Ella’s.

For more information on Ella’s, as well as upcoming events, visit the JARR website and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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