by Lisa Moody Breslin

There are so many cats and kittens at the Humane Society of Carroll County that there is often little room at the inn.

Executive Director Charles Brown and his team, especially Michelle Fidler, director of animal care, constantly brainstorm for ways to get their feline tenants into an environment that feels like home until they make it to their forever home.

Their most recent venture places cats at local businesses so that, when possible, the cats can romp outside their crates and charm the customers.

Inevitably, and often, their charm is so spellbinding that with items purchased, customers go home with cats too.

This businesses-as-foster- homes model had a soft launch at Bowman’s Home and Garden in 2015, and more than 115 cats have found homes as a result. Bowman’s connects customers who fall in love with the fostered felines to the humane society, where all paperwork and fees are processed.

Orange and white cats Demi and Della, ages one year and 6 months and 2 years respectively, joined the Bowman’s family in late February.

Demi and Della were found on Washington Road in Westminster, made their way to the humane society and then to Bowman’s where they enjoy cage free roaming around the store before it opens.

“Otherwise, they like to snuggle with each other in the cage and charm customers from there,” explained employee Kari Gillman of Westminster.

Gillman knows the success of Take a Cat to Work; when a young orange tabby came to Bowman’s in August one year ago, he charmed his way into her home and, once adopted, became her beloved Logan.

If a business welcomes a foster cat, the humane society provides the crate, litter pans, litter, food and bowls.

“We supply everything but the love and support needed to let the cats shine,” explained Fidler. “Employees get to know the cat’s personality and its quirks, so they are on the front lines telling people ‘she loves this toy,’ or ‘he loves to be rubbed like this’ which really helps when people are trying to decide if they want to adopt.”

Participating businesses can select two types of adoption partnerships.  Rescue Partnership offers the business more control. The Humane Society of Carroll County fills the cage with “fully vetted” cats/kittens under the business’ ownership. These cats/kittens legally belong to the businesses and the business is responsible for finding a suitable placement, as well as handling medical issues that arise.

“The benefit to this partnership is that the business can control the amount of the adoption fee and collect 100% of the monies collected,” Fidler said.

The second partnership releases the business of the ownership and the business is essentially an “Adoption Outlet.”  The cats/kittens are owned by the shelters and remain the shelter’s responsibility.  The adoption fee is $50 of which the business keeps 50%.

A Humane Society of Carroll County adoption contract is completed for each adoption and collected weekly by the shelter staff; in turn, the humane society continues to assume all medical care during the length of stay at the business location.

The Montessori School of Westminster welcomed three-year-old Pudge, a grey tiger cat, to campus in late February with hopes that Pudge would enjoy roaming the halls at night and catch a few mice during his roam, Fidler said.

“A staff member actually adopted Pudge, so he is not part of the foster partnership program, but we loved that Pudge found a home and a unique role,” she added.

Fidler’s dream for the cats at work partnership?

“That I have a long list of offices throughout the county that want to welcome a cat to work,” she said. “So when the cats come to the humane society we can move them to a place where it feels almost like home.”

Zippy, snoozing, is the office cat of Carroll Magazine/Kohn Creative. Found on the loading dock of our offices on Main Street in Westminster at the age of 2 weeks. He has free roam of the building and greets employees and visitors at his discretion – especially when food is around! He loves to sleep in inboxes and has caught one mouse and even cornered a squirrel!