Chris Arsenault's son, Eric, was killed in a motorcycle accident, and he grieved for his child as only a father can. He knew he wanted to do something to honor his son's memory and somehow make a lasting impact that would help needy lives. So when he found out about an abandoned colony of cats, he made an astounding decision. He turned his Suffolk County, New York, home into a full-time cat sanctuary.
Arsenault is a retired railroad engineer with a penchant for cats. He has converted his entire home into a happy place for cats and calls it, appropriately, Happy Cat Sanctuary. More than 300 cats have made it their home.
After discovering the colony of 30 ill kittens, he knew he had to act to save them. It was then that he felt his life's calling, and knew his son would appreciate his father's decision to turn his home into a haven for cats.
The 56-year-old retiree had visions of what it would take to make all felines feel warm, cared for and loved. His genius created an enormous cat playground where the residents play, explore and become suitable as house cats for someone looking to adopt.
Arsenault rescued cat after cat from what he said was starvation, poisoning, illness and abandonment. "We have saved cats from terrible hoarding situations, from condemned homes and even from gangs who try to trap them for use as bait in dog-fighting rings," said a volunteer at the sanctuary.
From towering, heated cat trees to cubby holes where the kitties can snuggle up and kitty doors that let them in and out of the house, the structures are not only cat-friendly but attractive as well. To keep them entertained, Arsenault has even built an area where the cats can watch chickens.
Cats can do all the things they like doing at Happy Cat Sanctuary, and they receive food, shelter, veterinary care and, most importantly, lots of love and affection. The food bill runs around $1,000 every week to care for the feline population. That's why the sanctuary accepts donations, which keeps it going. (Happy Cat Sanctuary is a 501(c) (3) organization and donations are tax deductible.)
Arsenault built in ways to easily clean the whole place, and it has twice passed ASPCA certification. Although there have never been any official complaints, his goal is to purchase some land and build an even bigger, better sanctuary.
Happy Cat Sanctuary takes the cats' preferences into consideration, allowing those who want to come inside to find all kinds of shelves and trees to climb on. Cats that prefer to be outside are provided with heated spaces to keep warm.
The only real problem Arsenault faces comes every night at bedtime. The cats compete for space in his bed so they can snuggle up with this special man who treats each one as though it were the only one.
For now, the sanctuary is only accepting mother cats with kittens who might otherwise be abandoned to their fate. All the animals there are spayed or neutered to prevent more homeless kittens.