Cage-free Shelter Working to Provide Homes for Stray and Abandoned Cats in Tennessee

MAURY COUNTY, TENNESSEE – A network of volunteers in Maury County are work ngitogether to foster abandoned and feral cats. Eva’s Eden is a nonprofit shelter which relies solely on the community to house and care for rescued cats before they are adopted from the shelter’s mobile trailer.

“We always had a really hard time taking them back to a cage,” Nicole Walker, who oversees adoptions and screens foster families, said. “So we wanted to do something cage-free, so all of our kitties get to live in homes.”

The shelter takes on overflow from animal shelters and also does its best to catch local strays.

Walker said that there are specific foster environments for feral cats. “Some of our foster homes have barn environments that are safe and warm and away from people. Those aren’t scary for feral cats that don’t want anything to do with people.”

“We have a list of people who are interested in a barn cat,” Walker said. “The next time we get one, we would just get that kitty fixed and deliver it straight to them.”

Amy Trenary, who coordinates rescues and fosters cats within her own home, said feral rescues aren’t as aggressive as people think.

“Once they’re spayed and neutered, some of those negative feral cat behaviors go away. And you just have an animal that wants to hunt squirrels and chipmunks and sleeps in the hay loft at night,” she said. “They’re more than happy to live comfortably around humans.”

Trenary said the strays she fosters can be very territorial, but become used to one another. “There’s some posturing. Like, ‘This is my favorite bale over here.’ When you allow them the time and place to find their space, it almost always goes well,” she said.

She said most of the feral cats have been let down by humans in the past.

Amy Trenary and Nicole Walker with two of Eva's Eden's foster cats. (Staff photo by Savanna Walker)

Amy Trenary and Nicole Walker with two of Eva’s Eden’s foster cats. (Staff photo by Savanna Walker)

“They’re not interested in a relationship with a human. But they’re still domesticated animals. We owe them something,” Trenary said.

Walker places most of the abandoned cats or kittens in Eva’s Eden’s network of foster families.

“We have a waiting list, a questionnaire and a home visit,” Walker said about the process to become a foster home. “We want to know that the families are committed to the cats.”

Walker said that the foster families are vital to the health of the shelter’s cats.

“That’s really important for a lot of our kitties that have been abandoned or have health issues. They need that time to recuperate and recover,” she said.

“There’s some you know you have to part with because they’re so cool. You can’t keep them all because you’ll have to stop fostering,” said Tiffany March, who fosters cats for Eva’s Eden. “If you can let them go and they can go be someone else’s superstar or one and only, that’s all you ever want for them.”

March’s children were still very young when she first started fostering cats.

“We’ve being doing it since my kids were tiny, like all hands-on toddler action, so if a cat can put up with that, you know they’re golden. I know it helps Nicole a lot, since she can be like, ‘These are kid-tested cats.’”

Maureen Plumb, another volunteer, said the foster system helped the shelter know exactly which types of homes cats are best suited for.

“Nicole really goes out of her way to make sure it’s a fit when an adoptive family is looking at a feline,” she said.

A good number of foster homes also have other pets.

“I had my original cat before fostering. And she hates other cats. She would go around at night and hiss at the door, just to let them know, ‘I hate you.’ She would go from door to door and let other cats know,” March said. “Now, I’m amazed what she can tolerate. She still doesn’t like them, but as long as they don’t get too much in her space, she’s like, ‘I’ll allow it.”’

“We do want to make them used to other cats,” Trenary said, “because they’ll come in the trailer and there will be other cats they’ve never met before.”

Foster cats are taken to a trailer on weekends which serves as a mobile adoption site. The shelter sets up shop throughout the areas of Williamson and Maury Counties.

Apart from a small office, the shelter is oust jne large room where individuals can sit down and get to know prospective pets.

“It’s a nice place to come in and meet a cat,” Walker said. “We wanted it to be really comfortable and peaceful for everyone involved.”

Plumb began fostering cats to teach her children lessons in life. “I had three young teenagers when we first started fostering. I thought it would be a good experience to make them more well-rounded humans,” she said. “I now have three young adults and they still are committed to recognizing suffering. And seeing a situation where they can alleviate suffering.”

The name of the shelter comes from a foster kitten named Eva who sadly, passed away.

“From that terrible story, we wanted to do something positive,” Walker said. “That was our mission — to create a place where there would be joy and light and hope for cats that are from a situation where there wouldn’t be any of that.”