For a quarter century now, the Cat Adoption Team has been one of the biggest and most beloved shelters in the Pacific Northwest. But CAT in Sherwood isn’t just a shelter—it’s also an adoption center with a thrift store, food bank, and on-site veterinarian to care for thousands of felines in need.
CAT adheres to the international standards of the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, meeting all 254 “musts.” The shelter opened on May 1, 1998, with 35 cats for adoption—”in the same building we’re in today!” says Heather Svoboda Miller, the organization’s communications and development manager.
“Originally, situated only on the second floor of the building, CAT has expanded [to] other areas of the building over time,” Miller says. “The shelter now fills about 16,000 square feet and features multiple adoption rooms, a full-service on-site hospital, a foster and admissions area, administrative offices, etc.”
At the time of CAT’s opening, the metro region struggled to keep up with large numbers of unhoused cats. Out in Sherwood, according to Miller, “the organization’s founder purchased the building…for another business on the primary floor, and then used space on the second floor to run a small cat rescue. That ‘small rescue’ has grown over the past 25 years into the professional nonprofit animal shelter that CAT is today.”
CAT could house 219 cats by the end of its first year in operation, then celebrated its 1,000th adoption in 2000. The on-site veterinary hospital opened in 2002, and CAT has steadily continued to improve its quality of care and service, giving each cat more space individually as the facility expanded overall.
By 2019, CAT’s live release rate held at 95%. Miller says all this history has helped the organization form partnerships “with other businesses to house cats for adoption in their locations throughout the Portland metro area.”
A visit to the shelter in early March revealed many empty kennels in its public viewing area. Several of the occupied kennels were marked with signs saying the cats within had been officially adopted, waiting for their new homes.
Others were covered with blue tarps and signs indicating the cats within had just arrived and hadn’t had their full admission exams yet, so they weren’t ready for human interaction. Another room, downstairs, usually contains kittens, but on this day, it was entirely empty and not open to the public.
The facility, however, clearly lives up to its professional standards. Patrons are asked to sanitize after interacting with each cat, with several hand sanitizer dispensers installed throughout the viewing room upstairs and the lobby downstairs. People are also asked to speak quietly so as not to disturb the cats’ sensitive ears.
Some rooms are set aside so a single cat may have uncaged interactions with one or two people at a time. On the day of the visit, one of these rooms featured a large black and white male named Chester. He was quite shy, though very fond of sniffing people’s shoes, as well as the small TV placed on one side of the room. He also tried to paw at people’s hands as if they were balls of yarn.
Asked whether CAT has plans to increase its presence in the metro core, Miller says, “We don’t currently have plans to move or expand…to another brick-and-mortar, but looking five to 10 years into the future…it’s a possibility that depends a lot on any changes in the needs of the organization or the community.”
For now, though, CAT remains 25 years strong in Sherwood, steadily rehousing thousands of cats for lucky new owners.
VISIT: Cat Adoption Team. 14175 SW Galbreath Drive, Sherwood, 503-925-8903, catadoptionteam.org. Noon-6 pm Tuesday-Sunday.