Shelter gives cats a new chance at life

Animals for Life President Sonia LeFrancois holds Gotham at the organization’s shelter at 195 Rubber Ave. in Naugatuck. Gotham, as well as a dozen other cats, are available for adoption at the shelter. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — A large black cat peers through the glass door of his room in a building on Rubber Avenue. The room, although a bit small, is better than the feline’s former living conditions: under a boat dock in Wolcott.

The cat, named Mikey, is one of the many cats Animals for Life, a nonprofit organization, has for adoption at its recently opened shelter at 195 Rubber Ave.

Animals for Life President Sonia LeFrancois said it’s been difficult to find a home for Mikey, who has been up for adoption for 13 months, because he is positive for feline immunodeficiency virus, also known as feline AIDS, and is standoffish due to being at the shelter for so long.

“He definitely needs a special home with no other animals and understanding adults,” LeFrancois said.

Mikey isn’t the only difficult cat the organization has taken in in hopes of finding them a permanent home.

“We do take in many cats that most rescues probably wouldn’t. We take cats that are in harder situations,” LeFrancois said.

These include older and feral cats, and cats that are FIV positive.

Animals for Life was founded in 1996 and operated a shelter in Middlebury for many years, LeFrancois said. In 2012, the organization closed the shelter in Middlebury and moved to foster-based care, relying solely on people to foster the animals.

Last year, LeFrancois, a Naugatuck resident, said the organization set its sights on opening a shelter again. Animals for Life found its new home on Rubber Avenue last June.

“We were looking around and looking at different locations and seeing what was available, and we were able to find this. I live in Naugatuck, so it makes it a little easier,” LeFrancois said. “We wanted something that was a more central location, so this was the best way to go.”

The building wasn’t move-in ready, however. It was just one room with no way to keep the cats separated, LeFrancois said. Thanks to the help of volunteers the building now has four separate rooms for cats as well as a number of large cages.

LeFrancois said the shelter has been busy since opening its doors.

“Rubber Avenue is great. We have a lot of people coming by and it is a great location,” LeFrancois said. “In the last month we have been getting a lot of walk-in people that come in and see the animals, which is leading to many adoptions.”

LeFrancois said the organization, which usually has about 30 cats, currently has less than 20. Of those, approximately 15 are at the shelter.

“We still need to get out there. We still need to show people that we are still around,” LeFrancois said.

LeFrancois said if things continue to go well, the organization may be able to expand the shelter. Currently, the storefront next to the shelter is unoccupied and the organization could rent it as well, she said.

“We are hoping and praying that we do that well in Naugatuck that we can do that. Then we can take in so many more animals,” LeFrancois said.

In the meantime, Animals for Life is relying on foster homes to care for the animals that aren’t at the shelter and in need of more. Anyone who wants to foster or adopt a cat can visit for more information.

However, someone who wants to adopt a cat should not expect to walk out of the shelter with a cat in one day. The organization does veterinarian and home checks of all potential adopters to ensure the cats are going to the right home, LeFrancois said.

“We do our best to find the best possible homes for the animals,” LeFrancois said.