There’s never been a better time to be a rescued cat in Evanston. 

Saturday, May 13 is opening day for the first dedicated cat adoption center operated by nonprofit Paws and Claws Cat Rescue, formerly Paws and Claws Chicago Rescue. The opening comes just months after the Evanston Animal Shelter opened a temporary center exclusively for kittens and cats, with another shelter for dogs in the works.

The newly renovated Paws and Claws space at 829 Chicago Ave. offers 2,000 square feet of feline rescue resources including a surgical suite, recovery room, isolation room, four rooms for adoptable cats (including one for skittish and senior cats), offices, laundry facilities and plenty of storage for cat food and supplies.  

Twins Natalie and Eli Moraldo, two Rescue Readers, celebrated their 9th birthday with Felix (hiding) and Xelif at the Evanston Animal Shelter. Photo credit: Wendi Kromash

Ashlynn Boyce, 21, executive director of Paws and Claws Cat Rescue, founded the organization with her family in May 2020. Since then, the operation has saved more than 1,100 cats through its network of 120 foster families and more than 500 adoptive families.

The new space will allow the nonprofit to triple the number of cats and kittens they can save each year, according to Boyce.

Cat shelves in one of the four “adoptable” rooms at the new Claws and Paws Cat Rescue adoption center. Photo credit: Ashlynn Boyce Credit: Ashlynn Boyce

Although cats and dogs enter U.S. shelters at the same rate, cats are twice as likely to be euthanized. In 2021, the most recent year reported, more than 5,700 dogs and cats were euthanized in Illinois, according to Best Friends, a leading U.S. animal rescue organization.

Boyce envisions big plans for the space, located in the heart of the Main-Dempster Mile business district. Movie nights, crochet get-togethers and hosting children’s birthday parties are all under consideration, she said.

And last November, just a few blocks south of Paws and Claws’ site, the Evanston Animal Shelter opened its own temporary cat and kitten shelter at 611 South Boulevard. 

The new location, with room for 35 cats, is exceedingly spacious, homey and quiet, allowing volunteers and potential adopters to interact with the felines in a relaxed atmosphere.

“The cats are happier, too,” said Vicky Pasenko, executive director of the Evanston Animal Shelter, adding that space was much tighter in the shelter building at 2310 Oakton St.

“Before, the cats were all crammed together. The cats could hear one another, but they couldn’t see each other. The dogs were in a different area, but the cats heard barking constantly. It was stressful,” Pasenko said. “Here, the cats are in one of three rooms. They can hear and see one another. We let them out and they can play together. They aren’t freaked out. Happier cats get adopted faster, no doubt.”

And not to be forgotten, the Evanston Animal Shelter dogs are scheduled to move to their temporary home the weekend of May 19, said Pasenko. They won’t have to travel far, just next door to a reconfigured space in the old recycling center. Pasenko expects the relocation to last about a year until the current shelter is rebuilt and ready for its new occupants.

Eli and Natalie have an attentive audience. Photo credit: Lissa Moraldo

On a visit to the shelter this past Saturday, the RoundTable observed some children participating in its Rescue Reading program. In half-hour sessions, children can improve their reading aloud skills and, together with their parents or guardians, help cats socialize.

Vicky Pasenko in front of renderings and the approved new design for the Evanston Animal Shelter. Credit: Wendi Kromash
Ashlynn Boyce shows one of the handmade cat blankets (sewn by Sophie Lisowski) that will be available for sale. Credit: Wendi Kromash

Despite an overlap between their organizations, Boyce and Pasenko say they aren’t competitors: There are plenty of cats and kittens in need of rescue.

Pasenko also noted that in almost all cases, most rescued animals are able to move beyond whatever situation caused them to go into the shelter system. Not only can they learn to trust, she said, “but they teach us resilience.”

Wendi Kromash

Wendi Kromash is curious about everything and will write about anything. She tends to focus on one-on-one interviews with community leaders, recaps and reviews of cultural events, feature stories about...

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