(ANIMAL SHELTERS) Although most shelters work hard to help animals, there’s no denying that a steel cage isn’t the preferred place for a dog or cat to live. That’s why Toronto Humane Society decided to open a rooftop garden with catnip for cats and dogs to play. This ingenious idea not only gives the animals a breather from the cold and clinical shelter environment, but also provides them with much-needed exercise and human interaction, as they are overseen by volunteers. Read on to find out more about this great, innovative idea. — Global Animal
Kitty garden. Photo credit: Environics
Kitties having fun in their new garden. Photo credit: Environics

Toronto Humane Society, Valerie Hauch

There is something cuter than a basket of kittens.

That would be a container garden area dotted with kittens – some of the 50 currently available for adoption at the Toronto Humane Society – pouncing on live catnip, chasing each other and investigating bugs unlucky enough to alight on plants.

That was the scene Thursday afternoon as volunteers put the finishing touches on a renovated rooftop patio and animal-friendly garden space at the Humane Society’s River St. headquarters.

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Happy kitty explores his new playground. Photo credit: huffingtonpost.ca

The animal shelter is one of five across the country to benefit from a partnership between Nestlé Purina PetCare Canada and Evergreen, a national charity focused on creating sustainable cities. With a $50,000 budget and help from volunteers, the partnership is doing renovations at each shelter to create a greener, safer and enhanced environment for animals and the people who interact with them.

The Toronto Humane Society had an outdoor rooftop space where volunteers would take cats for exercise. It was wide open with a hard surface floor that would get “very hot” in summer so the cats and volunteers couldn’t stay out long, said Barbara Steinhoff, THS executive director.

“We’re really excited that the animals and volunteers will have this wonderful green space to enjoy.”

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Kitty plays with a plant. Photo credit: huffingtonpost.ca

Now the 2,300-square-foot space is an oasis that cats, dogs, rabbits and hamsters will be able to explore (not necessarily at the same time), sniffing at greenery and animal-friendly plants, and taking refuge in the shade. The smaller ones will even be able to walk around in some of the 15 containers.

Fast-growing native trees and shrubs, like alternate leaf dogwood, redbud and serviceberry, will provide a shaded canopy for part of the space, said J.R. Leo, Evergreen project manager.

At one end, a pergola was under construction Thursday, with planters to support a native grape that will attach itself and provide shade.

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The dogs get to play as well. Photo credit: huffingtonpost.ca

There are also containers for growing greens for the rabbits and guinea pigs.

“We’ll have our own fresh supply,” said Steinhoff.

There will also be loads of other green edibles that cats, in particular, like to nibble on: fresh catnip, peppermint, various herbs, wheat grass, kale, carrots, even strawberries.

Volunteers who work with the animals will be welcome to garden and enjoy some of the produce.

More Humane Society: http://www.torontohumanesociety.com/news_events.htm?newsstories/jun14_2013_1.htm

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