Animal Shelter make-over sneak peek

When Brian and I were 26 years old we wanted a dog, REALLY bad. I would molest every single adorable dog on the street, but we lived in a 250 square foot studio apartment and worked 60 hours a week so it wasn’t really in the cards. There is something about living in New York that makes you crave nature/innocence or something. I even walked dogs as a job for a year when I was 22 in Manhattan. I was one of those people who had like 5 dogs on leashes, looking like they were being drug around the town all day picking up poop, at the whim of these animals, but secretly loving it.

emily Henderson bearcat

So we actively tried to appropriate our love of dogs onto cats and it totally worked.

Neither of us had really owned cats (we had some growing up but they were indoor/outdoor so not really around). We went on Craigslist and found these two tiny kittens to rescue from the projects in the Bronx. Of course we thought we were rescuing street kittens; stray cats abandoned in a dumpster. But when we got there it wasn’t quite the case as we realized (slowly) that they were in fact people who found cats, mated them and sold their litters. Once we realized what was happening it seemed like even though it wasn’t a traditional rescue situation, these cats still needed to be saved and needed good homes.

We actually only intended on getting one, Mimi who was the most beautiful of the litter, but then Bearcat started meowing and kinda bit me in a sassy way. They were 1 week old when we first met them and 3 weeks old when they insisted that we take them off their hands – which was way too early and when we knew that these people were bozos.

Brian and I both knew we should get two cats and thank god we did. And we didn’t call the ASPCA on them because well, clearly they were desperate/pathetic people whose lives we didn’t want to ruin even more, but we did tell them that we called the ASPCA and that they were going to be doing random checks at their address. Maybe we should have actually turned them in but they had our personal info so, you know, threatening seemed a lot less terrifying. Hopefully that worked.

bearcat kitten

Anyway, cut to 8 years later and we still have these two hilarious cats that we love so much, Bearcat and Mimi. Bearcat is the friendliest, most full-of-love cat you’ll ever meet. You only have to meet her for a couple of seconds and she will rub her face on yours and snuggle into your armpit. Mimi, or more properly, ‘General Meow’, has quite the attitude, independence, and sass, indeed, but she loves us, (Brian at least). As far as whether we are cat people the answer is ‘absolutely’, but we are also dog people and there are many of us out there – people who just love both animals for how quirky/dumb/happy/lovable/smart/clever/friendly they all are. Animals are awesome; cat or dog.


So when Arm and Hammer approached me to makeover a cat shelter in New York the answer was ‘absolutely’, without hesitation. It sounded like an interesting design challenge, and for a good cause (the shelter got a free makeover by Arm and Hammer and free Clump & Seal litter to help keep it smelling super fresh). If it will draw more people to the shelter and adopt out more sweet kitties then that seemed like not a job to turn down. Not to mention create a happier work environment for the vets/Volunteers that work there and a happier life for the kitties themselves until they find their new home.

So here are some pics of the space before construction started. I had about an hour to see it for myself a month ago, but otherwise I’ve had Isabella Patrick, a wonderful friend and designer, helping project manage it.


cattery before

If any of you are interested in seeing the ‘after’ in person, and interested in hanging out with me (and Charlie if he up for it) after the press event on thursday come on down to Animal Haven, 251 Centre Street, in Soho, this thursday from 6-7pm.

Here’s a sneak peek of what is happening, but it doesn’t show all of it, including  an installation by visual artist Kathryn Godwyn.


Don’t let me sit there alone, staring out the window, batting around a feather and occasionally licking myself. What am I saying?!!! I’ll be in there playing with them kitties, sticking their fur in my face and asking them if them if its true that someday their planet will take over ours. But come by and interrupt me and see the space.

Besides, Charlie doesn’t know it but he’s a cat/animal person, too, so he’ll be there pulling some tails.


This thursday, May 15th. 6-7pm, Animal Haven, 251 Centre Street (at Grand) in New York City.

So quick poll friends: ‘Cat person’, ‘Dog person’ or both (or neither)?

  1. Rachel

    cats. all the way

  2. That cat wallpaper is just too perfect. And what an amazing job- fun and beneficiary for the shelter! What a dream <3

  3. Susan

    Both! But I have to admit that as much as I love our kitty, my relationship with the puppers is on a whole ‘nother level.

  4. Kathleen

    Dogs…but I have to be honest and say I have never owned a cat so maybe
    I do not know what I am missing!

  5. Joann

    I love all animals, but cats RULE! And so do you for doing this project! It makes me so happy. What a fantastic idea. Thank you for helping the shelter, both the animals and the hard working humans that run them!

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  7. Crystal

    LOVE this and it looks like a cool space to start with. We’re cat people but we do have chickens now too! and really we love all animals just not the time for a dog.

  8. Sonja


  9. What a fun project!
    I love hearing the story of how you came to adopt your cats. We were looking for quite some time and came across a really sketchy ‘business’ of breeding cats, we decided against adopting one of the cats because of possible diseases. I wanted to call SPCA on them, but my husband said don’t bother.
    We ended up with our sweet girl Stella a few weeks later from a cat rescue organization which was the best choice we could have made.
    Have fun at the press event with Charlie.

  10. BOTH :) and I can’t wait to see the after :)

  11. Cortney D

    Both. We’ve got a rescue dog and two stray kitties that are now running the joint. I love that you took on this project and I can’t wait to see the results!

  12. Abby

    We have a rotten fluffy dog that is too big for his britches and thus likes to bark at cats. I would love to have a cat, but we’re terrified the dog would eat him!

  13. Deb

    What a great project, Emily; love that wallpaper and am a cat person all the way. Seeing Bearcat and Mimi (and that cat sitting in his hammock!) makes me want to get a couple of kittens; this is the first time in my life I have no cats, as our last kitty (who was 18) had to be put to sleep a couple of months ago. Now you’ve got me thinking…….

  14. Ardis

    Dogs for sure. Cats are way to unpredictable for me and their dander gives me asthma. I’ll stop by to meet you and Charlie for a hot minute though. :)

  15. Erica

    I used to volunteer at Animal Haven and I adopted my dog there. Maybe I will stop by!

  16. Nikki

    Cat owner, dog freindly & all around animal lover! On mothers day I helped my 11yo daughter set up a cookie sale in our bklyn res building. She raised $100 in 2 hrs to donate to ASPCA!

  17. Courtney H

    Cats!!! I do love all animals, and have cats and dogs as pets… but, cats are sooo much easier to take care of, they take up less room and are cleaner, they do not need to be let outside to go potty, and they are perfect lap cuddle buddies. Dogs can be sweet, but are just soooo much more work, messier, and louder. Cats rule! Dogs drool. ;)

  18. Patti Z

    Always had both growing up but then developed an alergy to cats so now it’s just dogs for me. Woudn’t want to live without a dog in the house! Can’t come to the opening so waiting to see the after – looks like it will be amazing! What a fun project.

  19. Karla

    I dearly love all creatures great and small (except for certain creepy crawly insects) but for the last 10 years I’ve been known among my friends as the ‘crazy cat lady’. I currently have 5, all rescues, with my oldest being 15 (have had him since he was a kitten) and our newest addition is just 6 weeks old (have had her for three weeks so we’ve been busy weaning and dealing with vet stuff as she came with parasites and a nasty eye infection). I can’t wait to see how you’ve redone this space as I’m always looking for ways to make out home attractive and cat friendly. :)

  20. sarah

    omg, emily, this post made me feel ALL OF THE FEELINGS. i’m a hardcore cat lady, and a huge fan of yours, and i just so happen to work a few blocks away from that shelter. so excited to meet you and revel in the cat lady-ness of thursday night’s event.

  21. Heather B.


  22. Bailey

    Dogs, but my bro has the most ridiculous hairless cat who i pretend to be annoyed by, but secretly kind of like’)

  23. That wallpaper is amazing! I’m a dog person, though technically I’m an animal person. My canine BFF passed away 6 months ago after a perfect 13 years together, but I do have a cat, who I adopted over 3 years ago. My cat does tend to think he’s a dog though!

  24. This sounds fab! I’d love to see it in person if I was even remotely close- but hopefully you’ll post pictures later! Great work Emily!! Xo, S

  25. CAT

    I need that domed cat house! Do you have any info on it???

  26. Lori

    The picture of Bearcat with Brian kills me. “Get away, mom! This is my time!”

  27. Erin

    Both! And the space looks amazing. I am so going to find a way to get that cat wallpaper into my house! :)

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  29. Robyn

    Both!!! We were always firmly in the cat corner and have three feline overlords. But a lovely lady who lived down the street from my husband when he was growing up put out a call for someone to take her 10 year old chihuahua. She was heading into a nursing home and couldn’t take her dog. We just couldn’t let that little dog go to a shelter. She would never have made it out. :(

    That little dog has turned our lives upside down. She is the sweetest little bundle of love and we can’t imagine not having her in our lives. She rules the house, rules the cats, rules the universe. And we’ll never be without a dog now. We’ve decided we’ll always adopt senior dogs….because they’re awesome. :)

  30. Haley

    I was a cat person growing up because that’s what we had, but deep down I always knew I was a dog person. Can’t wait to see what you do with this space.

  31. Meri

    This is such a cool project. I’m an enormous animal person and currently obsessed with my 2 year old cocker spaniel (who’s name is Charlie, incidentally!). I totally get how animals help soften a city (literally and figuratively) and make things generally more earthy and happy. I’ve heard about “cat cafes” opening up in major cities as well -maybe that could be another project for you.

  32. Kim

    Enjoy controversial issues, don’t you?? Dogs v. cats is a chart topper regarding strong opinions. We have two rescue dogs and we love the little boogers. We did have cats when I was young, but I’m very allergic plus cats have cool attitudes, and as I deal with that all day, I want a little unconditional happy love when I get home! Big kudos to Arm and Hammer for sponsoring this project. It’s a wonderful way to find homes for these fur balls of love and to bring awareness of this issue. Looking forward to the reveal.

  33. Raven

    Cat! My two girls are like my children, it’s sort of pathetic. I turned my dining room into a room for them, complete with a giant cat tree (actually found a non-ugly one) so they can gaze out the window and look for birds and bunnies while I’m at work all day.
    I bet you made that space awesome! Can’t wait to see the after pictures! Loved the Mimi/Bearcat story.

  34. Dana

    Love that you did this! I volunteer with a cat rescue in Michigan so I know how appreciative those volunteers and employees must be! And the kitties too, naturally.

  35. Suz

    Love dogs the best, but cats are a close second…

  36. Victoria

    What a neat project to do Emily. I’d be there in a NY minute if I didn’t live on the other side of the country in Long Beach CA which I have decided is dog town (I’m sure the cats are indoors looking out like mine.)but seeing every size and look of dogs sitting by their owners at the sidewalk cafes, being walked and playing at the park is such a treat to see. Living in an apartment I see a dog in the future when I’m retired for now I have two cats I do adore. (I’d like an indoor litter box trained rabbit too but even I realize that could be a little much.)
    I think it was a great idea to rescue two litter mates at once. I rescued Paddington at 1 1/2 thinking my Miss M at 2 1/2 would be the dominate one for a day then they would get along. Misjudged that in so many areas until 5 years later a move to a new apartment and now they are tolerating each other.
    Do hope you’ll do a post with lots of images of the Animal Haven make over. Shout out to Arm and Hammer.

  37. I’m a dog person because I’m allergic to cats. It’s a sad life. How cool of you to do this makeover! I wish I had a cat so I could have that wallpaper somewhere in my house.

  38. what a great project- and such a good cause! We have 3 cats and a dog- all rescued or acquired from people who shouldn’t have had them and didn’t want them any more :)

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  40. Carrie

    Totally a cat person but I like dogs too, just not into the extra work that comes with a dog. Cats take care of themselves for the most part.

  41. Robin

    I was always a dog person and for a couple of years we had three dogs. Then a stray cat had kittens in my sister’s yard last year and my husband let me adopt one of them. (PetSmart Charities helped me find homes for the rest of them). Not only do I love this cat like crazy (Ollie is smart, sassy, lovable, snuggly, adorable.. etc etc) but I actually discovered that while my husband tolerated the dogs he was actually a secret cat lover! It’s kind of amazing to see the love he has for that cat.

  42. melissa

    this is awesome. if i lived in nyc i’d be there in a second! so cute. kitties are the best. my husband and i have two cats that were our first kids too. now we have a baby, who we call the third kitty :)

  43. Kristin

    What a wonderful project! There are so many great organizations that work hard to help animals, and they often do it with minimal resources. I only wish more animal shelters could get this kind of special treatment.

    Slightly off topic, but does anyone know the source of the pink/yellow/blue/etc striped pillow in the second set of pictures? I just love it!

  44. Sam

    What a great project! I like cats, but I love dogs. We have two dogs: a blue heeler and a yellow lab. We don’t have kids, so they are definitely my babies and I treat them as such. This is really making me want to go home and snuggle with my pups!

  45. AndreaU

    Dog, but really I LOVE turtles.

  46. Michelle C

    I love both! Charlie needs a sweet Pibble to lay on!

  47. Erica

    DEFINITELY a dog person, but I will be cat-sitting 3 cats in August so maybe that will change things. One of them is named Mr.Darcy!

  48. erin

    Well — I’m definitely a cat person. I generally love ALL cats. I get all AWHEEEE when i go to my parents, or friends, or whoever’s house and they have cats.

    dogs — i do like dogs, but i’m picky. I only like particular dogs! I dont particularly like those damn toy dogs. we’re working on adopting a dog soon!

  49. Haley

    This hits especially close to home since I lost my kitty last week (a rescue)- she had a good and long life, thanks to all the volunteers out there (like you), who contribute their time, care, and money to giving them good homes (in your case literally!). I bet it’ll look crazy amazing, please post photos after the event? I would just love to see what you did with the space!

  50. Darcy

    What a great project! I love that you wrote about how both dogs and cats are great. We have a cat and people are often so quick to say, “Oh, I hate cats.” WHAT? If you said that about their dog, they wouldn’t speak to you again. Anyway… love this post.

  51. Lisa

    This posting makes me love you and this blog even more! My husband and I grew up with dogs, but when our old apartment wouldn’t allow them (and neither would our happy hour lifestyle), we adopted two cats. We are obsessed with our cats, but love dogs just as much. Your donation of time to an animal shelter is AWESOME, and we thank you!

  52. Beth C

    Both! We have three dogs and a cat (at the moment–that could change at any time ;-), all rescued from the streets. Thanks for sharing this wonderful project.

  53. Leigh

    Both! I grew up with both. People always laugh because I’m the person at the party that finds the animals and hangs out with them instead of the people. I’ve even had a couple guys ask me out on dates because their dogs and I get along so well. I have a cat now only because I’m so young and love to travel. I can’t just leave a dog like I can my cat. I’m sure once I settle down with a guy, I’ll get a dog.

  54. tammyCA

    Sounds like a cool project. I grew up with lots of cats & dogs together. My kid is cat crazy, says she wants 50 when she is a grown-up, but my husband hates cats. We have 2 big dogs, one is very old, deaf & senile and the other is 2 and soon to go on prozac..a nice dog but the strangest anxiety-ridden dog we have ever rescued (why does this dog have to go out to go potty at 3 am every night? – I’m exhausted.)

  55. Melissa

    I’m neither a cat or dog person! I know, weird. But I wanted to comment to say that I love your blog Emily and know you didn’t mean it that way, but when you say that you rescued the kittens “from the projects in the Bronx” it sounds as if the Bronx is composed of just projects where bad stuff happens! It’s not (I live there) and it actually has some very nice parts, along with the not so nice ones that everyone thinks of. In fact, all five boroughs have TONS of projects where not very nice things, like breeding kittens for sale, happen.

  56. Jill

    Dogs all the way for me! Although I’m not a fan of cats (I have major allergies), I love that you did this. It’s always a good cause to help animals, especially those in need of rescue. We rescued an English Bulldog about 4 years ago and she is the love of our lives.

  57. Jessica

    Both! I always considered myself a dog person (and I still do) but once my family got a cat, he proceeded to turn me into a cat person too.

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  59. Amy Elizabeth

    I love both, and have had both, but my question is this: HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOUR FURNITURE?!?!?!?

    The dog/cat fur shedding, my black clothes covered in dog hair as i leave the house, the cat clawing your favorite chair… Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE animals and have so far chosen their wonderful presence in my life over these issues, but I thought maybe you have some amazing advice to share?

  60. Yoshiko Yeto

    I have a tiny dachshund mix and a large, imposing Cornish Rex cat. I love the difference in their personalities. My dog is just so full of love and moxie! My cat is a grumpy complainer with a heart of gold; he’s the best cuddler. Vive la difference!

  61. Michaela J

    I have two cats, but I would say I’m an “animal” person. I love them all. What a great project!

  62. Meagan

    Dogs!!! allergic to most cats, but even if I wasn’t I am still a dog person all the way.

  63. Erin

    Both! Although thanks to his highness aka Smooth Pierre, my poodle Im a fully fledged card carrying dog person. Hats off to you Emily. This is the second time I have commented on your amazing blog. The first when you did Fran’s makeover at Sunrise which was 100 levels of warm and fuzzy all over. Now Im not a religious person but I have to say someone is welcoming you with open arms at the pearly gates for doing something like this that is so kind and generous. Once again you should be very proud and rightly so. I cant wait to see the photo’sof the end result if you post them.

  64. Susan M

    Totally both. I have always had cats, and often dogs, and my husband is a dog person who puts up with my cats. I wish I were near NYC so I could drop in and see the After pictures! I’m sure it is wonderful!

  65. Michelle

    Love ’em all — all creatures great and small — but have 5 rescue cats.

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  67. callie

    I’m so happy hearing you did this! Good for you! I know it’s hard for shelters to have to put donations towards their facilities when that money could help so many animals. I am a huge dog lover and adopted a rescue pup a few years ago, but I also volunteered at a cat shelter for a couple years. Thank you, Emily!!!

  68. Suzanne

    Definitely but chose cats many years ago due to space and lifestyle constraints, as you and Brian wisely did. I would love a dog someday but until my life allows me to give one all the space, time and attention one needs, I’ll stick with kitty love. I wish more people thought about the needs of the pet over their own desires before bringing one home, it’s a huge part of responsible pet ownership and would prevent so many homeless pets and overfilled/underfunded shelters. I wish you the best with the press event and reveal; it’s a wonderful thing Arm & Hammer is doing and through osmosis you’re teaching Charlie about kindness to animals in the process. Congrats!

  69. Suzanne

    That was supposed to start “Definitely BOTH, but chose cats….”

  70. alex

    Dog only! Cats freak me out with their independent streak and lack of affection, I say that from my own personal experience. Grew up with golden retrievers and couldn’t imagine not having one in the future – terrible work hours and a small house.

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  73. I seriously can’t wait to see it! My husband keeps telling me he wants to build a cat chalet, an outside house for the cats to play in so they don’t really go outside. And both. Or pretty much any animal. I’m a softie :-)

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  87. Antonella

    Great project! Photos please! I love all animals: they are such sweet loving creatures

  88. Oh I love you so much. This post was awesome. I grew up with dogs. Crazy animal loving family and then I lived in an apartment just like you and we ended up with 2 cats, now have 4. I’m kinda known as the crazy German cat lady and even built them an outdoor tunnel enclosure system which you can see on my blog, but anyways…I think it’s so cool that you are redoing the shelter.
    Love cats and dogs. I always say dogs are like toddlers (needy, loving and you have to watch them all the time) and cats are the annoyed teenagers, don’t hug or kiss me but still need their loving family to take care of them because they don’t really want to live on their own just yet.
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  93. Almost four in ten American couples now believe that marriage is becoming obsolete, according to a new survey published yesterday. More than ever before, people in the US are coming to believe that wedding bells aren’t necessary for a happy family. With US census figures revealing that marriages for adults eighteen and over were at an all-time low of 52 per cent, an increasing number of children are growing up out of wedlock. The Pew Research Centre poll, carried out with Time magazine, showed that nearly one in three American children are now living with a parent who is divorced, separated or never married. That’s a five-fold increase from 1960. Broken down further, about 15 per cent have parents who are divorced or separated and 14 per cent who were never married. Within those two groups, a sizable chunk – 6 per cent – have parents who are live-in couples who opted to raise kids together without getting hitched. The 39 per cent of Americans who now think marriage is on the way out is a significant increase from 1978, when just 28 per cent felt that way. When asked what constitutes a family, the vast majority of Americans agree that a married couple, with or without children, fits that description. But four of five surveyed pointed also to an unmarried, opposite-sex couple with children or a single parent. Three of five people said a same-sex couple with children was a family. ‘Marriage is still very important in this country, but it doesn’t dominate family life like it used to,’ said Andrew Cherlin, a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University. The changing views of family are being driven largely by young adults 18-29, who are more likely than older generations to have an unmarried or divorced parent or have friends who do. But economic factors, too, are playing a role. It was a sharp one-year increase that analysts largely attributed to people unwilling to make long-term marriage commitments in the face of persistent unemployment. Still, the study indicates that marriage isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. Despite a growing view that marriage may not be necessary, 67 per cent of Americans were upbeat about the future of marriage and family.A succession of beautiful scenery makes one feel delighted. A long stay in the same surroundings to make everything the same. Routine work often makes one feel bored But if you take a trip or a long journey on your holidays to some scenic spots or historic sites, that will make great difference.

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  113. LOGAN, Utah These Lobos are road warriorsPlaying their second consecutive game without 7 foot center Alex Kirk, the University of New Mexico got 22 points from Cameron Bairstow, hit eight 3 pointers and improved to 5 0 on the road in Mountain West play with a relatively comfortable 78 65 win over Utah State at the Dee Glenn Smith Spectruma credit to our guys, UNM head coach Craig Neal said of his team impressive road start to the season. playing without the best center in the league a guy that gives you 14 and 10 and our guys have just really stayed focused. We getting great bench play. The guys are playing at a high level. is the first time UNM (16 4, 7 1 MWC) has started 5 0 on the road in the Mountain West and ties the best conference road start ever in the program, matching the 5 0 start of the 1978 Lobos playing in the Western Athletic Conference. The win also keeps the Lobos in sole possession of second place, a half game behind San Diego State as well as guaranteeing UNM will have back to back winning records on the road in league play (the Lobos were the only MWC team with a winning road record in league games in 2013)going to the road warrior kind of theme, senior guard Kendall Williams said after his 16 point, three assists, three steal game. a great group, chemistry wise. I think that helps us on the road when we come into environments like this. truth is, the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Tuesday night was a far cry from the raucous environment it was Saturday night when the Aggies took No. 5 San Diego State (then ranked No. 7) to overtime with more than 10,127 in attendance. On Tuesday, the Lobos took the generously announced crowd of 9,751 out of the game early with a double digit lead in the first half. The Hurd, the USU student section, was still very involved, but there wasn much help from the rest of the arena”It’s obvious that they’re a really good basketball team, Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. pretty much dominated both halves. They’re hard to guard and have a couple premiere players. They didn’t even have their normal starter at the five. I just thought they were really good. We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole in the first half. We didn’t guard ball screens very well. New Mexico is a borderline Top 25 team right now.”

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