February 5, 2023

Similar to human beings, cats can find themselves in dire straits just as easily, and are in need of assistance.

Fortunately, there are many services in place, most often based on the generosity and good will, and indeed the tenacity of animal lovers, that are there to help cats and other animals, such as sanctuaries, rescues, shelters, and things of this sort.

tabby's place nj

(All pictures courtesy of the Tabby’s Place website)

That said, each of these words – rescue, sanctuary, and shelter – has a different meaning, and so today we are going to try to answer the specific question, “What is a cat sanctuary?”

Tabby’s Place

Luckily, we were able to get a hold of Jonathan Rosenberg, Founder & Executive Director of Tabby’s Place, a cat sanctuary in Ringoes, New Jersey, United States. 

Jonathan is a lifelong lover of cats, and if anyone knows the ins and outs of a cat sanctuary, it’s him!

Here’s a video about Jonathan and Tabby’s Place, so you can have a peek at what goes on there. Pretty amazing stuff!

Please visit the Tabby’s Place website for more information on adoptions, donations, volunteering, cat resources, and more!

Please enjoy our little Q&A with Jonathan Rosenberg about cat sanctuaries, and of course, Tabby’s Place!

Q&A with Jonathan Rosenberg

Jonathan Rosenberg

Q: What exactly is a cat sanctuary, for those who don’t know the difference between a cat sanctuary and a rescue, or a shelter?

There are no agreed-upon definitions for these terms, but here is how we (& many others) use these terms:

– Sanctuary: focus on the mostly unwanted cats, more likely to house cats with special needs, most are “no-kill”, some do not adopt the cats out (we do)

cat rescue

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– A rescue is typically a small organization without a shelter of their own, instead making use of volunteers’ homes

– A shelter is everything else and ranges from municipal shelters (which are contracted by local governments to provide services) to small, private shelters.  A shelter typically has a facility of their own to house cats.

tabby's place 1

Q: When, how, and why did you open your cat sanctuary?

You can read this story here: https://www.tabbysplace.org/about/

Q: What do you think makes for a good cat sanctuary, in terms of space and resources?

If we accept my definition of sanctuary from above, I would say:

– space to keep cats for long periods of time without resorting to cages

– a good disease control protocol (since they are housed communally)

– sufficient resources to deal with medical issues

Q: What is the goal of your cat sanctuary?

“To save cats from hopeless situations.”  We provide a space in which they can live out their lives, if not adopted. They do not have to live in cages.

tabby's place 2

Q: Is yours indoors or outside and why?

Our facility is indoors, except that most cats have access to enclosed “outside” areas. 

These are rooms with a a floor, ceiling, and 3 walls.  The outside “wall” is vinyl-coated chain link fencing.  These is no climate control in these areas. 

We determined it was impractical to maintain proper disease control procedures for areas that were truly outdoors (i.e., sitting on grass).

Q: How many cats do you have?

We can house up to 100 cats.

Q: How many more cats could you take on?

We are always at capacity.

Q: Is there an ideal number of cats you’d want to have there?


Q: How much food do you need to feed them?

See here for some info on food & other consumables: https://www.tabbysplace.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Newsletter-9.2.pdf

Q: What kinds of food do you feed them?

The primary diet is Science Diet dry.  We also feed various kinds of wet food.  A large number of cats here are on prescription diets: diabetic management, sensitive stomach, allergies.

Q: What is required of a cat before it can join your sanctuary, in terms of immunization, other shots, spay or neutering, etc?

There are no medical requirements.  The only requirement is that we have space and have accepted the cat.

Q: Do all the cats get along?

Like most cats 🙂  Most adjust well.  Some require housing with a small number of other cats.  Some require behavioural meds.

tabby's place 3

Q: What happens to cats who don’t get along with the others?

We start with moving them to another area.  If we do not eventually find a suitable area, we start them on behavioural meds.

Q: What is the litter situation like?

We use upwards of 3,000 lbs/month.  All litter is changed every day.

Q: How might a “normal” cat sanctuary compare to say, a big cat sanctuary?

I think you mean domestic versus wild?  I don’t know a lot about wild cat sanctuaries, but it must be very different.  Fewer cats.  No adoptions 🙂  Different housing requirements.

Q: What’s the biggest cat sanctuary you’ve been to?

I have not been to any larger than ours.  I think Best Friends in UT is the largest in this country & maybe the world.

Q: From how far away do cats get dropped off to be in your sanctuary?

People do not “drop off” cats here.  But, we have cats from as far away as Okinawa (Japan), Istanbul (Turkey) & Beirut (Lebanon).

Q: How do you determine if a cat can make it into your sanctuary?

When we have space, we review our outstanding requests, which come from:

– other shelters

– local animal control

– special requests (individuals who are trying to help cats with special needs).  There is no formula.

Q: How do you deal with things like fleas, and other pests?

All incoming cats are treated for external and internal parasites.  Cats are examined monthly for fleas and treated if necessary.

Thanks Jonathan!

And thank you for reading this!

Clearly, every cat sanctuary is going to be different from the next, but Tabby’s Place is a great example of what a cat sanctuary can be, where the motivation behind it is obviously coming from a good place. There needs to be more places like this around the world, don’t you think?

Leave a comment if you’ve been to Tabby’s Place or have any other questions.

Also, check out these videos below!


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