Cat charity unveils plans for pioneering new UK-first adoption centre

Plans for Cats Protection’s trailblazing adoption centre in Exeter have been revealed and given the green light to proceed this summer, featuring pioneering facilities for cats, staff and visitors, including an enrichment garden.

The first building works, which will see a new adoption centre replace the feline welfare charity’s existing Exeter Axhayes Adoption Centre at Clyst Honiton, are scheduled to begin by mid-June. 

Stockport architects Bowker-Sadler have designed a bespoke centre on the current site, taking inspiration from historical local architectural forms including a Linhay or open-fronted stone building with a slate roof and expressed columns, for the main adoption centre building.

The new centre will be built by Shropshire-based construction company, Pave Aways, following its successful completion of the charity’s Wrexham rehoming centre in 2019. The firm will utilise sub-contractors and suppliers from Exeter and the surrounding area wherever possible. 

The Exeter centre will be the first of its kind within Cats Protection to incorporate the latest learnings and best design features from previous centre-builds. It will provide the most progressive and comprehensive set of facilities within the charity’s portfolio of 37 centres nationwide and represents a pioneering approach which will successfully meet the needs of cats, staff, volunteers and visitors alike. 

When it opens in 2022, the centre will be a vital source of ongoing cat adoption assistance, emergency support and feline welfare information for the county.

The new premises will have 65 pens for day to day care as well as 16 maternity and isolation pens, giving additional capacity as needed. The 81 pens will provide temporary accommodation for around 750 cats who come through the centre’s doors each year. As a result of increased footfall and the improved adopter experience at the centre, it is expected that cats will be spending less time in care and will be able to move swiftly to their new homes.

Volunteers and staff will benefit from improved working areas while visitors and potential adopters will be able to take advantage of better accessibility and more parking, creating an enhanced experience for cats, potential adopters, volunteers and staff.

The build has been made possible thanks to a bequest from the charity’s ex-Chairman Philip Wood, in whose memory the enrichment garden will be created, as well as legacies from the charity’s Exeter and East Devon Branches and a donation from PetPlan Charitable Trust.

The enrichment garden will provide stimulation for the cats, who will be able to see nature and wildlife from their pens.  It will also create a restful natural area in the grounds where volunteers and staff may spend time away from the hustle and bustle of the centre.

As the build is finalised there will be more opportunities for people from across the local community to join the existing team of cat-loving volunteers in roles ranging from those involving hands-on cat care to others behind the scenes in a more office-based or physical support capacity.

Centre manager Mark Magee says: “This is an extremely exciting time for us. The rebuild has been planned for a long time and it is truly wonderful to have reached this first milestone. We are especially grateful for the legacies and donations which have made it possible and we are looking forward to honouring each of our kind donors whose generosity will have a lasting impact on cat welfare in Devon.

“The new centre will make a huge difference to cats, volunteers, staff and adopters alike.  From the moment a cat arrives in care to the moment they go home, our state-of-the-art centre will provide the best possible experience for all involved.  We’re thrilled that ours has been chosen to be the first example of a new kind of Cats Protection centre, uniting all the very best aspects of centres built to this point, shaping cat care not only locally but across the UK.”  

Exeter Axhayes Adoption Centre will close during construction and the existing centre’s staff and volunteers have begun a phased reduction in the number of cats at the centre in preparation for the re-build. A set of eight cat pens at The Cats Motel in Exmouth will be dedicated to cats arriving in Cats Protection’s care with a member of management staff based on-site throughout the rebuild. Staff will also be working closely in liaison with the charity’s neighbouring branches as well as the charity’s centres further afield if required. 

Anyone needing assistance with their cat or looking to adopt during the rebuild should still call 01395 232377 or visit - all calls will then be answered or referred to the most appropriate area of the charity to ensure the best outcome for the cats involved.

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