Famous faces join celebrations as state-of-the-art cat centre officially reopens 

News Desk
Authored by News Desk
Posted Sunday, June 9, 2024 - 11:44pm

Celebrations have taken place in honour of Devon’s state-of-the-art centre for cat rehoming and welfare with famous faces visiting the site to mark its reopening. 

Michelin-starred local chef Michael Caines MBE visited the Cats Protection Devon Cat Centre for a private tour with his partner and daughter before broadcaster Judi Spiers cut the ribbon to declare the centre officially open. 

Michael toured the 65-pen site with partner Pippa and daughter Isabeau before the opening event and took time to find out about the centre’s work with homeless cats from manager Mark Magee. They met the cats awaiting homes, including Mowgli who has been receiving care for a skin complaint in anticipation of finding a new home in the coming weeks.   

The family donated a meal with wine at Michael’s luxury five-star country house hotel, Lympstone Manor, which will be used for fundraising during a raffle this summer. The centre will also become a Charity of Choice for Lympstone Manor in 2025 which allows Michael and his teams to support charities through fundraising events and discretionary charity donations via restaurant bills.

Michael said: “It was surprising to hear about the level of vet treatment that lots of the cats need when they arrive at Cats Protection. It was great to meet the cats because we have two ourselves, Candy and Floss, but it was seeing behind the scenes which really gave us an insight into how the centre works and the care that’s taken to make sure the cats are cared for and ready in every way to go to new homes.”  

Although the new centre has been rehoming cats since its unofficial opening in January, which allowed time for staff and cats to become fully settled in the premises, it opened its doors last week to the donors, trustees, contractors, volunteers and staff who had made the rebuild possible and continued to support local cats throughout the build process.

Judi led the celebrations with laughter and anecdotes about her experience of working with animals while at the BBC before cutting the ceremonial ribbon. She said: “This is so different from what was here before. It was a rustic affair, very local and very small but this is breathtaking – I’d have worn a hat if I’d known it would be this grand! 

“If you have a look at some of the cats here and read their stories, some of them are tragic but it’s wonderful that they have found their sanctuary here and thankfully they’ll be found homes. I’m so glad we’ve got this in Devon, so often we’re at the end of the chain down here but we’ve got this for our cats and it gives me great pleasure that it’s officially open.” 

The centre was predominantly funded by a bequest in the Will of former Cats Protection Chairman, Philip Wood, legacies from Cats Protection Exeter and East Devon as well as a donation from Petplan Charitable Trust. Philip was present at the opening ceremony of the previous centre in 1988 and the new centre features an enrichment garden in his memory. 


The new centre was designed to provide and promote cat care excellence in the area. It allows Cats Protection to care for even more cats in addition to providing cat welfare information and ongoing support for local cats, with the capacity to home around 800 cats each year from the site.

The garden and its water feature, provide stimulation for the cats, who are able to see nature and wildlife from their pens. It also creates a restful, natural area in the grounds where people can spend time away from the hustle and bustle of the centre.

Catherine Hodson, Cats Protection Head of Construction, added: “The previous centre was one of the charity’s oldest and no longer met our minimum welfare standards for the cats or the people who care for them. Work therefore began on the new centre in June 2021 with our brilliant architects Bowker-Sadler taking inspiration from local historical architectural forms, including a Linhay, an open-fronted stone building which has a slate roof and expressed columns, for the main building. 

“PaveAways our construction team then sourced materials such as Devon Stone to echo the historic building traditions of the region. We’re extremely proud that Devon Cat Centre marks a new kind of centre for Cats Protection. We were able to bring together all the best features from our other centres and create the remarkable site we have today. It’s a privilege to be shaping cat care not only locally but across the UK.”

In recognition of the dedication and resilience required to maintain the quality and momentum of the project over the extended build period, Catherine nominated the centre’s clerk of works Eric Doel to The Institute of Clerks of Works and Construction Inspectorate and he was named winner of a Building on Quality Award at the beginning of May. 

To find more out about the centre visit www.cats.org.uk/axhayes

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