A retirement home for cats in Laguna Canyon now has room for more felines thanks to a Laguna Woods resident's generous donation.
The Blue Bell Foundation for Cats, at 20982 Laguna Canyon Road, held a grand opening for the renovation of its lower building, called the Anderson-Wentzel house, on June 24. The house is named for Richard Anderson, who footed $90,000 of the $100,000 renovation cost, and his partner, Alex Wentzel, who died in 2011, according to foundation chairwoman Susan Hamil.
The lower house has 12 cats but can handle 35, and is reserved for special-needs animals, such as those with diabetes, failing kidneys, vision loss and hyperthyroidism, Hamil said.
That building was destroyed in a 2010 rainstorm, and renovation began on it in January 2012, according to the foundation's website.
The redone one-story, 800-square-foot facility has new heating and insulation systems, screen doors that replaced former partitions — which were made of wood and chicken wire — and double-pane windows, Hamil said.
Cats live in a well-ventilated environment with beds and blankets to sleep on and can roam around at their leisure, peering outside at the trees and vegetation.
Oldies and classic rock play on a radio inside the building, renovated with a new non-porous epoxy-like floor.
Blue Bell, which sits on two acres and also includes a nearly 100-year-old house that serves as living quarters for cats, is geared toward felines at least 10 years old, many of whom have outlived their owners.
In all, Blue Bell has 47 cats under its care, including the 12 special-needs cats in the lower house, Hamil said.
"Most cats are left in wills and trusts," said Hamil, who in 1989 became one of the founding board members.
A paid staff of five people, including husband and wife Santiago and Maria Holquin, daily care for the cats and facility, and are in tune with feeding schedules, medications, personalities and diets.
A group of 35 volunteers come sporadically throughout the week to play with the cats too.
The Holquins arrive at 6:30 a.m. each morning to feed cats, clean the floors and do laundry.
One challenge of cat care is dealing with picky eaters.
"If they aren't eating, we give them junk (cat) food," said assistant director Annie Pastorkovich, who started at Blue Bell four years ago after a career in residential real estate.
Pastorkovich has taken to cats during her time with the foundation.
"I thought I was a dog person, but now I like cats and dogs," Pastorkovich said. "I didn't know [cats] had personalities. They are more communicative than dogs. They let you know so many things by a look or touch of the paw."
As Pastorkovich spoke, Shelby, a 16-year-old female Maine Coon, latched briefly onto her arm.
"She's been here five months," Pastorkovich said of Shelby, a primarily brown and black cat with a white underbelly and white feet. "She had been with this guy who got sick, went into an assisted-living facility, and stayed with him until he passed away. She came to us and was sad for a few days. Then we overwhelmed her with love and treats."
Pastorkovich told another story of another cat who came to Blue Bell on the shy side, but has become more sociable and affectionate.