Photographer: Candice Fang

A home for cats since 1897

The Cats Shelter charity marks its 115th birthday this year and they believe the dedication of Sheffielders has made this possible.

On the corner of Travis Place in Broomhall, cats look out through the windows of a small house. This is Sheffield Cats Shelter, one of the oldest independent animal charities in Sheffield.

The shelter was established by Jane Barker in 1897 on Gell Street Sheffield and has kept caring for cats and kittens through the centuries.

Their aim is:

To promote responsible pet ownership and help find loving homes for some of the many cats in Sheffield that, for some reason, do not have somebody to look after them.

Shirley displays the long waiting list.

Shirley Buckingham, the shelter Manager said:

“We always have a very long waiting list for cats to be adopted or re-homed, but we never put a healthy cat to sleep.

“We believe that every cat that comes into our care deserves the chance of finding a safe, caring home.”

There are currently 39 cats in the shelter and at most they can accommodate 60 in the nine cat rooms. Report lost and found cats here.


This charity has served the cats of Sheffield for more than a hundred years, Shirley explains why; “It’s owing to the dedication of the people who work in the charity and the dedication of people in Sheffield.”

There are always people helping with the running of the shelter voluntarily. At the moment, 30 volunteers, aged from 16 to over 60, are responsible for cleaning, fundraising and answering the phones.

Fiona Boddy, one of the volunteers, said she enjoyed volunteering in the shelter as she liked cats very much and she also had two cats at home.

“Usually the first reason why people come to the shelter is that they like cats, like me. But after the two years I’ve been a manager here, I’m fond of the good team,” said Shirley.

Sheffield Cats Shelter in Broomhall

The shelter receives no government or local authority support and relies totally on voluntary contributions, various fundraising activities, money raised from adoptions, membership and legacies.

Shirley said they expected very little from the council. The only help from the council is the charity waste scheme— bigger bins and free collections.

Each year, besides the usual bills, the shelter has to buy 16,000 tins of cat food, hygienic disposal of large amounts of cat litter and pay for veterinary treatment fees which cost over £40,000.

In order to provide high quality care, the shelter raises money to cover their bills. There are several fundraising events throughout the year, such as Flag Days, Open Days, a Christmas Fayre and a number of Yard Sales.

Their last Open Day during Easter this year managed to raise £954.61 for the shelter.

On the 12th May is the shelter’s next Yard Sale. There will be a selection of stalls to choose from, such as books, toys, clothes and bric-a-brac. People can also find tea, coffee, cakes and snacks for sale.

Bond with adopters

According to the shelter, all the cats that come into their care are seen by a vet and given any treatment that they require, irrespective of cost.

Before adoption, all of the cats receive the appropriate vaccinations and medicines and are neutered and micro-chipped.

Between a pet shop and an animal charity more people choose the latter according to Shirley:

“People adopt from us because they want to help. Our cats are often abandoned or have sad stories from their past. People feel they are doing something responsible by giving a needy animal another chance to have a secure and loving home.”

The shelter re-homed 90 cats and kittens in the first three months in 2012, which sets a new record in recent years. There were 302 adoptions in 2011, 250 in 2010 and 400 in 2009.

Adoption posters and letters from adopters

After matching cats with appropriate families, the shelter encourages adopters to let them know how the cats have settled.

On the wall of the ground floor in the shelter, there are many hand-written letters from the adopters which are often attached with pictures of their cats at their new home.

The shelter also has a page on their website with the letters from adopters. The stories of these adopted cats have surpassed 300. The owners can share their experience of helping the cats adapting to their new home and potential adopters can gain knowledge in advance.

Among the cats’ stories, the most popular one is Suzie’s story, written in the voice of another cat Ruari. It has been serialised monthly for two years by an elderly lady, the owner of these two cats.

The longest time a cat has stayed in Sheffield Cats Shelter is over a year. Shirley said:

“We will never put a healthy cat to sleep. We will care for them until they are adopted.”