Local Business Donates Healthy Addition To SPCA
By Jaclyn Castek
In the fall of last year, the SPCA of Central Florida had just finished building a brand new facility to house their feline orphans. The timing was just right for a local business couple and long time supporters of the SPCA to propose an idea that would help make the new facility even better and the cats healthier.
Joe and Shelley DelRocco, co-owners of Pet Tree Houses, LLC, in Central Florida decided to donate twelve of their custom-built Pet Tree Houses, several “scratching trees” and even a few wall units called Cat Flats, in hopes of greening up the cat facility, increasing adoptions and decreasing euthanasia by creating a calm atmosphere that would boost the cats’ well-being and overall health.
Joe and Shelley, who founded Pet Tree Houses, LLC, built the first Pet Tree House for their own four cats, all adopted from the SPCA or animal control, and noticed a significant difference in their demeanor and an increase in their activity.
“Because our product was new to the market we wanted to test them out and see what kind of difference it made; if it made a difference for our four cats it would have to make a difference for a shelter full of cats.” Joe said.
The Pet Tree Houses definitely did make a difference in the cats awaiting adoption at the SPCA of Central Florida, and it did not take long for the staff to notice. Ryan Berry, the facility’s Manager of Shelter Operations said the staff noticed a change in the cats almost immediately.
The new facility features four free roam rooms which usually contain ten to fifteen cats. These free roam rooms are the areas where customers can spend time with the cats before choosing one to adopt. Having the Pet Tree Houses and Cat Flats in these rooms has made a positive impact on the cats and customers alike.
“The cats are able to stay in the free roam rooms longer and because of the increase in their activity and exercise they are healthier and no doubt happier.” Berry said.
This playful, active behavior allows customers to see cats that are happy and healthy and gets them more excited about adopting one of them. However, the increase in behavior and socialization amongst the cats is not just an illusion of cats in good health: the Pet Tree Houses give the cats the feeling of being in a more natural environment, which reduces the stress they would normally feel in a shelter environment. Reducing stress helps keep immune systems elevated, therefore helping the cats fight off infections commonly contracted by cats in shelters, especially upper respiratory infections.
Since the initial donation, the company has donated several more tree houses, including one that allows the cats to climb up to seven feet! They have also donated several more scratching trees and Cat Flats. The DelRocco’s rely on Berry and other SPCA of Central Florida staff members to tell them what they need and what will work best for the facility and they build accordingly.
Each tree house, scratching tree and wall unit is made of natural material in the most organic state possible. Each house has a main trunk which is made of a species of rare tree only grown in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
“What is interesting about this species, and the reason why it works best for our products is that it is not only dense and durable, but flexible as well,” DelRocco said. “The flexibility of the trees promotes more activity in the cats and when using the tree they use more muscles than they would on regular furniture or cat furniture.”
Each limb or branch is hand selected for each new Pet Tree House product and is left in its natural shape. Keeping each piece as organic and natural as possible helps the cats feel as though the pieces are real trees growing in the facility for their enjoyment! Berry describes it as “having a virtual reality outdoor world indoors.”
The trim and roofs are made of cedar, which is a durable wood that can be used by cats to scratch on over and over again, and still be sanded over to look like new.
Berry says the Pet Tree House products are much more durable and resilient than other unnatural products. They are also much more resistant to water damage.
“Because they are made of real, natural, organic materials they seem to last much longer with little maintenance, such as cleaning the easy to remove carpeting,” Berry said.
The experiment of placing the Pet Tree Houses in the SPCA of Central Florida cat facilities has proven successful, and both parties are excited about the results.
It has been such a great experience working with this shelter, it’s really a fantastic, top of the line shelter and a great environment for people looking to adopt a cat.” DelRocco said. “The trees have really helped create a friendly calming atmosphere for the cats and the public; we have been so happy to help!”
“We use these products exclusively, not because we are forced to, but because the staff, and the cats, really enjoy them and they have made a great difference here.” Berry said.