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Jun. 18 2009 - 8:53 am | 816 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

The ultimate cat tree

Animal shelters are usually tucked away in run down or hard to find parts of town. But not Angles for Animals. The nonprofit’s 3.5 million dollar facility, constructed with white split face block and blue metal roofing, sits on busy Route 165 in Canfield, Ohio.

“There are no curves on the highway for miles and miles, except for where our building is,” explains shelter co-founder Diane Less Baird. “So I wanted something on that curve that people would be driving towards and hit them right in the face.” treeofmarie

That something is a 24 foot high, $100,000 dollar cat tree motorists can see through the building’s floor-to-ceiling windows

The enormous sculpture – dubbed The Tree of Marie, after financial donor Marie Stillings – has helped draw a steady stream of curious folks into the shelter since its completion seven years ago.

That’s no surprise, though, given that the cat tree might be the country’s tallest.

“There aren’t a lot of tourist attractions out here so Angles for Animals has become a destination,” explains Less Baird. “Families especially like to come out on the weekends and interact with the dogs and cats.”

The busy shelter handles 8,000 animals annually — more than all the pounds and shelters in three surrounding counties combined, she says.

From start to finish the Tree of Marie took 15 months to build, with each of its 36 branches lifted into place by crane then hand-welded onto the trunk. At the branches’ ends are resting pods, covered in green artificial turf, giving the illusion of foliage.

Lighted aluminum steps rise up from the trunk’s bottom, making it easier to get into the tree for both the cats and staff during their weekly cleaning sessions.

The ultimate climbing structure provides hours of entertainment for the 30 or so adoptable kitties living in the room. On any given day, Less Baird says at least half of the cats are in the tree, hanging out on the higher pods in the winter for warmth, and staying lower during the summer to keep cool.

To complete the outdoor themed room (just one of four cat rooms at the shelter) Less Baird – an artist for more than 40 years — painted the ceiling sky blue with fluffy cat shaped clouds.

“Our tree room provides a great environment for our cats and draws many visitors to our shelter,” she says. “Marie’s tree provides us with the chance to get our message to more people.”


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    About Me

    My career in writing about pets happened by chance. A neighbor in my tiny southern California town moved out of his home leaving behind his two dogs – a Chow and Jack Russell. This was in the early 90s, mind you, not during today’s foreclosure fiasco. Back then I was young enough to naively believe it was all just a big, big mistake and he’d soon return for them. Of course, that never happened so I rounded up the dogs in my Toyota 4 Runner and drove 30 minutes to a no-kill shelter in a neighboring community. Not long afterward, I began volunteering for the shelter and writing articles for local publications about the plight of homeless animals. Today, more than 15 years later, I tackle anything and everything related to pets ranging from the serious to the ridiculous. My work has appeared in a wide range of publications including: Cat Fancy, Family Circle, The New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor and National Geographic online. I'm a contributing editor to Dog Fancy magazine and author of three books on pet care. My work is also included in the book The New York Times Practical Guide to Practically Everything.

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    Location:Phoenix, Arizona