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Cat House to Open Sunday

More than a decade in the making, the grand opening of the Helen Sanders Cat Facility is this Sunday.

They clawed and scratched for every penny and every square foot, and it has finally paid off.

Sunday is the grand opening of the Helen Sanders Cat Facility at the Seal Beach Animal Care Center. Years in the making, the new shelter will replace the ramshackle pod of tool-sheds currently serving as home to more than 120 cats. The old structures don't have heating or air conditioning, forcing the shelter's all-volunteer staff to make do. In the winter they heat up disks in the microwave and tuck them under the cat blankets in order to keep them warm at night, said Dee Carey, the center's fundraising coordinator. A non-kill, nonprofit shelter, the Seal Beach Animal Care Center cares for every lost, stray or surrendered cat in the city regardless of its medical costs. The new shelter will make a huge difference in the lives of the abandoned animals.

“It really is a dream come true,” said Carey.

The 2,400 square-foot prefabricated building will include 14 rooms including an isolated sick bay with separate air circulation to control the spread of disease, said Carey.

The construction project was supposed to be completed last the winter, but work came to a halt because the contractor was unable to complete the job.

“We had to completely start over,” said Carey.

In a way, the missteps along the way were fortuitous. The original contract bids came in at more than $1 million, but because of the economic downturn, the final cost for the project was $484,000.

After years of planning and fundraising, the shelter’s volunteers are ready to move into the new building. There has never been a greater need for it, said Carey.

“We have had a huge problem with animals being dumped. One day, we had 10 kittens dumped outside, and a portion of them were sick," she said. The economy is a large part of that. People are having to move places where they can’t take their cats.”

The shelter is named for a woman who was legendary for her devotion to cats. Helen Sanders had been a part of the animal shelter since the day it was founded in 1986, but her love of cats started much earlier.

"It started in 1971 when a stray cat walked into her house," her son Paul Sanders said at the 2010 groundbreaking ceremony. "We named her Calico, and we basically had stray cats forever after that."

Helen Sanders spent decades caring for Seal Beach's feral cat population, feeding them and having them spayed and neutered. The jetty's feral cat population got down to just a few cats thanks to her, said shelter volunteers

Even after her health deteriorated from cancer and multiple sclerosis and she could no longer drive, Helen Sanders rode her bicycle around town to care for "her" cats.

The grand opening open to the public and will take place at 11 a.m. Sunday at the .

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