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(Memphis) When you enter the House of Mews in Cooper Young, you better watch your step.

More than 170 cats have the run of the place, from cages to wandering the floor, even climbing a cat walk high above.

Elain Harvey founded what she calls the first legal cat house in Tennessee 17 years ago, “People would come in there with this look of awe in their face and people would start crying actually. Because, to have something like this where people actually cared about animals.”

She rarely turns away a homeless kitty and never euthanizes unless it’s the humane thing to do.

More than nine thousand cats have found homes.

Some are placed immediately.

Harvey says others have been there for years waiting for the right “furrever” home, “One woman came in, she worked at an eye clinic and wanted a cat that has some problems with eyes. We had a one eyed cat at the time and they adopted it.”

While the priority is finding a home, Harvey has been known to turn away people if she feels they aren’t the right match, “If they’re not going to pick up the animal and hold it, show it some attention. If we can’t see they’re bonding with the animal we don’t let them go. I mean, it’s difficult sometimes, but we do it for the animals to find them a permanent home where they’re not going to end up back on the street or dead.”

Cash donations and adoption fees pay the bills.

Many companies donate food and lots of cat sand.

Recently, Greenway Home Services learns the A/C system wasn’t working. Temperatures in the store soared into the near 90’s, not good for cats or people.

Greenway stepped up and repaired and replaced part of the system for a fraction of the cost.

There are many more needs, like a new ceiling to replace the one that’s falling apart.

A new front door and fire detection system are also needed.

Everyone working here is a volunteer.

“I used to work for an investment firm and when I left there, I went from that to scooping out litter boxes.”

Lynn Simmons has helped for ten years, coming in at least twice a week to clean and provide comfort, “This is their home and they deserve a clean litter box and good food and fresh water and playtime and to be brushed.”

Harvey says she doesn’t know what she, or all the kitties would do, without volunteers, donations and general support from Memphians, “Animals as a rule, they don’t have a voice, they don’t have anyone to stick up for them. People have a voice and can speak up and ask for help. Animals can’t.”

There’s no doubt, with Elain and her crew on their side, the cats will be heard and will have a home sooner, or later.

The House of Mews annual fundraiser, the 5k Meowathon, will be held November 17.

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