A sanctuary cat rolls over and lets out a yawn while vying for some attention July 20 at Purrfect Pals Cat Sanctuary near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A sanctuary cat rolls over and lets out a yawn while vying for some attention July 20 at Purrfect Pals Cat Sanctuary near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

At Purrfect Pals, cats with special needs are saved from euthanasia

The sanctuary and adoption center near Arlington has plenty of “catios.” It started in Kathy Centala’s basement in 1988.

ARLINGTON — On a sunny July day, an orange cat named Billy parked himself in his favorite shady spot in the cat tunnel. A black cat named Douglas Furr approached, waiting for Billy to move. The orange tabby looked up nonchalantly, content to stay put.

That’s the tranquil setting at Purrfect Pals, a cat sanctuary and adoption center that has operated for 34 years in Snohomish County with a mission of eliminating euthanasia. Purrfect Pals cares for 100 cats and kittens with a focus on felines with special needs.

“We’re like assisted living for cats,” said Kathleen Olson, the nonprofit’s executive director.

The sanctuary is on 5½ acres off McRae Road southwest of Arlington, a quiet place for kitties to live out their lives or wait for adoption. Outdoor enclosures called “catios” allow plenty of space to roam.

A sign greets visitors July 20 at Purrfect Pals Cat Sanctuary near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A sign greets visitors July 20 at Purrfect Pals Cat Sanctuary near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Olson said Purrfect Pals works closely with local shelters, like Everett Animal Services, to reduce overcrowding and euthanasia.

“We take cats they don’t have time or resources to help,” she said. “We get a lot of senior cats or those that have early kidney failure or a chronic illness.”

Billy, age 2, and Douglas Furr, 4, are residents of the “Leukemia Land Sanctuary,” which houses cats positive for feline leukemia virus. The disease affects between 2% and 3% of cats in the United States. Other rooms house cats with kidney issues or those on a weight loss diet.

Olson credits Purrfect Pals with helping bring down the euthanasia rate. In 1997, a national survey found 71% of cats entering shelters were euthanized, according to American Humane.

Today, about 90% of cats entering shelters in Washington state have positive outcomes, according to data from Shelter Animals Count. Olson said rescue groups like Purrfect Pals have made a difference by pulling out special needs cats and kittens from community shelters.

Kathy Centala founded Purrfect Pals in her basement in Brier in 1988.

“I started because I was aware a lot of animals were going into shelters and never came out,” said Centala, now 80.

Kathy Centala, 80, founded Purrfect Pets over 30 years ago near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Kathy Centala, 80, founded Purrfect Pets over 30 years ago near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A cat lover since childhood, she cared for cats by day and worked an airline reservations job by night. She advocated for spaying and neutering, which she said was not a priority at the time.

The shelter became a nonprofit in 1990. Three years later, Centala relocated the sanctuary to the Arlington-area property, a former horse ranch. Two buildings were converted to cat living quarters. A two-car garage became the clinic.

As the sanctuary grew, it needed to fundraise.

“I was totally poor,” Centala said. After researching grants at the library, she called up Nordstrom, the department store chain. She received funding from Bruce and Jennie Nordstrom, who became longtime donors and cat foster parents.

Purrfect Pals has only continued to expand.

“I knew I wasn’t going to give up or quit,” Centala said. She is now retired, living in a studio apartment at the sanctuary, with her one-eyed cat named Took.

Today, Purrfect Pals has a staff of 20 and an annual budget of $2.2 million. Its biggest fundraiser is the annual Black Cat Ball, which brings in about $250,000.

Servo looks towards the photographer while trying to get some pets from people in the room July 20 at Purrfect Pals Cat Sanctuary near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Servo looks towards the photographer while trying to get some pets from people in the room July 20 at Purrfect Pals Cat Sanctuary near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A 2017 expansion added new cat housing and an adoption lobby. Now, plans are underway for an 1,800-square-foot clinic for surgeries and dental work, administering vaccines and labs. The $2.5 million project will triple the size of the existing clinic.

The sanctuary has a network of about 60 cat foster families and is looking for more. In addition, there’s a foster dads program at the Monroe Correctional Complex, which pairs up cats in need of socialization with inmates.

Purrfect Pals has rolled with pandemic-era changes. It switched to appointment-only adoptions, which has been a positive, Olson said. Clients spend more one-on-one time with cats and the animals are less stressed, she said. Cats all have online profiles.

When COVID-19 began, the nonprofit stopped most off-site adoptions. Only the Renton PetSmart adoption center remains open. While adoptions dipped overall, there was a surge in adoptions in spring 2020. In April, a total of 40 cats were adopted, up from 21 the previous year, according to Purrfect Pals.

“We emptied out the whole shelter when we shut down, even the leukemia-positive cats,” Centala said.

A cat in the adoption room tries to get comfortable for a nap despite having visitors July 20 at Purrfect Pals Cat Sanctuary near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A cat in the adoption room tries to get comfortable for a nap despite having visitors July 20 at Purrfect Pals Cat Sanctuary near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Olson said adoption returns have not increased, even as many have gone back to work. She said cats are more independent than dogs and can deal with their owner being gone for hours.

Purrfect Pals does guarantee it will take back cats who need a new home, for reasons such as allergies, the death of an owner or cats not getting along. Even if a kitty ends up in a shelter out of state, Olson said, Purrfect Pals will bring it back to Snohomish County.

“Once a cat comes here,” she said, “we’ve committed to it for life.”

Pretty Boy gets some scratches from Purrfect Pals Cat Sanctuary Executive Director Kathleen Olsen on July 20 near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Pretty Boy gets some scratches from Purrfect Pals Cat Sanctuary Executive Director Kathleen Olsen on July 20 near Arlington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Jacqueline Allison: 425-339-3434; jacqueline.allison@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jacq_allison.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
Small plane lost power in crash north of Paine Field, flight club says

The pilot reportedly called 911, stuck in a tree, on Friday. The sole occupant survived “without a scratch,” the president of Puget Sound Flyers said.

The PUD Everett Substation on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Delta residents rip PUD power line plan to cut through neighborhood

The PUD said the poles will connect two Everett power stations amid “increasing electrical demand.” Locals feel it shows a lack of “forethought.”

IonQ CEO Peter Chapman, left, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, right, cut a ribbon during an IonQ event at their research and manufacturing facility on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Nation’s first quantum computing manufacturing plant opens in Bothell

IonQ, a Maryland-based firm, expects to add hundreds of jobs and invest $1 billion in the region over the next 10 years.

Lyla Anderson and others sign a petition to save the Clark Park gazebo during a “heart bomb” event hosted by Historic Everett on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Too much Everett to throw away’? Gazebo’s impending end stirs emotions

A demolition date hasn’t been confirmed for the Clark Park gazebo, but city staff said it’s too expensive to save. “The decision’s been made.”

A person turns in their ballot at a ballot box located near the Edmonds Library in Edmonds, Washington on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Presidential primary ballots en route to Snohomish County voters

Voters must indicate a party preference to vote for a candidate. Ballots are due March 12.

Students make their way after school at Edmonds-Woodway High School on March 12, 2020. All public and private schools in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties must close for six weeks. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
WA boost in student homelessness funding reaches more districts

Edmonds schools are using money to provide support specifically for its homeless seniors living without a parent or guardian.

People look out onto Mountain Loop Mine from the second floor hallway of Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mining company ordered to stop work next to school south of Everett

After operating months without the right paperwork, OMA Construction applied for permits last week. The county found it still violates code.

Snohomish County Jail. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Arlington woman arrested in 2005 case of killed baby in Arizona airport

Annie Sue Anderson, 51, has been held in the Snohomish County Jail since December. She’s facing extradition.

Ken Florczak, president of the five-member board at Sherwood Village Mobile Home community on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How Mill Creek mobile home residents bought the land under their feet

At Sherwood Village, residents are now homeowners. They pay a bit more each month to keep developers from buying their property.

Lake Serene in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service)
How will climate change affect you? New tool gives an educated guess

The Climate Vulnerability Tool outlines climate hazards in Snohomish County — and it may help direct resources.

Shirley Prouty (Submitted photo)
Shirley Prouty, Arlington historian and grandma to all, dies at 92

Prouty chronicled “100 Years of Arlington” in a series of books. “She’d turn over any rock,” a former mayor said.

Arlington man suspected of DUI in fatal I-5 crash

Police said the man was driving the wrong way south of Tacoma and crashed into another car. Angelica Roberto Campos, 52, later died.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.