Import House, 68 N. Court St., is an Athens staple. Decorated with Buddhist symbols, tie-dye and the smell of incense, the store has an air of calm and welcomeness about it. Sometimes customers are greeted by more than just a floor employee — sometimes a furry friend greets them too.

Import House has fostered cats for about a decade, Karen McGuire, manager at Import House, said. In that time, McGuire estimates 80 cats have found homes after being fostered in the store.

“There's an abundance of cats in this county,” McGuire said. These cats are fostered through the Athens County Humane Society.  

If businesses are chosen to foster, the Athens County Humane Society provides everything needed for housing a cat, McGuire said. Cats are spayed or neutered and brought up to date with vaccinations, the Athens County Humane Society also supplies crates, litter boxes and food.

Cats normally stick around six months in Import House, McGuire said. Currently, no cat is roaming the store, but Import House is expecting one soon. Its last cat was adopted within two hours of being in the store. 

“That was a record,” McGuire said.

The adoption process is somewhat lengthy. Prospective pet-owners must fill out an adoption application and meet the Athens County Humane Society’s approval. Pet-owners must be allowed to house a pet, have enough money to provide veterinary care for the animal and be deemed humane. A home visit may be included in this process. Then, a contract is signed and there is an adoption fee of $100.

There is a diverse pool of cats available for adoption. The Athens County Humane Society receives cats of all kinds, sometimes even sick or disabled. 

These cats require a little more work to take care of and adopt, but there is a steady success rate. 

“There's been a few along the way that were special needs, where the adoption took a while,” McGuire said. Import House has fostered and given these cats homes.

“We had a cat, Teddy, who's an older cat and had feline herpes. We loved him. Some people might say he's a little gross but he got a great home too,” McGuire said.

Not all cats that end up with the Athens County Humane Society are drop-offs, ferals or strays. 

“Once a woman came in who was unable to keep her cat. So she surrendered it to the Humane Society and we fostered it and we ended up getting that cat into a really good home,” McGuire said. 

There is a need for foster families since the Athens County Humane Society has no physical location. 

We don't have a cat shelter in Athens County so we really rely on PetSmart,” McGuire said. “All of their adoptable pets are from the Humane Society. We also rely on businesses to welcome cats into their building and foster so they get adopted.”

Hyacinth Bean Floral, 540 W. Union St., also fosters through the Athens County Humane Society. 

“We’ve easily fostered out 100 cats,” Grace Kilbommons, manager at Hyacinth Bean Floral, said.

Hyacinth Bean Floral often gets kittens, and fostering kittens is a longer process. 

“We don’t ever adopt them out until they’re fixed. We have to wait on the kittens to reach a certain weight in order to spay and neuter. The kittens have to stick around a while because of that,” Kilbommons said. “But our adult cats are good to go.”

Fostering in the colder months is less common. 

“Typically around spring we get more in to foster,” Kilbommons said.

Fostering is very common, Veronica Lake, associate lead at PetSmart, 743 E. State St., said. 

Cats at PetSmart stick around for about two weeks, Lake said, before they are fostered. PetSmart can only house eight cats at a time, and cats usually arrive in groups of five or more. 

“We bring in as many as we can basically,” Lake said.

Foster families often have more than one foster-cat.

“The need is kind of being met. With all of the cats -- there are so many cats around here -- it's needed, maybe a little more. But for the most part we're keeping up with it,” Lake said.

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