Grass Valley’s AnimalSave rescue home is the cat’s meow! |

Grass Valley’s AnimalSave rescue home is the cat’s meow!

A magical setting for little ones, you can find bedding, clothing and toys galore.
John Hart/ | The Union

During the last eight years, I’ve featured many kinds of homes: Victorian, contemporary, log cabins and man caves, but this is the first time I’ve featured a home for cats.

A chance meeting with my friend, interior designer Giudita Solavini, prompted the obvious question, “Have you worked on any interesting homes recently?”

“Yes, I have,” she laughed, “a cat house.”

“What!” I replied.

“Oh no, not THAT kind,” she quickly clarified, “but the new AnimalSave home for cats waiting for their forever homes.”

In July 2013, thanks to many generous donations, AnimalSave was able to purchase their East Main Street premises.

Under the auspices of Executive Director Carolyn Niehaus — and with the help of volunteers Giudita Soldavini, Cheryl Snaverly, and many others — the 14,000-square-foot facility has been given a whole new look, with exciting potential.

“Let’s start with the cat adoption room, a popular place to visit,” said Cheryl.

It’s clean, fresh, light and inviting. The soft green paint fills this area with a natural calmness.

Instead of cramped cages, the 20 cats waiting to be adopted enjoy larger enclosures — more like kitty condominiums. The 2,000-square-foot floor plan has large windows and ample space for the cats to take turns playing and exploring.

There is also human furniture, including a comfy rocking chair for volunteers to cuddle the shy kitties so they’ll be trusting, friendly additions to their new homes.

An adjacent isolation room is where new cats are kept while they wait to be checked by the vet.

“Don’t forget our senior cats,” Cheryl reminded me. “We have special, assisted-living quarters for them. Many are 15 and 16 years old – and yes, they get adopted as well by loving, responsible new owners.”

AnimalSave has many more cats and dogs in foster homes.

Paisley’s prints in the Book Nook

My tour included the efficiently designed, L-shaped administrative offices — as well as the inviting Book Nook — where people can select and purchase from a huge variety of donated books for all ages. With traditional furniture, including a comfy loveseat, it’s reminiscent of a home library.

Step inside, and you’re likely to be greeted by the self-appointed ambassador, Paisley the tabby cat.

“She’s our princess in residence,” Cheryl told me, “and she rules the roost in a most entertaining way. Her paw prints leave an indelible impression on many people’s hearts.”

Here’s where I got to meet Executive Director Carolyn Niehaus.

“Since 2000, we’ve saved over 4,000 cats and dogs from death row. Imagine the joy they have brought to their new homes. It’s worth every penny and every ounce of love and work. Our low-cost mobile spay-and-neuter clinic has spayed over 11,000,” she said.

The large parking area that separates the outbuildings is a perfect place to host summertime fundraising events. Clearly, AnimalSave’s dedication makes a massive difference, both to the animals and to our community.

Dedication, innovation, gifts and treasures

I really like the way they’ve transformed their thrift shop into a stylish boutique, filled with gifts and treasures.

The ground floor — with its earthy, gravel-like aggregate surface — displays garden items, homeware and furniture. Imaginatively staged, customers are enchanted the moment they walk in.

Local interior designer Giudita Soldavini shared her talents, and the results are dramatic. Again, large windows provide welcome natural light, and the Equestrienne Gray paint she recommended is warm and inviting.

Three different shades create interesting, subtle contrasts and provide an ideal background for the many attractive displays.

“With Cheryl’s help, we’ve repurposed, refinished and represented many of the donated furniture pieces to give them a distressed, shabby chic finish,” Giudita said.

For example, tables are set for dinner, with placemats, candles and silverware.

Upstairs are the men’s, women’s and absolutely adorable baby departments. All clothing items are washed and ironed — giving them fresh, off-the-rack appeal.

There is evidence of Giudita’s interior-design skills everywhere! Pacing, placing and lighting enhance the appeal.

You also see delightful resourcefulness. For example, volunteer Judy Brown has turned donated sheets into crisp, white curtains to add to the homelike look and feel. She and Judy Wilson manage the store.

Don Branson, Jerry Wilson, Gregg Weaver, Dave Schwarz, Nicky Kennedy, John Brown, Lew Snavely and Larry Hirtzel all played significant roles in the reconstruction process. In fact, special thanks go to all the volunteers who make such a difference.

Being an animal person myself (perhaps you’ve noticed), I truly appreciate the care these cats and dogs are receiving, and having them go from grim fates to an atmosphere so nurturing and full of optimism is a magical, heartwarming transformation.

The beautifully designed gift-and-treasure boutique is a wake-up call.

The more appeal, the more funds can be raised for all the animals that deserve a second chance at life.

Courtney Ferguson has written home-and-lifestyle articles for many years, both in Nevada County and in England. Contact her at

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