If you passed by Chris Arsenault’s home, in Medford, New York, and saw the 300 cats living there, you’d probably consider the 58-year-old retired train conductor a crazy cat person, but that’s only because you don’t know his history with them.
In the summer of 2006, about two months after Arsenault lost his son Eric, 24, in a motorcycle accident, the train conductor found a colony of young cats by some train tracks, in Long Island. There were over two dozen kittens, and Chris knew just by looking at them that if he left them there they would die. So he took them all home, doctored them back to health, fed them and gave them a home. They in turn helped the mourning father deal with the pain of losing his son.
“There were 30 little kittens and I could tell they were sick. I knew if I left them there they would die so I brought them home with me,” Chris told the New York Post. “After my son died, those cats gave me something to do.”
In the following years, Arsenault started working with various animal shelters and charities, adopting more cats and expanding his shelter to the point where he could comfortably accommodate over 300 meowing felines. Apart from an 8-by-12-foot bedroom where he sleeps and eats, the animal lover has given up all of his home and yard to the cats, and spends most of his time filling bowls with food and water, cleaning up the place and making sure the cats are happy and healthy.
Founded in 2006, The Happy Cat Sanctuary has been funded out of Chris Arsenault’s pocket and whatever donations he received over the years. And taking care of over 300 cats is not cheap. In 2016, he spent $101,000 on food and medicine for his felines, and that’s administering some of the medication himself, to cut costs. However, he always contacts veterinarians if the medical problem is something he can’t deal with himself.
“Every day I have to treat the sick cats too,” Chris said. “To keep control of this, I use colored paper collars. Depending on their illness, I treat them with different medications, and if it’s something I can’t fix, I make sure the cat gets to the vet.”
Last year, Arsenault has spent $22,000 on vet bills for his cats, but he considers every penny of that well spent. Without his sanctuary, most, if not all of these cats would have been euthanized.
“When I open my bedroom door, there are about 50 or 60 cats waiting for me,” Arsenault said. “Most of these cats were abused or abandoned when they came to the sanctuary, so it’s been really a really rewarding thing to be able to give them a home and a place they feel safe.”
To learn more about The Happy Cat Sanctuary and the amazing work of Chris Arsenault, or to make a donation to the cause of abandoned cats, check out their official site and their adorable Facebook page.