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A cat wakes up from a nap on one of the dozens of available beds in its new home at Furball Farm. (Kristine Goodrich/southernminn.com)

The dozens of cats sheltered at Furball Farm are finally moving into a new custom-built home.

For over five years, Julie Marvets has led a team of volunteers in caring for stray and unadoptable cats out of a converted garage on her rural Faribault farm. Now, they have a new facility that can more comfortably accommodate a higher number of cats in need of shelter.

“That garage was built for cars. This is built for cats,” Marvets said as she and many other volunteers made final preparations and began moving cats into their new sanctuary this week.

The new facility, finally substantially completed after years of bake sales and other fundraisers, can house up to 150 cats. It’s on the same property off of 220th Street E., southeast of Faribault.

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One of the first residents of Furball Farm’s new sanctuary gets comfortable while volunteers finish getting the space ready on Wednesday. (Kristine Goodrich/southernminn.com)

“My dreams are coming true,” Marvets said of the new space.

For their human caretakers, the new facility has a kitchen, laundry room and restroom.

“Other than that, this place is all for the cats,” said Janis Holter, Marvets’ twin sister and fellow Furball Farm board member.

The new shelter’s expansive main room is filled with hundreds of cat trees and beds, five “feeding stations,” 21 litter boxes and even a large screen television on which the feline inhabitants can watch videos of birds and mice.

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Furball Farm volunteers, including founder Julie Marvets, at right, place the last of 21 litter boxes inside the new building Wednesday. (Kristine Goodrich/southernminn.com)

Smaller rooms will be used as short-term homes for new arrivals until volunteers can get them spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Another small room provides a dedicated space for volunteers to do checkups and vaccinations. A storage area is filled with food, litter and other supplies — most of which has been donated.

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A cat naps undisturbed as volunteer Jane Kietzer sets up a bed inside Furball Farm’s new sanctuary. Many of the beds are donated used toddler beds. (Kristine Goodrich/southernminn.com)

There also are less visible upgrades, such as heated and sealed floors and central air conditioning.

One feature is not yet quite complete. A large attached “catio” outdoor enclosure will soon allow Furball Farm’s feline guests to enjoy sunshine and fresh air behind the safety of extra strong screens.

While plumbing and some other odds and ends were still finishing up this week, professional feline trappers began helping Furball Farm volunteers begin moving cats into the new facility. As they are moved, each feline is getting a checkup and updated vaccinations if needed.

Marvets is a former veterinary technician who began taking in area feral cats after moving to Faribault in 2016. She was dismayed by the number of feral cats living in the Faribault area. She receives multiple requests to take in more every day. The Furball Farm Facebook page has over 220,000 followers.

The sanctuary specializes in feral cats, which tend not to mind living with many other cats. The farm also takes unadoptable cats into homes for other reasons — namely those with urinary issues, whom Marvets fondly calls her “pee cats.”

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Cats hide under a bed in their new home at Furball Farm in rural Faribault. (Kristine Goodrich/southernminn.com)

Marvets can name many of the cats in her care by sight. For some, she has to refer to her “catalogs” — books with photos and information about each cat organized into categories, such as “orange buff,” “mostly black” and “tabby with white.”

Many of the cats live out the rest of their days at Furball Farm. Some warm to human companionship and are put up for adoption.

“When they come to us, they’re afraid of humans,” Holter said. “Some come around, some don’t.”

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Furball Farm volunteer Bella Hernandez assembles a cat carrier outside a new storage area filled with donated supplies. (Kristine Goodrich/southernminn.com)

A team of about 50 regular volunteers help care for and try to socialize the cats, Holter said. The nonprofit does not have any paid employees. Additional volunteers are always welcome.

The farm has built a large social media following and is increasingly welcoming visitors from around the country who want to see and help the cats in person, Marvets said.

Whenever the nonprofit is running low on food, litter and other supplies, Marvets said they can now post a request on social media and supporters will buy it online for them and have them delivered.

Now that the new sanctuary building is complete, Marvets said the greatest ongoing expense is veterinarian bills.

All donations “go directly to the cats,” Marvets said. “We don’t take a penny for ourselves.”

In addition to volunteering or giving a financial donation, Marvets said people can support her work by getting their own cats spayed or neutered to help reduce the local cat population.

“I wish I didn’t have this many cats,” she said. “I wish there wasn’t such a need.”

Reach Associate Editor Kristine Goodrich at 507-333-3134. ©Copyright 2022 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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