This page: Catwork sanctuary for special needs cats, especially FIV cats - now unable to accept new intakes, we concentrate on helping others help these cats.

The sanctuary


Sadly, after more than twenty five years, the Catwork sanctuary is closed to future entrants.

Due to our increasing age, together with all the implications that brings with it, we had to pull the curtain down on taking any more cats into the sanctuary.

We will continue to care for all those still here for the rest of their lives (our health permitting, that is!). Although the numbers are now far lower than they were, we suspect the remaining cats in the sanctuary will still take a few years to fully wind down.

We will continue to keep the information website going, and hopefully continue to build the 1000 FIV cats project. We still hope to be able to help everyone to understand the realities of the FIV virus, but must leave it to others to do the practical helping of future cats in need.

History - What is Catwork ?

Since 1996, Catwork has been a private independent sanctuary for cats who need and deserve to be cared for but who, for various reasons, have not been able to be rehomed as pets in a normal domestic home. Without planning it, we became focused on helping cats which have the FIV virus and also those with the FeLV virus (Leukaemia).

Catwork is run by Barbara Hunt (with help from her husband, Bob). It is situated in the fairly large garden at our home in Somerset (UK).

Catwork started as an extension of Barbara's natural love of cats, and her not being prepared to sit back and do nothing when she heard of a cat needing help.

Initially, Catwork operated as an independent rescue and rehoming centre. Our first cat chalet was erected in 1995 and over the years many cats passed through the centre, the major task then was always to find good and suitable homes for each cat, meeting their individual needs.

Catwork evolved into a sanctuary

After a couple of years, the emphasis of our activities changed; our homing activities diminished as there are a variety of other organisations carrying out that function. We became concentrated on the long stay hospice and sanctuary work. This came about for a number of reasons, but mainly because we found that there are cats who, for a variety of reasons, are not easily rehomed. These also seem to be the cats who are not readily accepted by the other, mainstream, organisations, so we felt that we should try to provide the sanctuary they deserve.

We seem to have developed a speciality in cats with FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) which is a much misunderstood virus, many cats being unnecessarily euthanased due to over-reactions from a lack of understanding. We have also been asked to help a number of cats with the FeLV virus (leukaemia), as well as a few with psychological problems rather than specific medical problems. All these cats fall into the general term "special needs".

The accommodation

The sanctuary has evolved slowly over the years, it started with a single timber chalet with small run around it in 1995, and has grown constantly ever since!

As new cats arrived, they needed more and better accommodation and facilities, so we adapted and extended what we had to make it work for the next arrival - this happened over and over again!

We had no 'great plan' when we started, in fact we had no idea what would develop, we were too busy coping with the next request for help. In fact, nothing was planned at all, we would never have imagined it would end up as it has - it just happened!

All these years later we have completely covered our fairly large garden in accommodation, chalets and spaces for the cats in our care.

We now have two main areas, one for FIVs (known as the Fivery) and another for FeLVs (known as the Felvery). The Fivery is about three times the size of the Felvery as we have far more FIV cats, and they live long lives, whereas we have fewer FeLV cats who, unfortunately, often have shorter lives.

The accommodation comprises of a series of timber chalets of different sizes, each with heating and lighting, and each fitted out with different levels, cubby holes with lots of beds and vetbed, so they have a huge choice as to where to be.

Each chalet - some larger, some smaller - has an enclosed area around it that is open to the air, but has basic roofing over, so dry but airy. These have various places for them to perch - either shelves or old hutches - all a bit "higgledy-piggledy" (technical term!) - no regimented rows here! - but they seem happy with it.

These areas are where they spend the night - mostly in small groups - 1, 2 or 3 in the smaller chalets and more in the larger.

Many of these areas are interlinked with small gates between, so there is great flexibility to create different combinations of linked areas - they can have larger areas, or be more confined, depending on the situation and needs at the time.

During the daytime, all these areas open up on to the main garden area, so all the cats have full freedom in the garden area and can mix together (FIVs only in the Fivery and FeLVs only in the Felvery). They can choose where to go and who to be with - so plenty of freedom to just 'be cats'.

So this is how they live - we are often asked: "don't they all fight each other?" The answer is: No, in all the time we have been doing this, we have never had a serious fight, despite the fact that at times, up to 20 cats are living together. Apart from a few minor squabbles when a new one is finding his place in the pecking order, they all get on famously! There are sometimes one or two individual personality clashes, but because there is plenty of room and choice, those individuals learn to stay away from each other, so no serious problems in all these years!

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Cats under Catwork care
(February 2024)

FIV = 3; FeLV = 0;
SN (special needs) = 4





Toby Tonk



There are very few cats left now in the sanctuary, but click here for a summary of all the cats we have cared for over more than 27 years (well, 172 of them).
27 years leaflet

Sorry, no vacancies!

Please see notice above that we are now closed to new entrants.

The cats that are here will, of course, continue to receive our full attention. As they can live good long lives, we suspect that many will be with us for several years to come.

Please don't give up on any cat; it may not be easy, but homes can be found for FIVs. We need other people and groups to take up the cause and to encourage others to find spaces for FIVs - even just a few cats, multiplied by many areas and people, can help far more than we ever could ourselves, so our next mission is to provide what information, help and encouragement we can to increase the number of places FIVs can go.

We continue to give advice and any help we can to those who come across FIV, which is still, unfortunately, a misunderstood virus. If you want to contact us to discuss how best to help FIVs, either in general, or one specific cat, then we will be happy to share our experience and offer any moral support we can give - we just can't take any more cats!

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A group of FIV cats in the sanctuary
A patch of autumn sunshine is a popular spot

Thomas enjoying the sun in the sanctuary
It's a hard life in the sanctuary!

a few cats by the bench in the Fivery
The Fivery jungle clearing

Thomas taking an interest in the camera
Can I be in the picture, please?

Thomas having a closer look
I'm sure I can see your eye when I look in that lens

More cats lazing in the sun
..lazing on a sunny afternoon...

a group of cats spread out on the Fivery planks
Just six of the twenty in the Fivery

Captain washing in a lazy fashion, looks half asleep
...hard work this washing lark...

Redruth in the frame again
..he's got that camera again...

there's that eye again

Having a roll in the pathway
when in doubt, have a dust bath

if he doesn't leave us alone, I'm going to get really angry!

But in winter...

seven FIV cats sharing a large dog bed's good to have friends... who said cats are solitary creatures?

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