At Princeton's Meow, the cats rule

There is a house on Brookwood Avenue, a quiet house, where no man lives.

And in this house, there is a painting, a regal painting, in a quiet house on Brookwood Avenue, where no man lives.

In that painting, there sits a cat, a handsome cat, in a regal painting, in a quiet house on Brookwood Avenue, where no man lives.

The house on Brookwood Avenue in Concord begs to be a children's story, written in the fashion of Audrey Wood's classic, "The Napping House."

A small brick ranch, never a home to humans, solely occupied by cats, Princeton's Meow is Cabarrus County Humane Society's only cage-free cat adoption site.

Its first tenant, Princeton, a shorthaired black-and-white feline, is captured in an oil painting fixed high upon the wall. Words underneath read, "Never underestimate the power of a purr."

"Fifteen years it took us to have enough money," said Marlene Jenkins, president of Princeton's Meow. The facility was named in honor of its first occupant.

Before the humane society bought the house five years ago, cats at the shelter would spend their days in cages, and, at best, be harnessed outside to walk around a bit.

In Princeton's Meow, they roam freely.

Originally built as a doctor's office years ago, close to 75 cats now play and sleep in rooms where patients once were examined. Glass doors separate each of the five rooms into categories of cats with like personalities.

A room full of kittens can be seen darting about, chasing after brightly colored rubber balls.

In another room, cats sit glaring at one another behind the glass door. "These in this room are a little bit more temperamental," warns Jenkins.

In the back, formerly the doctor's office, scores of roly-poly cats mill about, several studying a bird perched among the branches of a flowering tree outside the bay window. "These are on weight-control food," said Jenkins. "They're pretty hefty."

It doesn't take long to realize the deep affection and familiarity Jenkins has for each of the cats at Princeton's Meow. She picks up a plump fluff ball she calls Marty and plants a kiss on his furry head. Then she does the same to one she calls Ms. Pudgy-Wudgy.

Before long, the whole room fills with a chorus of purrs.

"Cats are wonderful creatures, and we love them," she tells them in a sugar-sweet voice. "We do. Yes, we do."

Adoptions have been up this year at Princeton's Meow. Since January, 122 cats have found new homes. That's a thankful turnaround from last year's dismal numbers, when only 157 felines were adopted for the entire year.

For the most part, the cats are on their own in the house. Volunteers come in the morning and late afternoon to clean, care and play with them. "Everybody is asleep. It's just so quiet and peaceful," said Jenkins.

But it's not always calm. At night, there is evidence of mischief. More times than she cares to recall, a phone call in the middle of the night awakens Jenkins. "Your alarm's going off at Princeton's," tells the voice on the other line.

She'll go in to find dozens of cat beds, originally on shelves or perches, tossed on the floor. "It looks like every night they've had a party and don't invite us," said Jenkins.