For Valerie Scobel, it all started in 1993 with an article in a local paper looking for foster homes and volunteers.

“I responded to the ad, and I told them that I would foster some cats for them, and ‘foster some cats’ turned into about 40 to 50 within six months. I had them in my home, in my garage, but when we bought this property, we decided we could put up a building on it,” Scobel told Channel 4 Action News.

Photos: Go inside Pet Connection cat shelter

In the 20 years since then, the nonprofit Pet Connection adoption and rescue center on Sunrise Lane in Avonmore has grown to be able to house as many as 200 cats.

“It’s quite a success story for us to be able to house 20 to 30 cats initially, and now be able to house 150 to sometimes 200,” said Scobel, the shelter’s director.

The cage-free, home-like environment was built in 1996, with an addition being built in 2004. The facility features a main living room, a laundry room, a kitchen and an open room with 19 windows.

Incoming cats are quarantined until they’ve been tested and received their vaccinations. They’re also spayed and neutered before slowly being introduced into the general population.

“Because we get to know their personalities, I think that’s what sets us apart, a little bit, from a regular shelter,” said Scobel.

A cat’s personality plays a big factor in where it will be placed in the shelter.

“If they’re a shy cat who might need some more attention, we’ll put them in the area of the kitchen part of the building, which is where our volunteers spend a lot of time washing dishes and litter boxes, so the cat gets to see people more often. If they’re more of an outgoing cat or playful, they go on to the main part of our building, where they have a lot of other cats that they can interact with,” said Scobel.

Scobel said the open environment helps better match the cats with potential adopters because they’re not seeing “frightened animals sitting in cages.”