When advanced art and photography students at Grandview Heights High School were looking for ideas for a serving-learning initiative, they came up with a purr-fect project.
On Feb. 26 and 27, the students visited Cat Welfare Association, a shelter at 741 Wetmore Road in Clintonville.
"My students were interested in working with animals for their project, so we reached out to Cat Welfare," visual-arts teacher Katherine Kelsey said. "We decided the best option was for the advanced art and photography students to visit the shelter and photograph the adoptable cats."
The Cat Welfare Association was founded in 1945.
"The mission of the association is to focus on the welfare of stray cats and kittens," said Gail Harbert, Cat Welfare's program manager.
"Most of the cats we retrieve from the streets have not been spayed or neutered, and often they've been abused or injured," she said. "We work to find them a home, but some of them are not able to be adopted. In that case, our shelter becomes their permanent home and not just a temporary shelter."
Cat Welfare has a "no-kill" policy, Harbert said.
"We don't euthanize cats to clear up space in our shelter," she said.
On average, the shelter houses about 200 cats at a time, Harbert said. Last year, Cat Welfare found adoptive homes for more than 1,000 cats, she said.
The cat portraits taken by the Grandview students will be used on Cat Welfare's website, Harbert said.
"We use photographs on our website to give people a sample of the adoptive cats we have at the shelter," she said. "A picture will hopefully inspire someone to visit our shelter to inquire about a cat we featured on the website or check out the other animals we have available for adoption."
The images shot by students also will be used on social media and may be used later this year for artwork the shelter would sell to raise funds, Harbert said.
"We're so appreciative of the students coming to our shelter and working with us," she said. "We were impressed with the care they showed taking the photographs. I think they enjoyed interacting with our cats. I saw a lot of them leave with smiles on their faces."
The cats were sometimes-fickle subjects for the photographers, said senior Katherine Taylor.
"Some of them responded to you and others you had to draw out," she said. "I got a few scratches, but it was worth it."
"A lot of the cats were so friendly," senior Sophie Beacom said. "They would rub against your leg and purr."
Beacom said she concentrated on capturing the personality of each cat in her photographs.
Her favorite task was taking photographs of the cats in the shelter's sun room.
"The cats were adorable just lounging around soaking up the sun," she said. "They were so relaxed and natural. You didn't need to pose them."
The Cat Welfare project offered students a chance to do work that had a larger meaning than just meeting a classroom assignment, junior Addison Holcomb said.
"We're trying to create something that will inspire people to think about adopting a cat that needs a good home," she said.
Students will be evaluated and graded on the "execution" of their photographs, Holcomb said.
"It's what we can do in Photoshop to enhance the pictures and make them stand out," she said.
Two days after the students visited Cat Welfare, they already had sent the shelter more than 780 photographs, Harbert said.
"They've done a wonderful job capturing the personalities of our cats," she said.
Along with caring for and finding homes for stray cats, Cat Welfare Association also educates the public on the importance of having their pets spayed or neutered and offers the services for a fee.
"That's the key to limiting the cat population and reducing the number of cats out in the wild," Harbert said.
Those interested in adopting a pet are encouraged to stop by the shelter, she said.
"It gives you a chance to visit with and get to know a cat before you might decide to adopt it," Harbert said. "Plus, we just encourage people to come by and spend time with our cats and give them some love and affection."
The shelter is open 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m Mondays and Thursdays through Sundays, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It is closed the first Thursday of the month and on major holidays.
For more information about Cat Welfare Association, visit www.catwelfareassoc.org.