Santa Barbara resident Peter Cohen began rescuing cats more than 30 years ago after moving into his current home. At the time, two felines were living on the property, so he decided to make them comfortable by adding wall fixtures and catwalks to his home. Sadly, both cats were hit by cars, and only one survived, thanks to extensive surgery. Cohen then decided that all future adoptions would be for indoor cats only. He soon took in two kittens to keep the surviving cat company.
After he began adopting rescues, he slowly began transforming his home into an amazing cat playland. Now known as the House of Nekko, which is Japanese for the House of Cats, Cohen’s home features cat accessories in every room, including brightly colored hiding places, scratching posts, and winding wall-to-wall walkways. He's even installed a koi pond.
Cohen currently fosters 22 rescue cats, many of which he adopted since they were less likely to be placed due to their fur color or personality. Cohen’s House of Nekko is also the headquarters for his non-profit organization, Zen By Cat, which raises money for organizations researching feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a viral disease caused by the coronavirus that occurs in wild and domestic cats.
The virus, which attacks the cells of the intestinal wall, results in high fever, anorexia, weight loss, and lethargy. The disease has been researched for the past 50 years, yet scientists have only recently been able to provide a cure. So far, 25 cats with FIP have been treated, including Cohen’s cat Smokey. The cure has been in part thanks to Cohen who started Zen by Cat after a cat he adopted, named Miss Bean, was diagnosed with FIP.
Miss Bean’s condition rapidly deteriorated and Cohen decided to euthanize her. He put his plans on hold after receiving a message from a friend who said she knew a vet at UC Davis who was conducting drug trials on kittens with FIP. Despite his efforts, Miss Bean succumbed to the disease on July 26, 2016.
To support Zen of Cat and the organization’s efforts to end FIP, visit www.zenbycat.org.