The couple from Canada had traveled the world together. They’d fallen in love. They’d gotten engaged.
So when it came time to marry, they thoughtfully pondered the venue. They wanted it to be special, as most couples do, to commit their lives to one another in a place that embodied their values.
It would be California, they decided, on a Tuesday, beneath an expansive canopy of lush green, next to the flowing Kings River. Her dress would be white, his suit grey. The ceremony would be outside, and simple — no altar, no pews, no guests.
One thousand meowing, nuzzling, curious cats.
— Justin Sacher (@justinsacher) May 17, 2016
With that choice, Louise Veronneau and Dominic Husson this week became the first lovers to wed at The Cat House on the Kings, a 12-acre plot of land surrounded by a cat-proof fence and considered the largest kitty sanctuary in the U.S. The shelter is no-cage and no-kill, filled with more than 1,000 cats and kittens and nestled outside Fresno. It has existed there for more than 20 years.
The couple from Canada chose this place, of all the places, because like them, it cares about the cats.
“We are animal lovers, the two of us, and we wanted to make this our special day,” the bride told CBS 47. “We wanted to make it close to our own values.”
Feline fondness brought the couple together when they first met, according to news coverage from their wedding. They dated for three years, a relationship founded on common principles and interests: cats.
“I saw we were sharing these same values, because these are values, they are the basis of our (relationship),” Veronneau told KSEE 24.
— Evan Onstot (@EvanOnstot) May 17, 2016
Long before she met her husband, Veronneau told reporters she learned of the cat house in California and marked it on her bucket list. Three years ago, she visited for the first time and felt an instant connection — to the animals, the volunteers and the mission. Since its founding in the early nineties, the sanctuary has saved more than 24,000 cats and 7,000 dogs, according to its website, and has spayed and neutered more than 40,000 other animals.
Its owner and founder, Lynea Lattanzio, converted her 4,200 square foot home into one large cat club and moved into a trailer on her property, the Associated Press reported, cashing in her entire retirement savings after she learned many nearby shelters euthanize unadopted cats.
“They’ve got this house. They’ve got 12 acres. They can climb a tree. They can go sit in the sun outside,” Lattanzio told the AP in April. “It just gives these animals a reason to live as opposed to just living in a cage just because no one wants them.”
Lattanzio’s compassion is why the couple from Canada, who traveled more than 3,000 miles from Montreal, asked Lattanzio to be a part of their ceremony — as the officiant, the Fresno Bee reported.
— Craig Kohlruss (@ck_foto) May 17, 2016
At first she was hesitant.
“I was afraid I would make a mess and screw it up – you know, forget my lines,” she told ABC 30 Action News.
But eventually the couple convinced her to become ordained. And when the wedding day came, the cats were happy to be mixed up in the festivities. A fluffy, orange cat slept on the hem of Veronneau full gown. Others crawled in her lap and climbed the groom’s arm.
“One white kitty even followed the bride as she walked from the Senior House down to the bench by the river where they were married,” Harvie Schreiber, a volunteer with The Cat House of the Kings, told Meow.
They spoke of how special the day was, how they lured the cats to the ceremony with bowls of food and incorporated them into their official wedding photos.
Then a reporter asked them the baby question.
“Are you going to adopt a cat?” she said. “Is this going to be your kid?”
“Maybe, maybe,” Veronneau said. “We can never say never again to cats.”