Whiskers, the “Old” Cat

Whiskers at Shelter“How do you not want to take them all home?”

It’s a common question I get while working in the adoption center. And truth of the matter is, I just don’t.

Maybe it’s because I know that they’re all going to get adopted eventually, most of them going to homes far better than my own. It’s not sad for me, seeing all the caged cats in adoption. For me, it’s a place of transition. Once a cat is in adoption, they’ve gone through the worst of it—abandonment by a previous owner, or a heartbreaking farewell, or life on the streets, or abuse, or whatever led them to be in a shelter. Things can only get better from here. So I don’t feel the need to take every animal home, because they’re already on their way home.

Sure, there are always favorites—cats that you try extra hard to get adopted (currently, mine is Princess;  update: Princess has finally been adopted!)—and it’s always extra satisfying when they finally make it out the door.

But then there are the select few, the ones that really take your breath away, the ones that you’d take home with you in a heartbeat, if only you could take them home. It’s different than the cats that I would happily adopt, if I didn’t already have two cats. (Between Smirnoff’s hatred of all cats other than Bacardi and my own allergies, as well as being a poor graduate student, two is all I can manage.) Those are cats you miss when they’re gone, but in a happy way. No, what I’m talking about is something else: the cats whose lives really touch you, who you’ll never ever forget for as long as you work at the shelter. Cats that you try really hard in your head to figure out a way to take them home and make it work, even though it’s impossible. There have only been two of these cats for me over the past two years, and they both hold special places in my heart.

The first, was a cat named Patti (I’ll save her story for another day). The second, and most recent one, was Whiskers.

Whiskers came to the shelter when his previous owner went to a nursing home. The owner had found a new home for Whiskers, but after a move, Whiskers was no longer getting along with the other animals he was living with. So, being thirteen years old (which is getting up there for a cat), he was brought into the shelter to be put to sleep. But our vet saw how healthy and well taken care of Whiskers was. He also had a very unusual coat—a smoke black tabby. Whenever he’d move, Whiskers’s fur would ripple from black to white, since the undercoat was completely white but the outer coat was black. Combined with his distinct tabby markings, he was something the shelter had never seen before. So Whiskers had full blood-work done and was put up for adoption.

I didn’t even take notice of Whiskers until he was on the adoption floor. But upon my first visit with him, I knew he was special. He was shy and didn’t really do anything. He was easy to pick up and it was easy to trim his nails. But he would tremble in your arms if you brought him out of his cage, and he spent almost all his time asleep. So he didn’t really stand out to potential adopters—he’s a loving cat, but he’s not an attention-seeker, which is what most people want. He’d never really purr, and he’d only just lean into chin scratches before settling into the back of his cage for another nap.

His age didn’t help. A lot of people come in wanting young cats (and, of course, kittens). Some people think a 3-year-old is old, which is simply ridiculous. (Smirnoff is currently 3, and he has years and years and years of energy ahead of him!) Indoor cats can live about 16–18 years, sometimes even longer with good health. But the idea of a 13-year-old is usually too much for adopters, and we knew all along that Whiskers’s best chance of adoption was someone who came in wanting to do a good deed.

So for months Whiskers waited patiently. I plastered my facebook wall with photos of him with his information. At one point I had a friend interested in adopting him, but he and his girlfriend ended up choosing a 10-year-old cat named Buddy instead (which was a great adoption, since Buddy has a couple medical concerns). I really wanted a home for Whiskers and I secretly wanted that home to be mine, but I knew I had to think of my own two cats’ happiness above all else (and Smirnoff & Bacardi are my favorite two cats in the world, no question).

And then, after so much waiting, it finally happened:

“I just can’t stop thinking about him.”

An adopter, who had come in and adopted a pair of 3-year-old cats, Cleopatra and Betty, but had spent time visiting with Whiskers, was back. That’s really all I needed to hear.

To know that Whiskers had touched someone else, someone who was able to take in a third cat—an old cat—was the best feeling. I ran out and bought Whiskers a brand new brush, nail scissors, fuzzy mice, and a bag of treats (to be shared with Cleo & Betty, of course). It was a small gesture, but I wanted the adopter to know that we were all so happy he was willing to take on a hard case (because yes, I’ll admit it’s difficult to commit to a cat when you know you’ll grow attached to it and it doesn’t have all that many years left). Whiskers went home last Saturday, and he’s now in a home with someone who will love him, unconditionally, for his remaining years. I’m sure his previous owner would be happy knowing that Whiskers is once again safe and loved.

It’s cats like Whiskers that make volunteering so great. And it’s also why I don’t feel the need to take every cat home. Because as much as I wanted to personally save Whiskers, as much as I tried to convince myself that adopting him would work, knowing that he’s in the best home he could be in, is far more rewarding. Sometimes, being selfless for a cat and not adopting them is the far more difficult choice.

But I’ll never forget him.

Whiskers and I


80 Replies to “Whiskers, the “Old” Cat”

  1. So thrilled that Whiskers got adopted. I’m a hard core cat person and have a kitty that was seven when I adopted her. A home is not a home without a cat. 🙂

  2. working with animals seems so rewarding! my sister is a vet tech and i know how attached she got to certain animals, and how happy she was when the ones her clinic was fostering finally found a home. old animals need the most love!!!!!! ❤

  3. This was a touching post. I’ve never really had any pets but I always understand that I’ve missed out on a special bond when I see other people with their animals. You sounds like an extremely caring person and you put a lot of work into ensuring these animals find happy homes. The world could use more people like you! Thank you for working so hard and sharing your post!

  4. Shelters as a place of transition– love that! Love that your cats are named after some choice alcohol– cute. My cat is 18+. Sadly, we lost her litter-sister earlier this year, but there still is a lot of love and energy in my beautiful Sonoma. Indeed, there may be many more loving years ahead for Whiskers. My boyfriend likes to say, “We don’t find pets, they find us.” And it sounds like Whiskers has found a beautiful place to nap, and to love.

  5. I hear ya! I’m heartbroken at having to find a new home for my 13-year-old Siamese. We’re downsizing to a 1-bedroom apartment in another town, where kitty just can’t come with us. A friend has agreed to take him on a trial basis to see if he’ll get along with the cat he already lives with. I’m optimistic but afraid it won’t work and then we’re really getting short on time to find another arrangement. Your story gives me hope. Thank you.

  6. Gah…it’s raining all over my face! What a beautiful post – thank you so much for sharing, and thank you for volunteering at the shelter! We adopted our kitty from the SPCA and she brings us so much laughter and love. It’s great people like you who make sure these relationships can blossom.

  7. I couldn’t do what you are doing, honestly, it’s so commendable. To love them like that and to be able to ‘leave’ them, that is a feat. During the two years that I lived next to a neighbour with barncats I ended up adopting three of them because they chose my barn to live in instead and soon they were part of my family. So I had a total of six cats then and this caused a lot of stress among the felines.

    Good thing I moved. 😉 I will write a post about my pets’ transport from Canada to Europe tomorrow! See you there, I hope.

  8. I don’t normally comment, but in this case I know exactly what you mean. I worked at a cat shelter some time ago, and there was one cat named Tony who I loved and adored but couldn’t take home. Tony loved people but hated other cats, so he lived in the (large) office at the shelter. When things were slow, I’d lay down on the floor in the office and Tony would sprawl across my stomach, put his two front paws on either side of my neck and nuzzle his head below my chin. Tony had mouth and gum problems, so he couldn’t properly shut his mouth all the way, and he would make the most ridiculous wheezing sound and drool all over me, but he was my favorite cat there and I haven’t forgotten him ten years later.

  9. I too, already have a cat..a former stray, like all of the felines we’ve had. BRAVO TO YOU AND WHISKERS! Two points for me to make: (1.) Erika Martin is publishing a series of E-books via Amazon.com called THE ADVENTURES OF FLUFF MUFFIN, about a cat adopted from a shelter (Children’s books but definitely cat-lover readable!). (2.) Please read some of my cat-related poetry, including “PAPER SHUFFLING (most recent)”, at ourpoetrycorner.wordpress.com. I’d think you’d like it! Peace to you and the kitty (-ies) who share your household…Jonathan Caswell.

  10. I work in rescue and it’s always so nice to see people talk about how wonderful their adopted pets are. The reality is that if everyone who was going to buy a pet this year adopted instead of buyin from a pet store, we could save all of them.

    Princess is so beautiful – black cats always have such a hard run to get adopted as they don’t photograph as well but they’re the best cats to have (partly because you only have black cat hair on your clothes – esp good if you only have black clothes). But back to the story – I never liked animals until I found my first one, now I can’t imagine my life without cats!

  11. He is so cute! I am so happy he finaly found a family! 🙂 All the cats i ever owned were stray cats, and i have recieved so much love from them. It annoys me so much to hear that people pay pet shops to buy animals, when there are so many in shelters waiting to be adopted….
    Good job taking care of these cats! 🙂

  12. Well Done! You have been awarded a Grade 3 BlOgcean Award from us! Your one of a group of the first ever to get this award, so we would be grateful if you could spread the word! If you want to know more about us and your award go to: http://blogceanawards.wordpress.com/
    Keep posting on your great blog! And go on our Blog to nominate someone else’s blog too if you feel like it!

  13. I adopted my cat straight of the road 🙂 it’s a long story that i’ll save for my own blog (I’m new) but my Ally was a stray that started sleeping on our varanda (porch?)! I love her and she’s the smartest kitty in the whole wide world and I’ve had her for like 10 years but -lol i’m going to sound like i’m two- she’s going to live for ever and ever:D she’s my best friend and i don’t care if she’s blind in one eye!!! omg i really do sound 2

  14. I foster dogs, and I feel the same about letting them go. And if I kept them, I wouldn’t have space to keep fostering and it’s an important job. But there is always that one, mine was an Irish wolfhound x great Dane. I totally fell in love with him. I actually tried to persuade hubby to keep him. A family was coming to meet him and we had decided if they don’t take him we would keep him. They took him, and adore him, so I am very happy he has his forever home, but I still think on him and miss him and wish I’d kept him.

  15. wow kudos to you for working at an adoption center! i have always wanted to but I know I will fall in love with the animals lol! what a beautiful cat though! I actually wrote a post about my cat! its called Bedtime Monsters and Pole Dancers 🙂

  16. Wow very touching, I have two cats of my own that I love dearly. So nice to hear these success stories for the older cats out there. Thanks so much for sharing!

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