I published this story near the beginning of the month in December 2011, and because it was such a sweet story I’m sharing it again for my Tuesday rescue story in honor of all the cats and dogs and bunnies and ferrets and all the other animal companions who are in shelters this holiday season, waiting for a home—because Penny was adopted!
In mid-October I received an e-mail from someone in the community next to mine that a stray cat had come to visit her porch. If you’d like to adopt an angel cat, Penny is waiting for you at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Her story is so special I have to share it.
A pretty kitty needs a home
“I have followed the articles written over the years in the local paper about you and I know that you are a cat lover,” the e-mail read from a person I did not know. Busted! This sometimes happens, and it usually leads to a new friendship. I read on to see where this would lead.
“A small Calico Cat has taken up at my house. It is homeless and I wanted to know if you knew of someone that would like to have it or could foster it until it finds a home? It is a beautiful cat with black, gold, tan spots with a white belly. I think it is young because it looks very dainty and it has yellow/green eyes,” she continued.
I was so touched by her detailed and tender description. Obviously she had not simply looked out her window and seen a cat and e-mailed me, she was observant and had studied the cat and found adjectives like “small”, “beautiful” and “dainty” to describe her, which gave me hints about her feelings for animals and even about her as I began to assess the situation. These observations also told me a few things about the kitty, that she made direct eye contact and wasn’t timid, that she was probably affectionate, likely was not feral and could have been a lost pet.
She described the kitty as “very sweet and friendly” and guessed that someone had dropped it in the neighborhood. She went on to say she had she posted listings for an apparently lost kitty on PetFinder and craigslist but no one had called to claim her, and that she couldn’t keep the kitty herself.
“I need to find it a home before it gets cold and now I am feeding it and it has a bed on my back porch. If I can’t find someone to take it I will have to take it to a shelter. I have neighbors that are not being kind to it now,” she explained.
Yes, the coming winter was a concern, as were the neighbors; we who rescue cats know how that can be. I was also concerned that the kitty might not be spayed—who knew what her health history was? The last thing we needed was an autumn litter of kittens. I was organizing my concerns to reply to her, lists of resources she could use, and of course I was going to try to convince her to foster or even adopt the kitty until I read the next line.
“My Old English Sheepdog died in early September so I am not ready for a pet now.”
I understood. There may have been other reasons I could work around, but this was one I would not work around in any way. Grief must take its time, and even the presence of another species of animal after a loss can be painful just as it can be comforting.
What to offer as help?
I also knew that I could not take the kitty, that every other rescuer and foster organization I knew of was full, and there weren’t many options for the calico but a shelter. I would advise to get her on a waiting list at Animal Friends, Pittsburgh’s no-kill shelter, but that might take more time than she had.
I know she was concerned of the kitty being euthanized at another shelter, as many people have the perception that most animals don’t survive the shelter experience and hesitate to surrender animals there.
Open Door Shelters
However, through the years I’ve sent or taken plenty of cats to Pittsburgh’s two open-door shelters, the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania, who’ve gone on to happy homes from the shelter or from one of their offsite adoption opportunities at PetSmart, Petco, or one of the many events they sponsor. Timing is the important element. In mid-summer at the height of kitten season it’s not a good idea in any city anywhere as shelters work with the overflow of kittens and mother cats, but fostering for a while until the overcrowding decreases helps reduce the burden of overcrowding, kitty stays socialized by living in a home and you can vouch for kitty’s personality with a potential adopter, increasing kitty’s chances of being adopted.
I’ve also known both of these shelters to be honest about an animal’s chances of being adopted when people take them for surrender during one of these overcrowded times, asking the reason for surrender and offering guidance if it’s for a behavior problem in hopes they can keep the animal in its home permanently—and often they do—and if cages are full asking if the owners can keep the animal for a while until there’s a little more space.
I e-mailed my contact at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society because it was the closest to both this person and me, and found that things were slowing down after some pretty high numbers in August. “Of course we can take care of her, it’s why we are an Open Door Shelter,” she said.
So I e-mailed back to kitty’s person that I could not take her, and I understood her feelings so soon after losing her dog that she could not keep her.
“I am concerned for two things in addition to the weather: the neighbors, and the fact that she is young and may not be spayed, and may be expecting a litter of kittens and has chosen your porch because it is safe. This is not unusual, and it’s often difficult to tell if a cat is pregnant until pretty far along if she’s been outdoors and hasn’t had a regular diet,” I told her.
I explained that in this case it was most important to get her to a safer place as soon as possible. I told her about the fluctuation in intake at shelters and that they all do everything they can to find homes, and that I’ve taken cats to the shelters myself with confidence. They’d even give her shelter number to watch her progress on the shelter’s website. Calico cats, especially friendly ones, are VERY popular, and kitty would probably find a home quickly. She’d be spayed and get all her shots and be microchipped at the shelter, and a donation would be very much appreciated. She would be in no danger.
“You know how I feel about cats but I would do this myself, and I would have all confidence that she would not be euthanized, that she would get good care, and that she would find a home quickly,” I added.
This was agreeable to her and she said she’d arrange to take the kitty that weekend.
“It is the most sweet cat and deserves a good home. I just don’t know why someone would let a nice cat like that go unless it truly is lost. I will miss it when it is gone but it deserves better and a good home. I call it Kitty and I will miss it,” she said.
In successive e-mails I explained about the calico coat pattern and that she was probably a girl. And thinking of her recent loss I also shared with her that it had been a year to the day since I’d lost my Peaches and sent her a link my anniversary post about Peaches, and mentioned that sometimes animals show up at our door for a reason.
She read the article and replied she had had Snoopy, her sheepdog, for 13 years and the last month was the hardest.
“She went to the vets because of a urinary tract infection and they gave her a penicillin shot then 2 days later her hind legs were paralyzed,” she said. The vet thought it had something to do with her spine, and this often happens with older large breed dogs. “She got so sick the last 2 weeks and I was off on family leave for my Mom so I was able to take care of her every day. Up until the day she died, she barked for the mailman like she did every day and she always really loved to eat so at the end I gave her dog food pouches and the last two times she ate, she licked my hands and I think that was to tell me thank you and she knew she was going,” she continued.
“Sometimes I think that the Calico cat was sent by Snoopy. It stretches its legs in the front and then the back and Snoopy did this too. It even gave us her paw,” she said. “One day she sat on the steps with me and looked up at me with her eyes as if she was trying to tell me something. …I would like to keep her but I don’t have the room and my Mom is 81 and I am afraid she would fall over her.”
She thanked me, I wished her luck and waited to hear news of the kitty’s shelter number.
Is no news good news?
But time passed, and no news. Over Thanksgiving weekend I was planning to contact her, almost afraid in case something had happened but hoping that she had decided to keep the kitty.
The Monday following I received an e-mail from her that she had taken the kitty to WPHS the previous day. She had indeed tried to keep her but found she couldn’t.
Kitty was even a good girl in the car. “She sat in a box in the car and meowed a few times and that was only the second time since she was with me that she meowed,” she reported.
They told her at WPHS she was about a year old. “She has such a nice disposition and is so beautiful – she has a heart shape right below the back of her neck. I hope she gets a really nice home. When I put her in the carrier she never caused any trouble,” she continued.
“I hated to take her but at least she is safe and warm now. She had a bed on my porch with covers and I gave her a hot water bottle to keep her warm,” she described. “She loved to sit on the porch and look out at everything. She liked to look at the birds and think about catching them.
“I called her Kitty but my Mom named her Penny yesterday which was a good name because I once got a poem from someone that said every time you see a penny on the ground it is an angel from Heaven and to say a prayer. I am going to start volunteering at the shelter so maybe I will see her again,” she ended.
She added later that she was really missing them both, that Penny “really changed us all for the better. She was a little gift from God.”
Do you need an angel?
I will try to be as persuasive as possible in convincing someone to adopt an animal, especially a homeless cat—and I can be extremely persuasive, conniving, coercive and gently arm-twisting—but if their honest assessment of their situation is that they can’t adopt I am not the person to question their judgment, and I will do my best to help them and to find the animal a permanent home.
A quote, proverb, saying, aphorism that I’ve heard passed around for years though I’ve never found its origin—and it’s even turned up recently in Harry Potter—that when you save a life, you are then in some way responsible for it. Perhaps in this way I feel responsible for Penny, so I’m going to spread the word of her good deed and do my best to help her find a good home. When I get a chance to visit the WPHS I’ll find her and take a few photos, but I honestly hope that even if I get there tomorrow she’ll already be adopted and be hard at work as an angel in some other needy human’s life.
At this point I entered a plea for Penny’s adoption including her adoption number and WPHS adoption fees and terms.
But Penny was adopted at the beginning of January 2012! You can read about it in Penny Has Been Adopted, and marvel in the fact that Penny’s rescuer was volunteering at the shelter the day Penny was adopted, got to meet them and see Penny off to her forever home. It was all meant to be.
Penny’s rescuer still volunteers and we keep in touch regularly. Someday an angel meant just for her will appear to share her life.
I love to share happy endings because with all the bad we tend to hear we need to hear about good things and happy pets. But don’t forget that every animal waiting in a shelter has a story. Adopt if you can, foster if not, or donate to your local shelter in time, goods or money this holiday season. In 2012, the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society is celebrating 138 years of helping animals. Every 138th adoption receives a package of special gifts!
This article won a Certificate of Excellence in the 2012 Cat Writer’s Association Communications Contest.
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