Cash the Cat may have set a new world record for cats awaiting adoption; he’s been waiting for 19 years (longer, even than Minxy did!). This heartwarming story describes how Lee Van Camp — a woman with a very big heart — was willing to give Cash a chance at a happy home in his sunset years.

The following success story is from Best Friends Animal Society:

Story by David Dickson
Photos by Molly Wald

Chasing dreams is not always for the faint of heart. Some dreams come easy, others take much longer. Some take so long, in fact, that they seem to fade into the distance and all but disappear. For Cash the cat, it would be easy to understand if he ever became discouraged about the dream of finding a home. After all, hed been waiting over 19 years.

Cash was found as a stray 4-week-old kitten with FIV. He came to Best Friends at the time and has been here ever since. Heck, hes been at the sanctuary longer than a lot of the buildings.

When Lee Van Camp of Fountain Hills, Arizona, began thinking about adopting a cat from Best Friends, she knew just what to do. A previous Best Friends adopter twice over, Lee wrote to Best Friends adoption manager Kristi Litrell and told her what she was looking for an older, special needs cat.

Her previous two adoptions at Best Friends were senior dogs. P.J. and Brandon were each 13-years-old when Lee adopted them. “They deserve to have a good home,” Lee says, about older pets. “Even though they may not be with you for ten years or more, you can still give them the same love.”

So when it came time to adopt a cat, Lee knew from the outset she wasnt going to be picking a kitten. Kristi wrote back with a suggestion that sounded promising. Cash was an FIV cat who had been at Best Friends waiting for a home for 19 years. He didnt have any teeth (which incidentally means he cant infect another animal with FIV), but was otherwise in good health. Would she like to meet him?

Lee drove up to Best Friends and spent an entire week with Cash. Her first impression upon meeting him was that he didnt look like an almost-20-year-old cat. She thought he seemed a lot younger. She also came to recognize very quickly at least some of the reasons why he might have been overlooked for so long.

“Hes not the cat who will come marching over to say hello,” Lee explains. He was the wallflower the one in the background who avoided the spotlight every chance he could.

Cashing in

Even though Cash tried to pull the shy routine with Lee, she was determined to win him over with kindness. Armed with persistence and a pocketful of treats, Lee spent day after day bonding with Cash. It didnt take long before Cash recognized something special in her.

Before the week was over, Cash would even crawl up on her lap for pets and goodies. By the time she had to leave the sanctuary, Lee knew she could give him a good home the home hes always deserved. “His forever home,” as she likes to emphasize. Make no mistake, now at Lees residence, this cat is not going anywhere.

Lee knows a thing or two about caring for older animals. Her dog P.J., the one she adopted from Best Friends last year, is on a whole assortment of various medications and treatments. Undaunted, Lee takes in stride all the special needs that can come with age for P.J. and her other pets. To her way of thinking, though, Cash is a walk in the park. No real special needs, other than the fact hes not a spry young kitten any more.

If theres one thing Lee likes to pass along to others, its encouraging them to consider adopting an older pet. “Theres nothing like it,” she explains. “They are so appreciative to finally get a forever home.” That certainly includes Cash.

For the entire car ride home, Cash never made one sound. Every time shed lean back and look at him, Cash would just glance back quietly. You have to wonder if he kept waiting for someone to pinch him and wake him up.

In his new home, Cash is finally getting to experience all those things hes heard so much about over the years. Things like closets and beds. But even the everyday stuff takes some getting used to. If Lee is on the bed, for example, Cash will join her. If shes gone, however, no dice. Remember, human furniture might as well be a UFO floating around the living room for all hes seen of the inside of a house!

Lee knows Cash might take a little while getting used to a home setting. So far, however, he seems content with this newfangled approach to living. It will only get better from here. And no matter what else, as Lee says, “Hes going to get lots of love.”

Congratulations, the both of you. Thanks for the reminder that dreams do indeed come true.

Cash may have been one of the sanctuarys longest-term residents, however, there are still plenty of other mature felines who are available for adoption.

You, too, can make a senior cat’s life happy in her last few years, or save a special-needs cat from certain euthanization. Check with your local shelter or Best Friends to find out how to adopt.

Cash is living proof that FIV positive cats can live long, healthy lives. My mother-in-law has a senior formerly-feral FIV+ cat who is over 15 years old. Aside from a thyroid problem and occasional dental extractions, he’s been in great health, and is one of the sweetest, most loving cats I’ve even known.