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Zeb the “Ragged Old Man” Inspires Support for Senior Cats

The FIV-positive former street cat with 1 eye and only 4 teeth raises awareness via Facebook.

Phillip Mlynar  |  Mar 10th 2016


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Have you become totally Zebsessed yet?

You don’t know what that means? Allow me to explain. Zeb is a senior FIV-positive cat with only one eye and four teeth. He was going about his business living life as a street cat until the day he was brought to the Cumberland County SPCA in New Jersey in December 2014. Beth Flor saw Zeb’s “unforgettable face” in a social media blast and was immediately charmed. She decided Zeb was the cat for her.

Now Zeb has become an Internet personality through his Facebook page.

“When you look at Zeb’s first photos from the shelter, there’s nothing particularly special about the ragged old man in them,” says Beth. “But he spoke to people, and people all over the globe were cheering for him.”

Having become a fixture on the feline social media circuit, Zeb uses his status to help other senior and special-needs cats in need of late-life forever homes. We asked Beth to tell us Zeb’s story.

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Image via Facebook

What were your first impressions of Zeb? What’s he like as a cat?

When we first adopted Zeb, he was just getting over an upper respiratory infection and was so docile and sweet. Once he started feeling better and became comfortable with us, his inner grump came out.

A lot of people who follow his Facebook page are surprised to hear that he actually had a lot of behavioral problems his first couple months with us. But we worked through them and now he’s a total momma’s boy. If he sees me sitting or lying down somewhere, he has to be touching me, preferably as close to my face as possible.

He’s still a grumpy old man, but endearingly so. I’ve known a lot of overall sweeter cats in my life, but Zeb is still my favorite, by far. He has more character and is more hilarious than any cat I’ve ever met.

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Image via Facebook

Was it hard to deal with Zeb’s early behavioral problems?

A lot of people think that with cats, what you see is what you get, and that you can’t modify their behavior like you can with dogs. But if I had given up on Zeb during the difficult times and didn’t have patience with him, I never would have seen what an amazing guy he is. And I can honestly say that he’s changed my life.

I’ve had cats my whole life, but I was always a dog person through and through. Now my friends jokingly call me a crazy cat lady — but they’re right! Since falling head over heels for Zeb I’ve opened my heart to other cats as well and have started fostering senior cats through City of Elderly Love

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Image via Facebook

Do you have any idea how Zeb came to only have one eye and four teeth?

Because he was a stray, no one knows exactly how he got so beat up. He actually does have two eyes — but my vet suspects that he had some kind of head trauma, which caused damage to his ocular muscles and caused the one eye to sink back. So the one eye is non-functional and you can’t see it.

Funnily enough, Zeb’s original adoption profile noted that he had only four teeth, but he went in for a dental last spring and it turns out he actually has significantly more than four teeth! But then he needed almost all of them extracted, so I think he’s down to about three. I actually don’t know for sure, but he at least still has one impressive fang.

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Image via Facebook

Zen is an FIV-positive cat. What’s the biggest misconception people have about the condition?

I think a lot of people just have no idea what FIV is, so they assume it’s some horrible disease. I honestly didn’t know a lot about it before I adopted my first FIV+ cat. There’s also still a lot of misinformation out there, even coming from vets, which is disheartening.

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Image via Facebook

I see a lot of people online saying their vet recommended that they euthanize their FIV+ cat, or that they were told he or she couldn’t live with cats who weren’t FIV+. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s actually fairly difficult to spread FIV among spayed and neutered indoor cats. FIV is usually only spread by unaltered outside cats who tend to get in fights involving deep bite wounds.

And once a cat contracts FIV, it’s so far from a death sentence. FIV+ cats can live long, healthy lives as well as cared-for indoor cats, and in most cases they live just as long as their FIV- counterparts.

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Image via Facebook

What message would Zeb like to tell the world about senior cats, especially when it comes to adopting one?

Obviously Zeb would like to tell the world that senior cats are awesome. Senior animals have had a lifetime of experiences to shape who they are, and their personality reflects that. Some people really like the spunk and unpredictability of kittens, but if you want a cat with refinement, who is truly grateful for the love you give and who appreciates a slower pace and a deep human bond, then you should consider a senior.

I have never heard someone who adopted a senior cat say they wish they had adopted a kitten instead. A lot of people never go back to younger animals once they adopt their first senior, myself included.

Hop over to Zeb’s Facebook page to become totally Zebsessed.

About the author: Phillip Mlynar writes about cats, music, food, and sometimes a mix of all three. He considers himself the world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats.