While there are no hard statistics about senior cats in shelters, we know anecdotally that senior cats spend a longer time in shelters than younger cats. Many end up there because they’ve been given up by their family or their guardian has passed away.
Senior cats may be overlooked by adopters, but they can often make the best fit for a home. “If you’re looking for something in particular — a lap cat, an independent cat, a cat who’s already lived with kids or dogs — you can find one with the temperament you’re looking for,” says Bunny Hofberg, founder of NYC-based nonprofit Frankie’s Feline Fund dedicated to rescuing seniors.
While they may not receive as much celebrity support or attention on social media, there are cats, people and organizations working to spread the word about how very special senior cats are.
Brandy Ferig and Gina Hanson For the last three years Brandy and Gina having been running a self-funded animal hospice from their California home. They have provided hospice for 25 cats and dogs over the age of 10 who were living in shelters, allowing these would-be abandoned animals to live out their last days in a loving environment.
They founded Crooked Tails Senior Rescue to care for these seniors, “because nobody else will,” Brandy says. “These poor animals live their whole life with family and when they’re sick and old, instead of being taken to a vet, they’re relinquished. I want them to have a stable home with all the things they need. Medicine, food and someone to sleep with so they feel secure.”
Fifteen-year-old Atom, one of the two cats currently in residence, came to them having pulled out her fur and diagnosed with lymphoma, stomatitis, inflammatory bowel disease and megaesophagus. Today, “She’s off all her meds, fat, furry and demanding!” says Brandy with a laugh.
Their plan is to expand Crooked Tails into a hospice compound comprised of multiple buildings including a hospital with a full-time vet on the premises, a cat house and a place for volunteers to stay. “Where Seniors Live in Love” is Crooked Tails’ motto. Gina and Brandy hope to receive the support they need to provide love, comfort and care to many more seniors in need.
Grandpa Mason was a severely injured, battle-scarred, old feral cat trapped by TinyKittens, a not-for-profit group based in British Columbia, Canada. When it was discovered that this senior had terminal kidney disease, he was given a new indoor home because of his special dietary and medical needs.
Mason slowly blossomed in his new home, a home where his new mom fostered kittens. Surprisingly, it turned out that this formerly feral senior cat was a natural-born caretaker. Says Shelly Roche, TinyKittens founder and snuggler-in-chief, “He lets them nurse on him and gives them baths whether they need them or not!”
While he has helped the kittens with his nurturing, they’ve in turn helped him become a happy, high-energy cat. “He’s getting to experience the care-free kittenhood he missed out on the first time around, and he is taking full advantage!” Shelly says.
“Mason is showing us each day that even if you’re old, sick, scared or different, you still have value,” she says. His story has inspired people to adopt former ferals and seniors.
The always squee-worthy and sometimes hilarious photos and videos of Grandpa Mason and “his kitties” have attracted over 75k Facebook followers (@MasonAndKittens).
After their owner passed away, 20-year-old feline siblings Kate and Juliet found themselves in a high-kill shelter.
It was there that Amanda Cox saw and adopted the loving pair, a decision that would change her life.
Having seen all the senior cats at the shelter she couldn’t save, Amanda started a Facebook page sharing photos and stories about Kate and Juliet (@thegrannies), who have since passed. “Instead of preaching to people, I wanted to make people fall in love with these girls to see that their lives had value,” Amanda says. Today, with almost a million followers, the page has become a forum to help connect senior cats with adopters.
The popularity of the Facebook page led Amanda to establish The Grannie Project, a nonprofit with a mission to rescue, adopt and advocate for senior pets. Located in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the organization has saved more than 200 senior cats.
“Senior cats make great companions,” Amanda says. “But they don’t stand a chance in a shelter where kittens are coming in by the armload.” She speaks to how easy it is to provide a home to a senior cat. “All they want is a soft bed, food and a sun spot to lie in.”
When asked how Kate and Juliet most impacted her life, Amanda says, “The rescue is the biggest way. It has given me a purpose and allowed me to give back to my community.”
Tell us: Do you have senior cats? What senior cat rescues do you support?
Thumbnail: Photography Courtesy Brandy Ferig
Tamar Arslanian resides in New York City with her two rescue cats, Kip and Haddie. She is the founder of IHaveCat.com and author of HarperCollins’ Shop Cats of New York, a Cat Writers’ Association Muse Medallion winner. Find her on Instagram and Facebook at @ihavecat and @shopcatsofnewyork.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you!