Nearly a year ago, Christina and I announced in LymeLine that we were “on the lookout for two adoptable kittens; we hope to find a pair of orange tabby sisters.” Our plan was to name them Fenway and Wrigley.
We had lost Finn, our pet of more than 15 years, as a result of an inoperable and inexplicable carcinoma of the lung, which appeared on a radiograph at an emergency visit.
Finn was a rescue, and had spent her early months in our daughter’s NYU freshman dormitory; remaining there until expulsion appeared inevitable (i.e., the kitten’s, not the daughter’s). Devan, the freshman, was visited by her older sister, Erin, who convinced her to relocate the kitten to Old Lyme, where she remained with us.
Those who have also had long-term pets know just how soon they become important members of the household; and how long they are mourned, when lost.
We never really anticipated what would then lay before us as we set out on our search for kittens.
We began our quest near the beginning of this year with the municipal animal shelters in southeast Connecticut, and then eventually, with both Finn’s and another veterinary practice, who suggested that we wait until early-summer, when kittens are often more plentiful.
Although we were persistent with the municipal shelters and on waiting lists at several, we were unsuccessful and decided to investigate the private animal rescue shelters in the same area, where there are several.
We learned that these shelters tend to be non-profit and/or charitable organizations that are highly reliant on volunteers, although some had a few paid staff. They are “no-kill”, and so, do not terminate healthy or treatable animals, limiting euthanasia for incurably ill animals or those who could pose a danger to public safety.
Adoptions at these shelters may require payment of a nominal fee (e.g., $200 to $250 per kitten) to cover expenses for veterinary services incurred by the organization while the animal was in residence. These can include a health examination, neutering, various vaccinations, and treatments for problems like fleas, ticks, ear mites.
We felt confident that our history and experience with pets, relationships with veterinarians, and sensible and stable lifestyle would make us very suitable candidates for adopting rescued kittens.
In addition, the “PBS News Hour” reported in February that, “Rescue shelters are feeling the pressure of too many potential pets and not enough people adopting them. Many shelters are at capacity and understaffed; pets adopted during the pandemic were returned, and inflation had made owning and caring for a pet more expensive, leaving some owners struggling to afford rising costs.” While this may have been the situation in many parts of the country, it was apparently not so for kittens in this area, as we were to experience.
The first shelter we explored had stated that their mission was, “To stop the proliferation of homeless cats living hard lives and struggling to find food and shelter on the streets of our local communities.” Their application process seemed daunting, and included the disclaimers that the organization, “Reserves the right to deny an adoption request for any, or no reason, and may choose not to reveal specific reasons;” and that they “Promote age-appropriate adoptions.”
I did some further research on this shelter, and found several unhappy reviews that cited age as a factor. A few examples follow:
- “To adopt a kitten from this shelter you must be no older than 60.”
- “We were told that at 60 and 65, we were too old to adopt any of their cats that aren’t two years of age.”
- “When we visited, we witnessed them declining another couple because they were “too old to adopt a young cat.”
- (In contrast): “During this process, we walked into a section with a volunteer, June, who immediately exclaimed, “We do not let anyone under the age of 25 adopt!”
Christina and I were shocked and surprised that this organization apparently had such discriminatory age restrictions in place. We were both already “of a certain age”, and so we were discouraged and decided to regroup before exploring other similar shelters.
Frankly, these practices “fly in the face” of conventional wisdom, which is supported by several scientific studies, that pets are important for the health of older adults, especially for those who are single, living alone, and a little isolated. Pets offer socialization and companionship to lonely seniors; and provide a strong sense of purpose that may reduce stress and assist them maintain a regular routine. However, as I describe below, our explorations unexpectedly came to an end.
We were returning home from Chester on a nice February Saturday. On the spur of the moment, we pulled into a local market in Deep River. While I wandered a few aisles on the hunt for dinner ideas, Christina checked out the bakery and bulletin board. Nothing appealed in the bakery, but there was a listing that stated, “Looking for a good home for our cat.” We called on Sunday and learning that we were not the first respondents, arranged a visit on Tuesday.
This retired couple was moving from Connecticut to care for the wife’s elderly brother in Florida. The brother’s circumstances did not allow them to bring their pet. Faye was not a kitten, but very young; perhaps a toddler, if it was human. Faye was a long-hair with remarkable coloring — pure white with a black saddle, crown, and tail. They said she was a rescue from a litter that was abandoned in a box behind their apartment complex.
The couple was childless and doted on Faye. They shared her veterinary records with us, which were very complete, and arranged a site visit in Old Lyme; where we passed muster. They delivered Faye about a week later. The cat’s parting from her former owners was smooth, if not a little emotional for them.
After several weeks transition in her new digs, she now answers to Fenway. She is a nice, playful pet; has very expressive ears, and communicates well when dinner is late. There is a very active fox population in our neighborhood, so Fenway will be exclusively indoors. We are discussing whether we will resume our search for Wrigley. Cats are social animals and tend to be happier in pairs.
In closing, Christina is a retired professor of Human Development and Ageing and corroborates the value of pets for older adults, which I touched on above.
Cirrillo, Anthony. “The value of pet ownership for older adults” US News and World Report. 10/16/2019
Moeller, Philip. “10 reasons older people need Pets” US News and World Report. 01/07/2010
Norris, Courtney. “Animal shelters struggle as many pets adopted during pandemic are returned” PBS News Hour (transcript). 02/20/2023
Cleveland Clinic. “The Health Benefits of Pets” Health Essentials Newsletter. 02/09/2023
About the author: Tom Gotowka is a resident of Old Lyme, whose entire adult career has been in healthcare. He will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK. A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.
Judy Davies says
Nice story. An interesting fact is that it is hard to find female orange tabbies – orange cats are mostly males, but I don’t know why.
I said the same thing as soon as I read two female tabbies!
James Dulin says
Do I have a cat for you! An orange tabby, female, with three orange male kittens.
I took her in off the streets in early January brought her to the Veterinarian to see if she had a chip in her and if she was spayed.
Surprise, she was pregnant.
The unhoused cat problem in the downtown area of Bennington VT is terrible. Over the past year I have taken in three pregnant mom’s, adopted out their kittens and turned over the moms to the Second Chance shelter who spayed and adopted them out.
Neutered three males (out of pocket) and found great homes for them. Currently l am feeding three feral un neutered males and hope to get them fixed and homes.
I am 66 years of age and would love to hear from you.
Thomas D. Gotowka says
Mr. Dulin: Thank you very much for your offer, but Wrigley is on the horizon here in Old Lyme, via a referral from our veterinarian. Neither of our pets will be orange tabbies, so things did not go exactly as planned; and both will be indoor cats because there has been a population explosion of foxes in the neighborhood.
The snarkiest of our three daughters asked Christina whether she was becoming a “cat lady”? Christina said that, if there’s two choices, she’d rather that her daughters think of her more like the Catwoman character played by Michelle Pfeiffer in “Batman Returns”.