Thursday, June 25, 2015

Shelter stories: Senior cats like Lionel struggle during kitten season

siamese cat with blue eyes

On a typical day landing between October and May, a cat like Lionel here would go flying right out of the shelter as soon as he was deemed adoptable.

But that's not happening right now.

This adorable flame-point Siamese has been waiting for a home for a month now. And I can tell you the reason in just one word: Kittens.

Yup, kitten season has hit in full force in Oregon, so the shelter is swimming with tiny, mewling bundles of fur. They're adorable and cuddly and full of hope, and they're moving right out of the shelter in record times.

Meanwhile, perfect cats like Lionel languish.

And Lionel really is a perfect cat. He's an 8-year-old neutered male with no real health problems to speak of. He's a little bit on the thin side, as he came to the shelter as a stray and probably didn't have access to a reliable source of food when he was on his own. But, in the shelter, he's eating quite a bit and he continues to gain the weight he needs. He's also had a complete dental cleaning, so his teeth are perfect.

Lionel also has perfectly beautiful cat manners. He's been in two multi-cat living situations, and I've been so impressed with his easygoing temperament. In his first placement, his roomie was a grouchy girl that really wanted a big bubble of space around her. Lionel picked up on that and would drift to the other side of the room, should she feel like pacing. Now, he's in a different room with gentle seniors, and he spends most of his day either grooming or head-butting them. Anyone with cats at home could make it work with this guy.

He also really loves people. Minutes before I took this photo, I was sitting down in that empty spot by Lionel's back. As soon as I sat down, he hopped up, settled in and prepared to nap. He's easygoing and gentle with people, but he still has pep enough to engage.

Lionel also comes with a whopper of a $20 adoption fee, and right now, the shelter is holding a special in which his fees could be waived altogether. That means he could go home to a family for free. And, a local veterinarian is also offering free veterinary visits for life for adopted senior cats like Lionel. This guy comes with a ton of cost savings.

Anyone who thinks that breeding cats is an excellent idea should think about older cats like Lionel. These are cats that could make perfect companions, and that have all of the traits that families typically look for in a cat. But they get overlooked when they go head-to-head with tiny kittens. They languish. They wait.

And sometimes, their behaviors deteriorate as they wait. How many more roommates must Lionel go through before someone takes a chance on him? How much longer must he ask for attention from volunteers that don't live there, and that can't give him the around-the-clock love that he wants? Even the nicest of cats can grow bitter and disillusioned when their wait stretches into months. (That's what I saw with Troy, you may remember, as he stopped eating during his long wait.)

So in the short term, I'd love to see Lionel adopted. Anyone within driving distance of Salem, Oregon, can come and pick him up from Willamette Humane Society. More information here.

But the long-term solution is clear. Spay and neuter your cats before they have even one litter of kittens. That's the only way we can protect cats like Lionel, and ensure that these sorts of waits just don't happen anymore.

And should you need more reasons to pick a senior cat over a kitten at a shelter, read this. I have some compelling ideas, just for you! 


  1. Heartbreaking isn't it. this is why I get frustrated with the whole 'just one litter' practice of some people