Monday, September 5, 2016

Shelter stories: A labor of love for a cat

Liebe the cat on a leash

When we think about Labor Day in relation to cats, dogs and other animals, we traditionally think about things like veterinary medicine. Every day, veterinarians and vet techs work hard to help our companion animals stay healthy and happy, and on Labor Day, it's right to remember the hard work they do.

But today, I wanted to do something a little different. Today, I want to honor someone who does a lot of very important work as a volunteer. She just  might inspire you to do a little volunteer work of your own.

The beneficiary of this work is Liebe--an 8yo Russian blue cat. She came into the Willamette Humane Society, where I am a volunteer, back in April. She was rescued from a cat hoarding/cat breeding household run by someone with some mental health concerns. That person got the help she needed, and Liebe and her cat family all came to the shelter for a new chance.

All of those siblings were adopted from WHS, or they headed to partner shelters for new families. But Liebe had some health issues that kept her with us for a little longer. An untreated ear infection ate away her eardrums, causing deafness and head sensitivity. And kidney disease, likely caused by malnutrition, had set in.

Liebe the cat on a leash

Liebe also has a quirky, bossy little personality. She is very playful, and she likes nothing more than to make people scramble. So she'd do things like whack cameras and pens out of people's hands when they came to visit. Or she'd mock bite them when they tried to pet her. Some people can handle this kind of friskiness, and two families tried to take her home. But both families brought her back due to allergies. Back into the cage she'd go, over and over again.

As the months stretched on and no one stepped forward to take Liebe home for good, her behaviors worsened. It's hard for a cat to live in a kennel, month in and month out. She got restless and meaner. She couldn't help it.

And here's where the innovation comes in.

One volunteer wondered if expanding Liebe's world would make her more adoptable. What if she could get out of that cage for just an hour or so every day? What would that do for her? So this volunteer picked up a cat harness and leash and tried it out. She came in, every day, and she walked Liebe.

Liebe the cat on a leash

The transformation was really remarkable. Liebe went from feisty and frisky in her cage to alert and friendly on her leash. She loved watching the cars driving by and the birds flying overhead. Cat volunteers and WHS employees would come out to visit with Liebe on her leash, and she'd gently greet everyone with purrs and head bumps, with no signs of slapping.

After 2 weeks of this treatment, Liebe was finally chosen by a forever family. And I have zero doubt that this one volunteer--working so hard out of the love she had for this cat--made it happen. She helped Liebe to burn off steam, learn to trust and find her sense of hope. That's what helped her to recover from her trauma. And it's what made her ready to join a forever home.

So on this labor day, I honor her labor of love for Liebe. Her contribution is priceless.

And it might inspire you to do such work in your own shelters. Maybe you could walk a cat or a dog. Maybe you could just read to a pet on your lunch break. Or, maybe you could send in a few dollars every month. It's work, yes. But the results can be amazing.

Enjoy your Labor Day!


  1. That is a very heartwarming story.

  2. What a beautiful story, Big paws up for that awesome volunteer, and her labor of love for Liebe. <3

  3. What a wonderful happy end for Liebe, which means love in German.

  4. That is a great story, I love a happy ending.