In May 2010 we received a call from another rescue. A person wanted to surrender his two cats, and if they didn’t take them he would just leave them in their parking lot. They were older. The other rescue couldn’t accommodate them. Could we take them? Luckily we had the room.
Their names were PJ and Dixie, and they were both purebred Siamese. But the story just went downhill from there. They had both been purchased as kittens from a breeder. PJ was 17 years old, and Dixie was 16. They were not just older, they were ancient as far as cats are concerned. They had spent their entire lives in one household until their owner got new cats and PJ started peeing outside his box. The cats were handed over to a family member, but there were other cats there so PJ continued to pee inappropriately. So what do you do with an animal you’ve had its whole life when things go wrong? You dump it of course!
After they came to us PJ became Bourbon, and Dixie became Merlot. Bourbon, because he was a tough old guy, and Merlot because she was sweet as wine. They were lovely and while Bourbon showed his age, Merlot looked like a kitten. She was very tiny and astoundingly cute. We figured someone would surely adopt this duo. They were purebred after all. They had medical issues. Nothing major, but things that come with age.
Not surprisingly, someone fell in love with them and took them home on a permanent foster basis. It didn’t last long. This duo had been through a lot and the inappropriate peeing continued. The people tried, but this was just not something that they were willing to live with. So Bourbon and Merlot came back.
Because of their advanced age we let them live in the hallway. Less cats to contend with, more human interaction, more space. They were like two puzzle pieces. Always wound tightly around each other. Unfortunately we knew that the chances of them finding another home were slim. We were judged by some visitors who were “offended” by the way Bourbon looked. Well as Yoda said “when you’re 900 you not look as good as I”. Bourbon was nearing 20. How was he supposed to look?
We don’t euthanize animals because they are no longer attractive. We don’t have an age limit, and we surely don’t have appearance guidelines.
In November 2013 Bourbon finally lost his will to live and we let him go. A month before Bourbon died Merlot was diagnosed with mammary cancer. It was just a matter of time for her too.
By February, it was obvious Merlot was no longer comfortable, so with heavy heart, we let her go.
These two seniors were loved by everyone. The volunteers spoiled them, school children made them “we love you” cards, and the other cats respected them. They may never have found another real home but they lived out their lives surrounded by people who valued them. That is part of being a no-kill facility. If you can’t find them a home, the shelter becomes the home. And you don’t kill because of age, or appearance, or behaviour.
Magdalena Romanow is a volunteer at Katie’s Place animal shelter.