Crazy hypotheticals only seem like crazy hypotheticals until a neighbor is dropping all 31 of your cats off at Pets Come First in one fell swoop.
That actually happened a few weeks ago to a woman who made a habit out of taking in her neighborhood’s population of stray felines. After she was diagnosed with cancer, the pets (nicknamed “lavender cats” after the ribbon used for cancer awareness) leapfrogged PCF’s long waitlist and took up residence at the shelter.
Some were elderly and passed soon after. Others were sick and require more extensive care. Three of them are in good health and now ready to become part of a new home.
“We’re going through quite a bit of litter, quite a bit of animal food,” said Amber Ashmore, a kennel attendant at PCF.
Ashmore and her fellow employees receive calls about situations like this one almost daily. The story isn’t always 31 cats, but a miscommunication or failure to plan of some kind is usually present.
People fall ill or die unexpectedly and their friends or relatives have no interest in opening their doors to orphaned cats or dogs. Ashmore has noticed that new owners who pass through PCF sometimes react negatively to plans that hinge upon their own mortality.
“It’s just something a lot of people don’t think about and they don’t like to think about,” Ashmore said.
She has two cats waiting for her at home and in the event that she doesn’t make it back there one of these days, already has a firm commitment from a would-be adopter, plus four redundancy homes lined up just in case.
Ashmore encourages pet owners to have those difficult conversations rather than assume that some random second cousin will rise to the occasion should the worst happen.
“I know that I would be more at ease knowing that if I passed, they would be taken care of,” Ashmore said.
Over at Centre County Paws, director of operations Lisa Bahr and her staff have received their fair share of calls from family members who got more than they bargained for from a dearly departed’s estate.
In the spring and summer, Paws’ waiting list can sometimes run up to 200 cats deep, meaning that new additions to the shelter are evaluated based on the urgency of the situation.
“Every person who calls feels their situation is an emergency,” Bahr said.
Pets orphaned by illness or old age are usually verging on their own twilight years. The unexpected transition from a familiar house and yard to life at the shelter can be jarring.
Even cat food starts to lose its appeal.
“They will come in here and just be afraid to eat,” Bahr said.
Adopting — and feeding — an older pet has its perks. Bahr counts low energy and a high degree of training among the selling points.
“It’s when they love people the most, I think,” Bahr said.
That lavender cats arrived at PCF with a couple of senior members, but if you’re not currently looking to expand your family right now, there’s still the gift of time — and kitty litter.
Ashmore said that PFC could use committed volunteers willing to work their way up to paperwork from janitorial and laundry-related tasks.
“We want people who are going to come back,” Ashmore said.