An ordinary day took a heart-wrenching turn when Sarah Richardson, rescue coordinator for , received a call from a kill shelter about a surrendered senior cat scheduled for euthanasia.
Over the years, Sarah has cultivated meaningful partnerships with kill shelters, granting her the ability to pull cats from euthanasia lists and care for them through the rescue.
Without asking questions, she told the shelter she was on her way.
When Sarah arrived at the shelter, she learned the truth behind this sweet senior cat’s heartbreaking surrender.
The cat’s name was “Big Kitty” and she was surrendered wearing a hand-knit sweater.
Big Kitty had lived with her previous owner for 14 years.
The owner arrived at the shelter with her new Big Kitty.
The shelter made it very clear to the woman that Big Kitty was at high risk of euthanasia due to her age and the shelter’s limited resources.
An emotional scene unfolded in the lobby as the woman cried, not wanting to leave Big Kitty behind.
But her boyfriend was persistent with his demands; he didn’t care if Big Kitty was dead or alive.
She eventually signed the surrender documents and left, leaving Big Kitty shaking in her kennel.
Big Kitty didn’t know what was happening– all she knew was that her mom was gone.
Everything she loved was ripped away from her in a moment’s notice.
**A NOTE ON JUDGEMENT**
While we’re often quick to judge women who seemingly prioritize men over their pets, it’s important to consider the potentially complex and dangerous circumstances that could be influencing their decisions.
Their choices may stem from existing abuse or threats of abuse aimed at themselves, their loved ones, or even their pets.
If you witness or suspect domestic abuse, please learn the correct protocol for .
Big Kitty still wore her hand-knit sweater, the last reminder of the place she called home for 14 years.
Despite Sarah’s plea to immediately take Big Kitty, the shelter was legally required to keep Big Kitty at the shelter for a few days.
This meant Sarah could only visit Big Kitty until that legal window of time passed.
The time spent at the shelter took a disastrous toll on Big Kitty’s health.
She wouldn’t eat or drink; instead, she curled up in the corner of her kennel, trembling in her sweater.
“She had the saddest, weepiest eyes,” said Sarah. “Her eye drainage made her look like she was crying.”
By the time Sarah was finally able to take Big Kitty, she had already fallen ill from stress.
“A stress response like that is common in surrendered senior cats,” said Sarah. “We see the same pattern every time and it’s horrible.”
Senior cats often become physically ill after experiencing overwhelming trauma and heartbreak.
“They suffer from severe heartbreak,” Sarah explained. “Cats in general don’t like change, but senior cats have an even lower capacity for change. They can’t handle losing everything so suddenly.”
Big Kitty was immediately treated with antibiotics and fluids to help her regain the strength she lost from stress.
Despite transitioning from the shelter to her foster home, Big Kitty was still terrified.
“Her health started spiraling,” Sarah recalled.
She was severely anemic, her temperature was dangerously low, and she couldn’t hold down food or water.
Big Kitty was rushed to the ER where the vets strongly recommended euthanasia.
“Euthanasia wasn’t an option, so we took her to another vet who put her on IV nutrition and fluids,” said Sarah.
Her short time at the shelter had left her with bronchitis, pneumonia, and an upper respiratory infection.
“There’s always a risk of infection shelters because of all the cats living in cramped conditions,” Sarah explained.
Big Kitty wasn’t sick when she arrived at the shelter, but the stress of being surrendered had destroyed her immune response.
She had simply lost the will to live.
However, Sarah was determined to give Big Kitty a fighting chance.
Waiting behind her sickness and stress was an opportunity to live out her golden years in a loving home.
After weeks of being in and out of the hospital, Big Kitty finally returned to her long-term foster home in better health.
Big Kitty’s health will continue to be monitored closely as she transitions into her new life.
“Her foster is phenomenal. She gives Big Kitty so much love and support,” said Sarah.
In Big Kitty’s case, her long-term foster will act as a permanent companion for the rest of her life.
Coincidentally, this sweet senior kitty feels especially cozy in the company of senior citizens!
Sarah is a strong advocate for senior cats; she has witnessed countless cases of them living much longer than veterinarians anticipated.
Senior cats deserve just as much of our love and compassion as younger cats.
Their age does not make them any less endearing; rather, it enhances their charm with wisdom and grace gathered over the years.
Most surrendered senior cats spend their final moments in a cramped shelter, frightened and alone.
Instead, their final years should be spent in a loving home where they feel safe and cherished, surrounded by soothing voices and familiar faces.
By donating to the senior cat fund through the , you’ll help senior cats live longer, healthier lives and ensure that when the time comes, they will cross the rainbow bridge in a dignified, peaceful manner.
Donations benefit , a small 501(c)3 non-profit that rescues and rehabilitates cats that are victims of cruelty, neglect, and abandonment in a rural part of Arkansas with high animal cruelty rates and limited resources.
See more of their incredible rescue cases by following Sarah Richardson, rescue coordinator for Community Cats of Central AR, on and .