According to the Florida population demographics report of 2018/2019, there are 2,509,515 people over the age of 55, living in the Sunshine State. These “senior” citizens are living out their retirement in the inviting tropical atmosphere. As the years go by, many must make the difficult decision to move into assisted living communities. There are more than 680 licensed nursing homes in the state, all established to care for those who require assistance.
But what of the beloved pets and companions that they have? Many of these facilities do not allow animals, meaning they are left homeless!
If there are no family members or friends that can welcome these animals into their homes, what happens? Here’s the heartbreaking reality of the situation–many of these “un-adoptable” cats and dogs are euthanized. Animals who’ve lived in a loving home are taken or abandoned at shelters when they’ve got nowhere to go. Now they must battle against kittens and puppies for the attention of possible adopters. They’re scared though. Many have been in homes for their whole lives! Now they are sitting in a cold cage, surrounded by strange smells and noises. Not the best atmosphere for relaxing and “showing their potential”.
In January 2019, one senior cat named Samuel found himself in this exact situation.
His owner was making the move into assisted living and did their best to re-home their beloved 16-year-old tabby. Unfortunately the plans fell through so he was left with no other options. The poor Samuel was taken into Pasco County Animal Services.
Staff cared for him and hoped that he would be adopted, but he continued to be overlooked. Luckily they had another possible option in the area, Cats Cradle Foundation, a retirement home for senior cats in Lutz, Florida.
Our Mission has been enhanced to provide adoption (when possible), long term and end of life care for Senior Cats. Many of our residents are victims of unfortunate circumstances such as abandonment or death of their Owner. Being older, they will not be accepted at shelters. This is where we come in.
PCAS contacted Cats Cradle owners, Bruce and Terry Jenkins to see if there was room for sweet Samuel in their organization. Thirteen years ago, the couple began transforming their 92-year-old farmhouse into a welcoming and serene environment for senior cats. In their early 70’s themselves, they’ve dedicated their retirement to the deserving felines. They agreed to go to the shelter to visit him right away.
Bruce and I immediately went to the shelter to meet Samuel. He looked very forlorn in his cage – frail and worried. But he was still sweet despite the radical changes in his world.
He is a little thin and unsteady but got a “clean bill of health” from the shelter vet.
Samuel was happily welcomed into Cats Cradle, where there’d be lots of other fur-fogies to enjoy retirement with.
Transitions are difficult for cats and especially so with older cats. They are so set in their ways that adjustments can be quite shocking to them. New humans, new cats, new environment; the list goes on. Fortunately, with the years of experience Bruce and Terry have, they know how to approach the delicate situation.
We realized that he was fragile and might face challenges adapting to our facility. We committed to giving him extra care and time to acclimate to life with other old cats, fresh air and lots of things to do–or at least watch!
Since he is now one of our oldest residents, he will be under observation for a while to evaluate his capabilities (jumping, etc) and judge how he will interact with other cats. We want to make sure he feels safe.
Being around those other cats can initially be a bit worrisome because of new “germs”. Samuel caught a cold and developed a case of pink eye soon after arriving. Thankfully they recognized it so their vet was able to treat it right away.
Adjusting slowly though, Samuel had a poor appetite and continued to stay in his room.
Cats Cradle continued doing everything they could for their newest family member. Giving up it not something they do. Besides Samuel, there are currently about 30 senior cats living at the sanctuary.
(Or not! Just kidding, they were getting ready for dinner.)
They have 501c non-profit status, but food costs alone are more than $600 a month!
Senior cats usually require more specialty diets and medical care. Competing with larger shelters for donations is difficult, so they’re often overlooked themselves. So, being on a limited budget and fundraising that’s never easy, they happily accepted when fate delivered some extra help to their doorstep.
Cat Man Chris Poole, owner of “celebricats” Cole and Marmalade, had a connection that was happy to help the foundation. Living in Tampa, he was able to deliver the mountain of food to the cat-folks himself.
With Weruva’s donation, they had now plenty of options so Samuel would be enticed to finally eat. It’s a wonderful thing sharing updates on social media when a troubled cat has a successful experience. The Cats Cradle supporters were thrilled that he was beginning to feel at ease in his new home.
Among the many savory cat food delights, was a special one that I thought might tempt even Samuel. (Luna Tuna in Pumpkin Sauce by Soulistic) this, combined with a private nightly feeding of Chicken Dinner in Gravy (Soulistic), put Samuel on the road to his present state of well being. We have added other menu items from the donation to his diet and we are SO pleased to see him enjoy his food!
Samuel is now settling in comfortably at the one-of-a-kind sanctuary. Oh, did I forget to mention that the rescue is modeled after a wild west town with a rainforest and jungle?!
To be honest, this ameowzing facility deserves a story of their own–which I certainly have on my to-do list. So for now, I will give you the teaser version and photos that Cat Man Chris snapped when he visited.
In 2016, they finished some special updates at the sanctuary.
Our “Butterfly Memorial Garden” is the final resting place for the ashes of our Senior cats that, sadly, have passed away. This protected location contains statuary (see pictures below), a miniature windmill and a greenhouse where we grow fresh catnip for our Seniors.
The area is visible from Cats Cradle, but is private and secure. This picturesque location has been designated as a “Certified Butterfly Garden” by the National American Butterfly Association.
Bruce and Terry were happy to give us an update on Samuel now that he’s been with them about 2 months.
Samuel loves sleeping on the bed in his room, but will join the other cats in our common area. He uses the ramp that goes from his room to the Jungle Hut area so he can watch fish and drink from a pond.
He has been well accepted by the other cats. They seem to sense that he is VERY elderly and fragile.
One of our recent additions to Cats Cradle, a cat named Cheeks, has spent some time grooming Samuel. It’s a sweet habit of Cheeks as he works to keep the cat community looking their best. Samuel comes to us when called and enjoys being petted and spoken to.
We never know how much time is left in the lives of our senior cats–but it is so gratifying to see an older cat’s life continue to include love, security and companionship. Samuel is our “elder statesman” and we are honored to have him with us at Cats Cradle.
You can check in on Samuel and all the other residents any time on their webcams HERE!
If that’s not enough for you, rest assured, because they even have a movie you can check out!
If you are a “Cat Lover” but unable to adopt, you can become a Guardian Angel and help them provide lifetime care for one of the rescued Senior Kitties. It only costs $19/mo.
Using our “Seniors for Seniors” program we attempt to adopt out as many as we can. Adopters are actually individuals and residents of Assisted Living Facilities, who benefit from them as companion pets.
We are in constant need of donations to support our adoption efforts, and to provide for the medical needs, and supplies (food and litter). Donate at: http://www.gofundme.com/Funding-for-Cats-Cradle
REMEMBER: ADOPT, DON’T SHOP; FOSTERING SAVES LIVES & SPAY AND NEUTER!
Related Video: 10 Reasons to Adopt a Senior Cat!