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Construction for the new solarium/community cat room has begun! The visitor entrance has been moved to the side of our community education room while construction is going on.
LEWISTON — You can tell who works in the Androscoggin Humane Society's cat room, according to longtime volunteer Jean Keefe: They have multiple cats at home.
"And it's not a very big house," she said. "It's a former summer cottage with one big room upstairs and three downstairs. It's actually a very tiny house; otherwise I'd have 10 cats."
It all started three years ago, she said. Her one cat had just died. Lonely, she was looking for another companion and came to the Humane Society.
"I came in for one, but I went home with two," Keefe said. "The first was Fay. She has no teeth, she's overweight and she likes it that way. The other was Juniper."
Keefe said she began volunteering days later — and eventually came home with two more: Fluff and Snow, a pair of white cats.
"They were bonded, just curled up together," she said.
Snow died, so she added Maddie and Yoko.
"Maddie doesn't like Fluff but other than that, they all get along pretty well," she said.
It's a common situation for volunteers at the Humane Society, according to Sandy Grahl.
"What happens is, these volunteers come in faithfully week after week and seeing a cat like Juniper not getting adopted and not getting any attention," Grahl said. "They start bonding, and their hearts go out to them."
Keefe's heart goes out to the cats twice each week. She comes in early to make sure they are cleaned, fed and to make sure they have fresh blankets to sleep on.
"This time of year, you get done in an hour and a half," she said. "I have worked almost four hours some days in the summers, when we are at peak with the kittens."
It's the lull season for cats at the Strawberry Avenue pet shelter, with fewer than 10 felines in the glass-enclosed cat area. That should change in the coming weeks as litters and litters of kittens are born, weaned and prepare to squeak and purr their way to new homes.
Keefe knows that one mama cat has just given birth: she and her kittens will likely go to a foster family for eight weeks until they are ready to be adopted. Then, they'll come back to the shelter and the 2015 kitten explosion will be under way.
"These bays will be all filled," she said. "We have cat condos that can go out in the lobby. And then we have wire cages for the kittens that can go out in the lobby as well."
She has favorites that she gets to see each week — a 14-year-old male tabby named Hamlet and a black and white male Pablo are her favorites.
"You get used to seeing them, especially the long-term ones," she said. "I know I'm going to miss them, but I'm glad they find a good home."
She hasn't met a cat yet that she can't find some good in. Even the ones that try to bite any hands that pass their cages have some charm. Keefe said she knows they've had a rough time.
One big tomcat comes to mind, she said. He was very unfriendly and would growl at anyone coming close to his cage. Finally, a farmer agreed to bring him home and make him barn cat.
"A week later, there was a picture on Facebook of the man holding him just laying there upside down," she said. "That was the perfect fit for him. He was just terrified of being here."
LEWISTON — Maddie is a cat who loves people, rubbing up against the glass when someone walks by her cage at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society and purring when a volunteer scoops her up. She has long brown fur that she keeps immaculately groomed and she adores her pal Yoko, a little Siamese who shares her cage and shared her life long before the pair got dropped off at the shelter.
Maddie's also 11. But she's hardly in her twilight years.
"Cats can live to be 20, 22 years old," said Zach Black, operations manager. "They still have so much more time to give you."
He would know.
While the humane society has seen its kitten population drop by half since last year, its older cat population has surged. Thirty of the 90 cats currently living at the shelter are 6 years old or older. A few more are in foster homes.
"People are out of work. People are having to move, sell their homes. So we've kind of seen a spike in the older cats that are coming in," Black said. "Fortunately, they're all coming in spayed and neutered, and they've been taken care of, so we're not having to do that. But it's just a large, large number."
Older cats are also more likely to come in pairs — best friends bonded after a lifetime together. So when one family moves, the shelter can find itself with two new residents — like Maddie, 11, and Yoko, 10.
The shelter tries to find new homes for those cats together.
"Senior cats don't need as much attention, don't require as much maintenance. They love to cuddle," Black said. "And the pairs keep each other company."
The shelter has so many older cats that it's turned a spare side room into a kind of elder kitty village. Four cats live there now, away from the stress of the main hall, with plenty of room to stretch out. Two of the room's residents, Pooh, 10, and pal Squirt, 12, immediately greet visitors with purrs and head bumps. Squirt, the tubbier of the two, flops over for a belly rub.
"People come in here and they realize, 'Oh, they're so sweet,'" Black said.
In an effort to spur older cat adoptions, the shelter never charges adoption fees for cats over 5 years old. A shelter volunteer also made soft mats to go home with each senior cat adopted.
Some of the shelter's older cats have special needs. Smokey, a 6-year-old long-haired black cat who came with 6-year-old short-haired black cat, Glori, has diabetes and requires insulin and special food. Stumps, a 6-year-old orange cat, has been at the shelter since February and is positive for feline immunodeficiency virus, though he has no symptoms.
But while some of the older cats might require extra care, most are as healthy as their younger counterparts — including the shelter's oldest resident, 17-year-old Narla, a gray-and-white female who was dropped off in August because her family was moving.
The shelter encourages people to talk to their landlord about making an exception to a "no pets" rule if that's why they're giving up their older cat. Landlords may not want a big, rambunctious puppy tearing up the place, but they would be fine with an elderly cat — especially with references from a previous landlord.
"Maybe they're a little bit flexible," Black said.
But the humane society takes cats of any age and never euthanizes an animal just because it's old. The shelter once found a home for a cat who was 18.
"We always tell people that senior cats are so much more experienced in life. They're more social . . . a lot of times, they've lived with other dogs and cats and people and commotion, so there's not as much of an adjustment when you adopt an older cat," Black said. "We say they're just at their prime."
Maddie, 11, plots her escape as her bonded pair pal, Yoko, 10, snoozes when Greater Androscoggin Humane Society's Tonya Dodge comes to pick up her canned cat food dish Thursday morning. The Lewiston shelter has seen a recent drop in its kitten population, but a rise in its older cat population. The shelter does not charge adoption fees for cats over 5 years of age.
"I'd love to find her a forever home," said Tonya Dodge from the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society of their oldest resident, Narla, a 17-year-old female cat.
Stumps, a 6-year-old FIV positive male cat, reaches out to playfully bat at the camera at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston on Thursday.
Dora, top left, and Moses, top right, both 10, are two of the many older cats the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society has in residence at its Lewiston shelter. There are so many adult cats at the moment, the shelter has had to turn an exam room, where Dora and Moses reside, into an overflow for felines.
We want to make your adoption experience the best that it can be, we also want to find you the perfect match. Below is a list of things that will help speed up you adoption process and assist you in giving your new friend the best care you can.
- Have another dog at home? If yes, bring them along for a meet and greet, so we can introduce them and the dog you might want to adopt. Please note: this is not an adoption requirement, but we are happy to do meet & greets!
- Make sure everyone in your family is on board with the adoption. We ask that you bring your children along, but it’s not required.
- Bring a leash or collar with you. The shelter is running low and can’t send dog’s home with them. We also sell Lupine collars and leashes in the retail store, adopters get 10% off.
- Printing off a picture of the dog(s) you are interested in will help our adoption counselor’s speed up your adoption experience.
- Plan for a forty-five minute to an hour and half wait on days that a large group of dogs go available for adoption.
- Have you done any research? Crate Training: http://aspcabehavior.org/articles/92/Weekend-Crate-Training-.aspx House Training: http://aspcabehavior.org/articles/3/House-Training-Your-Adult-Dog.aspx Training Your New Dog: http://aspcabehavior.org/articles/89/Training-Your-Dog.aspx
- Think you might have questions? Bring along a list of whatever you would like us to try answer. Our adoption counselors will be happy to help you!
Everyone in your family including your pets needs to be prepared for emergencies. With Irene possibly traveling over Maine this Sunday we all need to be prepared for the worst.
We just picked up the engraved pavers for the dog park entrance and hope to have them installed next week. But for those who missed the deadline I have good news, we found out there are 24 still available. You can download the brochure here.
You can now follow us on Twitter and Facebook. It’s a great way to find out what is happening at the shelter. Follow the links on the bottom left and join the Humane Society as we continue to grow.
Where do most puppies sold in pets stores come from?