Hearts that Purr is a ‘retirement’ home for homeless cats left behind

What do you do when something happens that makes it so you can no longer care for your cat? Some people have arrangements, but many don’t. One organization in Tucson, Ariz., known as Hearts that Purr, aims to help cats in this tragic situation.

What is Hearts that Purr?

Tucson.com says that Jeanmarie Schiller-McGinnis created Hearts that Purr to be an organization dedicated to cats that are left homeless due to illness or death. According to Schiller-McGinnis, cats that have lived with people for a long time don’t do well in shelters. This is especially true of senior cats. “They deteriorate rather quickly,” she said.

Because of that, once they go into shelters, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever come out. Hearts that Purr has two missions: The first is to provide a loving, caring environment for cats in these situations. The second is to educate the public about how important planning for your cat’s ongoing care is in the event you’re incapacitated.

This isn’t the first home for cats in this situation. Lincolnshire Trust for Cats is a retirement home for cats in these situations in the U.K. Founded in 1999, all of its cats once belonged to someone who either died, or is in a home themselves, and can’t care for their cats any longer. As of early March, they had 80 cats in their care.

Retirement homes for cats isn’t a new idea, but it is a good one

Japan has a concept retirement home for pets, as well, although last I heard, it was intended to be just for dogs. The law there requires people to care for a pet for its entire life, even though people might have legit reasons they can no longer do so. Aeonpet Co., created Japan’s retirement home as a way to address that problem.

Hearts that Purr got its start with two rescues that belonged to a 99-year old woman who died in 2013. She lived alone in a trailer in Cochise County, south of Tucson, and her biggest worry was for her cats. Schiller-McGinnis hadn’t yet opened Hearts that Purr, but she took them in anyway.

The two cats died within a year, but Schiller-McGinnis said that cemented her commitment to making this work. Schiller-McGinnis doesn’t just help cats who’ve lost their people, though. She also helps rescue cats at high risk for euthanasia from Pima Animal Care Center. They don’t turn any animal away, and they’re frequently overcrowded because of it.

We need more shelters like Hearts that Purr

Sadly, Hearts that Purr can only handle a certain number of cats, and Schiller-McGinnis is often forced to turn cats away. However, she’s hoping to expand her services, and possibly create some room, with a foster program that matches senior cats to senior citizens. Many seniors are isolated and living alone, and having a cat can provide a lot of companionship.

These kinds of “retirement” homes are a great idea for pets. Hearts that Purr isn’t unique in the U.S., but we could stand to have more like them.

Aging Cats – Are Your Senior Cats Doing Well?

There are two aging cats in our house: Aria is 13, and Gizmo is 15, and we expect them to actually start showing their signs of aging anytime now. In fact, Gizmo has begun to show one those signs (beyond her formerly black whiskers) – she has arthritis in her left shoulder. However, neither of them has shown any indication that they’re seriously slowing down. To us, that means we have two cats that are aging well.

Signs to watch out for in aging cats

There are certain signs that indicate your cat’s health may be failing in her old age. Weight loss and lack of interest in playing are two of the biggest. Disorientation, interaction problems, sleep/wake disturbances,, house-soiling, and serious activity changes (DISHA) are other signs that your senior cat isn’t really aging well.

If she is, then she’ll be like Gizmo and Aria. Gizmo, despite her bad shoulder, still loves to play what we call “her game.” When she was a kitten and a young adult cat, she loved to chase us through the house and “catch” our ankles. She’d let us go, and then do it all over again. She doesn’t play it as often anymore, but she hasn’t stopped altogether.

Aria has a toy she still loves to play with – she was never really big on play aggression like Gizmo. She also shows heavy interest when we’re playing with our other cats, and she’ll lunge and pounce and chase with the best of them. She, too, belongs in the lofty class of aging cats that are doing so gracefully, although not as gracefully as Gizmo, we think. Why is that? She tires out far more easily than Gizmo, and she seems to have some difficulty moving already – something Gizmo didn’t show at age 13.

Changes in certain behaviors and looks may be still be normal for aging cats

Your cat’s appearance might change somewhat, even if she is aging well. One of the biggest telltale signs of an aging cat is something called lenticular sclerosis, which presents as a blue-white cloudiness of the eye pupil. Both Gizmo and Aria show this sign.

Decreased mobility and a decline in vision can also be normal things for aging cats, even though it may not appear so. Changes in eating and sleeping patterns may be present also. Basically, if your cat isn’t showing any DISHA signs (listed above) then she’s probably aging well. She might live to her 20s, or even longer!

Why you Should Think About Adopting Senior Cats

If you’re considering adopting a cat, you’re probably wondering what type of cat you should get. Shelter cat, or purebred? Adult cat, kitten, or senior cat? One, two, or more? These are all questions that are best answered by determining what your budget is, what your home situation is like, and what kind of cat would best fit all of that. However, if you’re in a situation where multiple types of cats would be a good fit, adopting senior cats might be the way to go.

Adopting senior cats gives them a much-needed shot at happiness

People tend to prefer kittens over grown cats when they go to shelters and breeders. The biggest reason is a simple one: Kittens are cute, cuddly, and impossibly difficult to resist. This can be a good thing during what’s known as kitten season, because shelters have so many kittens that they need high demand for them.

What of the rest of the cats, though? Kitten season is a double-edged sword. In no-kill shelters, these cats, especially senior cats, tend to languish. In a kill shelter, they get euthanized. Kitten season makes that worse, because there are so many more kittens available for adoption that adopting senior cats out is nearly impossible. Those cats are virtually overlooked when tons of kittens are available.

Some good reasons for adopting senior cats

Why would anybody want to adopt senior cats, though? They might be old enough to have to worry about health problems. They won’t be around nearly as long. These reasons might make adopting senior cats seem pointless, but there are good reasons to do it. One particularly good one, according to Dr. Karen Becker, is that senior pets are well beyond the “search and destroy” phases of their lives. They’ve also probably already learned to live with a family, and their personalities are established, so you know what you’re getting.

You can also search for cats with clean medical histories, or, if you’re interested in adopting a special-needs kitty, you’ll know when you adopt him what his needs are, how to meet them, and possibly, how often you might have to take him to the vet for care. All of this is much more difficult when adopting kittens, versus adopting senior cats.

One thing that Dr. Becker says is that senior pets seem to know that you gave them what may be their last chance for a loving home. This can make it easy to form a close bond with your cat than adopting a kitten would. We don’t really know if this quiet gratitude is actually part of the nature of a senior pet, and they just seem grateful, or if they are, somehow, actually grateful. Regardless, this can possibly be one of the strongest reasons for adopting senior cats instead of kittens.

Basically, while adopting kittens is very tempting, adopting senior cats brings its own perks. There are many, many reasons to adopt a senior cat; we’ve listed just a few of them.

She Thinks She’s a Kitten: Why Cats Chase their Tails

Some cats chase their tails. This is Gizmo, chasing her own tail. When I took this video, she was 13 years old. One year later, she still thinks she’s a kitten. We have our suspicions about why she’s so “kittenish” at her age, but we really don’t know, other than she’s healthy and happy. And funny. Watch below:

We know that dogs like to chase their tails. Many of us have, or have at least seen, a cat that likes to chase its tail. Gizmo, in the video above, doesn’t chase her tail very much, but when she does, she goes after it for all she’s worth. Why do some cats chase their tails?

Cats chase their tails for a variety of reasons

Dr. Steven Zawistowski, a science adviser with the ASPCA, says that they turn around, or look over their shoulders, see their tails moving, and it’s like seeing prey. He says it’s a natural reaction to want to start chasing it. The tail is a small moving thing, and so they’ll spin around while trying to catch it, the same way they’ll chase small balls that go past them or around them.

Love Meow says it’s also possible that cats chase their tails because they see the motion, and it somehow annoys them. They go after the annoyance, and try to make it stop.

Other reasons cats chase their tails are boredom, seeking attention, and medical problems like skin allergies, fleas, or even impacted or infected anal glands, according to an article on Canidae. They could also have a neurological problem causing the behavior. A cat that’s compulsively chasing her tail might also suffer from feline hyperesthesia syndrome, which is a disorder that makes cats extremely sensitive to touch along their spines and tails. With this disorder, even their own fur can bother them. If you notice that your cat is chasing her tail frequently, and especially if it’s a new behavior, consider taking her to the vet to rule out medical problems.

In Gizmo’s case, this is kitten behavior, despite the fact that she’s now 14 years old. She doesn’t appear to have anything wrong with her tail that would make her chase it, she’s got no symptoms of anything else, and she doesn’t do it very often.