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.

Giving Shelter Cats Boxes Reduces Stress

Shelters are loud, smelly, unfamiliar places, full of unfamiliar people, and cats that live in shelters suffer from high levels of stress. Scientists recently found that one of the reasons cats like boxes is because boxes make them feel safe. Now, some scientists believe that giving shelter cats boxes will reduce their stress, particularly if they’re new arrivals.

Giving shelter cats boxes helps them better adapt to the shelter environment

According to Phys.org, the authors of a study that was published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science specifically looked at new arrivals in a shelter in the Netherlands. They chose shelter cats because cats’ stress levels are quite high. What they found is that boxes did, indeed, help to reduce stress in shelter cats in the short term.

In the study, ten cats had boxes, and nine did not. At the end of their third day of observation, the cats with boxes had adapted to their new environment far better than the cats that didn’t have boxes.

Why is this? According to Wired, which put together the results of a whole bunch of studies on why cats like boxes, hiding is a behavioral strategy. Wired quotes one of the authors of the study mentioned above, who went on to say that hiding helps cats cope with stressors in their environment.

Giving shelter cats boxes gives them hiding places, too

Cats like boxes enough to find ways to get underneath them when they’re upside down.

Cats also have issues with conflict resolution, as Wired notes. So when they have the opportunity to engage in conflict or run away, they’re more likely to run away. If they can hide, then so much the better. Cats like to bluster, and they prefer to make their enemy back down without ever “firing a shot,” as it were. When that doesn’t work, they’ll try and run. In the wild, they often don’t fight unless they absolutely have to.

The implications for shelters are outstanding. Good shelters want to make their environments as stress-free as possible. For some cats, especially the more fearful, perhaps providing a box for the cat to hide in can help them adjust better, and behave better, thus raising their chances of early adoption.

Obviously, simply providing a box isn’t the whole solution. The whole solution is far more complex. But it’s a simple, low-cost way for shelters to temporarily address high stress levels in their cats.

The Cat Boat – A floating cat sanctuary

Many cities and towns have animal sanctuaries and shelters, where animals are cared for until they can be adopted, or cared for throughout their lives if adoption isn’t possible. Amsterdam has an interesting idea for one of their sanctuaries. It floats. They have a floating cat sanctuary.

Image by By Oxyman, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

The floating cat sanctuary is an actual, working shelter

The Cat Boat, as it’s called, is considered one of Amsterdam’s odder attractions, and Amsterdam has plenty of odd attractions. Its origins go back to 1966, when a woman named Henriette van Weelde took a stray cat and her kittens into her home. She became known as a rescuer, and people would drop stray cats off at her place.

The floating cat sanctuary came about because Henriette could no longer keep all the rescued cats in her home. It was an unused house boat, and it operated under the radar for nearly 20 years. Finally, in 1987, the floating cat sanctuary got a permit and became official.

Catster writer Kristan Lawson writes that they visited The Cat Boat, and says that, today, it functions as a feral cat sanctuary, clinic, and no-kill shelter. It’s not just a boat where lots of cats live. They work for the cats there, and adopt out as many as possible.

The Cat Boat wasn’t always open to tourists

The floating cat sanctuary was never meant to be open to the public because of that, but the public convinced The Cat Boat to open its doors to tourism anyway. One staff member says that they average 4,500 visitors per year.

Image by Antony Stanley, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Incredibly enough, visitors are allowed to pet the free-roaming cats there, but are warned to be careful. Since some of these cats are feral, they can bite and scratch. This is especially true if people try to pick them up, so they try to warn their tourists against that by putting “wanted” posters – pictures of the kitties that are especially fractious and are likely to bite and scratch.

The floating cat sanctuary is definitely one of the odder sanctuaries out there, but they work as hard as any other shelter/sanctuary. And, like every other sanctuary, they’re doing a wonderful thing for a cat overpopulation.

Boiling Water Kitty Given New Chance at Life

18-year old Leon Teague decided it would be funny to pour boiling water over a cat, take video of it, and post it online. The Chicago man was arrested when authorities identified him in the video. The boiling water kitty didn’t escape even remotely unscathed – he suffered severe scalds to his midsection and legs thanks to Teague’s cruelty. Thankfully, Teague is behind bars and a Rogers Park shelter has stepped up to take care of this poor cat.

The boiling water kitty has a name now

Driver, as Felines & Canines named him, was released from animal control sometime on Monday. Once he was brought to Felines & Canines, they rushed him to their vet so he could begin treatment (WARNING: The images below are graphic. Discretion is advised):

To everyone who has been anxiously awaiting an update on Driver, the innocent cat who was doused by a pot of boiling…

Posted by Felines & Canines on Monday, February 8, 2016

The video itself went viral, and I couldn’t watch all of it

When I first discovered the video, I burst into tears and I couldn’t stop crying for an hour (while I went and hugged all my cats repeatedly). It takes a special kind of sick and twisted nature to harm an animal in any way, and especially to put it on video and post it like you’re bragging. Burns are very painful, and very subject to infection and other complications. Driver, the boiling water kitty, has a long, tough recovery ahead of him.

I don’t know if the video has been pulled, or if it’s still available. I won’t post it here because it was very traumatic for me to watch, and I don’t want to give any more views to it, even for the best of reasons.

For his part, Teague is being charged with one count of felony animal cruelty, and one count of misdemeanor depiction of animal cruelty, for making Driver the boiling water kitty. He’s being held without bond, and he has been put in solitary confinement to keep him away from the rest of the prison population. It seems inmates take to animal abusers in much the same way that they take to child abusers.

If you’d like to help the boiling water kitty in his treatment and recovery, there is a donation link in the Facebook post above. You can also click here to donate to Driver’s fund.