When an old cat comes to our doors, we worry. We don’t worry about their health; their gnarled toes, frumpy coats, and ragged meows attest to their steadfast ability to survive what life has thrown at them. We don’t worry about their safety; we know, once they come to OAR, they will be warm, fed, and safe. We don’t worry about the heartbreaking circumstances that led them to be homeless and alone, left to fend for themselves as old cats on the street, with OAR as their last hope – the stories are often awful, but at least it’s behind them.
What we worry about, when these old souls come to OAR, is that there won’t be people who recognize their beauty under their coarse coats; their resolute spirits under their protruding hip bones; their enduring strength behind the lines in their eyes. We worry that we won’t be able to find them a happy ending – a loving family, a soft bed, the feeling of being cherished that they richly deserve. We worry that whatever family left them behind will be the last family they know. We worry because kittens are adopted almost as quickly as they come to OAR; but old cats spend months, years with us and no families notice them. We don’t worry about the capacity of these old souls to thrive; we worry about the capacity of the human heart to love them, old age and all.
We worry because we know loving an old cat takes a special person. Adopting an old cat means giving your heart to a friend that won’t be around for 20 more years. It means loving a little creature who is set in their ways; who sleeps a lot; who complains; and who is stubbornly devoted to their routine. It means bypassing those fluffy, silly, adorable kittens, and choosing a cat that’s more craggy than cute.
But choosing an old cat also means respecting life, in all its stages and in every creature. It means giving your love to a little one that desperately needs it, and also deeply deserves it. It means being there, when somebody else failed to be. It means convincing that old soul that family is family, no matter what time brings. It means practicing the golden rule in its best way, knowing some day you, too, will need someone to love you even if you’re not as bright and shiny as you once were. It means choosing love and kindness over the glitter of youth. And it means being loved back by a little, old soul that still has the capacity to love, in spite of the suffering she’s endured – a love and gratitude that has grown far deeper with age.