Getting catty: Finding homes for elderly felines

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Susan Wolfe wants to be your matchmatcher. But it’s not quite for the reason you might think.

The Riverdale resident wants to find loving homes for cats who have celebrated their eighth birthday — the ones typically passed over for adoption in favor of kittens or younger felines.

“I realized when I was volunteering at the shelter, these incredibly wonderful, beautiful cats were at risk of being euthanized,” Wolfe said. “It just became a mission for me to find a home for as many of them as I could.”

So she co-founded Seniors 4 Seniors Cats-on-Wheels with friend and fellow volunteer Brooke Smith.

Wolfe, 58, is an attorney by day who volunteers at the Manhattan Animal Care Center. At the shelter, she gives plays with cats, cleans their kennels, and writes short biographies on the animals. Through Cats on Wheels, she would give prospective pet adopters a ride to the center, saving them the hassle of traveling to the East 110th Street facility on their own, and making it easier for them to find a cat to adopt.

That’s even more significant, however, when potential adopters find out Wolfe is more inclined toward dogs than cats.

“I love dogs, they are great companions, but having a dog is a whole lifestyle,” Wolfe said. “Cats, especially senior cats, are about companionship. They are easy to care for and to play with, and they provide an amazing amount of comfort and even serenity.”

Growing up in Utica, Wolfe always had cats and dogs around. But it was a domestic short-hair named Sneaky that push Wolfe to the purring kind.

“My brother moved from New York to California,” she said. “He took his other cat on the plane and he asked me to put Sneaky on a plane in a few days. She had a special carrier and a ticket. Two days later, my ailing dog died. Sneaky gave me so much love and consolation, I couldn’t part with her, and my brother was OK with it.”

Wolfe also wants to clear misperceptions about older cats — especially the idea they won’t be around very long. Cats can live up to 20 years, she said.

There is also the belief health care costs of an older pet will be extremely expensive, or someone might adopt an ailing animal. Veterinarians examine the cats at the shelter to ensure that new owners get a healthy pet, she said.
In fact, besides some routine shots, Sneaky has been in great health over the last dozen years. And she’s now 15.

Wolfe invites people to contact her if they are considering adopting a pet, and she’s happy to share a conversation or provide a ride to the shelter to see the cats available. Potential adoptees are not obligated to get the cat, Wolfe added.

If he or she has a change of heart after visiting the shelter, it’s fine. Wolfe said she’s more interested in planting the seeds to adopting older cats, getting people to see them first-hand in a new way.

The Animal Care Centers of NYC, which has a location in Manhattan, takes in more than 35,000 animals each year, including dogs, small mammals and rabbits.

Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter American animal shelters every year, nearly half of them cats, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Each year, 1.6 million cats are adopted through animal shelters while 860,000 are euthanized.

Wolfe promotes Cats on Wheels through social media platforms like Facebook. Potential adopters or those who are just curious to learn more could email Wolfe at seniors4srs@gmail.com.

“What I love is that every night, she sleeps behind my head and she purrs and that lulls me to sleep,” Wolfe said of having Sneaky. “I feel like my cat gives me so much joy. I want other people to have that.”

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