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At 15 years old, Oreo was definitely a senior kitty.
In her “retirement” age, Oreo would have preferred a warm, quiet spot in the sun to bask and sleep, or an owner to rub her ears and feed her fattening treats.
Instead, at age 15, Oreo was being brought back to the Jefferson County Wolf Creek Pet Adoption Center.
Many years ago, Oreo had been adopted out of the center as a kitten. But years had passed since her initial adoption and her owner could no longer care for Oreo.
So once more, the senior cat was at the adoption center, hoping to find a home.
Analyzed adoption rate information shows that potential adopters tend to prefer kittens over adult and senior cats.
While 80 percent of shelter kittens will likely be adopted, “non-baby” cats are only 60 percent likely to be adopted from shelters.
The older the cat is, the less likely it is that the senior or aging cat will find a home.
For Oreo, who was definitely an aging kitty as well as a “Tuxedo” - meaning black and white – cat (statistics show that Tuxedo pattern cats have an even lower adoption rate compared to other color variations), the chances of adoption were even slimmer than they had been when she was first at the center as a kitten.
In September of 2018, the Monticello News ran an “adoptable” spotlight for Oreo that showcased her friendly disposition, affectionate nature and desire for love, attention and, most importantly, Oreo's need for a calm home where she could live out the rest of her years.
That spotlight made its way to the hands of Monticello News subscriber, Sue Henrikson, who quickly fell in love with the senior kitty who was once more at the shelter.
Already a cat lover and owner, Henrikson tried to resist the tug on her heartstrings for Oreo, but to little avail.
“I have multiple cats of my own who reside in an indoor/outdoor cattery with lots of outside areas and heated inside areas,” said Henrikson. “And I certainly was not looking to add to my numbers! However, I looked at her picture and thought about her frequently and decided 'I can do this!'”
Henrikson went about preparing her home for Oreo by fencing off a section of her cattery to make sure she would be comfortable and wouldn't have to be introduced too quickly to Henrikson's other cats.
Once all the preparations had been made, Henrikson went to Wolf Creek and adopted Oreo.
“When I first saw her, she looked so forlorn. [She] was thin, her hair was yellowed and matted down to her skin. She also was not social and was depressed,” said Henrikson, who quickly prepared herself for the worst. “My thought was that I would take her home and let her live out whatever life she had left.”
After adopting or rescuing cats, Henrikson makes sure to take the new addition to her cattery to the vet's office for a full check-up and evaluation.
A visit to the Monticello Animal Medical Clinic's Dr. Matt Davis showed that Oreo was experiencing “off the chart” thyroid levels.
In cats, hyperthyroidism often causes symptoms of weight loss, unkempt appearances, hair loss and other symptoms - many of which were traits that Oreo was currently manifesting.
To treat her hyperthyroidism, Oreo was prescribed a medication to get her levels back into normal ranges.
“Almost immediately she was a transformed cat!” Henrikson proclaimed.
The change in this aging shelter kitty was almost instant.
After adjusting to her new home, Oreo's outgoing personality bloomed completely, with Henrikson saying that Oreo is now very personable, loves attention and has even managed to put on a bit more pounds!
“Her hair is bright white and shiny and her tail is almost always in the air,” Henrikson adds.
When first entering her new home, Oreo had difficulties adjusting to litter box training, but you can indeed teach an old cat new tricks, and Oreo has since completely mastered her litter box.
It was an aging, sick, disheartened cat that came into Sue Henrikson's home, but that forlorn senior feline has been replaced with a happy, thriving kitty.
Now on her medication, Oreo's thyroid has been retested and those subsequent tests indicate that she is in the ideal range for thyroid levels.
While Henrikson planned to provide Oreo with a quiet home to live out the last of her life, Henrikson has since changed her perspective.
“Today, I'm very optimistic sweet Oreo has many years of life to enjoy! And my heart sings!” says Henrikson.
Oreo is lucky; not only has she been adopted by an owner who was willing to nurse her back to complete health and make adjustments for Oreo's happiness, but she experienced a rarity with cat adoptions.
Each year, approximately 1.6 million cats are adopted out each year.
While a little over a million cats a year find homes, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) notes that around 3.2 million cats are brought in to shelters each year.
Which means only about half of the cats that are brought into shelters will ever find homes, and most of those adoptions are kittens or cats under 18 months of age.
At 15-years-old, Oreo was well past her years as a kitten, looked sickly, and had difficulty interacting socially.
All it took, though, to bring the sparkle back into Oreo's life and return her to health and happiness was an owner who took the time to see the kitten within.
While Oreo's story has been given a happy fairytale ending, there are dozens of other cats and dogs who are still waiting for their forever family to come and discover them.
Do you have an empty place on your couch for a former shelter dog to keep warm or a sunny spot on your windowsill for a former shelter cat to curl up and sleep?
Visit the Wolf Creek Pet Adoption Center at 2123 E. Washington St., in Monticello – you may find a cat or dog that fills up the empty places in your home and heart perfectly.