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PHOTO: Joe Putrock

Cat Lovers of a Feather

Whiskers adoption clinic brings animal fanciers together in an unlikely setting

By Shawn Stone

If I’m reading and come across a reference to a cat, one image will fix itself in my mind. Until the writer describes otherwise, my default feline is a tabby, of the orange or red variety. (No, I couldn’t tell you the difference between orange and red—they both look the same to me.)

This isn’t because I’ve ever had one as a “pet.” The first cat I had any contact with, however, at age 5, was an ancient neighborhood tabby named Charlie, who had one cataract-covered blue eye and one clear green eye. My family fed him in the winter, but he was not friendly. Charlie recognized his name but didn’t seem impressed that we knew it. He was scary and snarly. I admired him enormously. He probably met an unhappy end.

Then there was TV, where 9 Lives cat food’s spokescat, a shelter- rescued red tabby famously named Morris, was an icon. Morris wouldn’t eat anything but 9 Lives, and complained about his diet in an obnoxious, fey tone that was as impressive in its own way as Charlie’s snarl.

So, surveying the 19 cages of cats at the Whiskers adoption clinic at DeNooyer Chevrolet (on Wolf Road) on a cold Saturday afternoon (April 1), my attention goes directly to Morris look-alike Adam. He perks up when I walk over to him, and lets me pat him on the head. The card on the cage notes that he’s already been adopted (presumably to be picked up later).

“Every cat here has a great story,” explains Mark, a Whiskers volunteer who regularly drives to the Capital Region shelter from his home in the Berkshires.

Adam, the volunteer explains, is FIV positive. Without going into the specificities of the various feline diseases, it doesn’t affect Adam’s suitability as a companion animal.

Adam’s story is simple: He was part of a Colonie colony of cats that had been spayed/neutered and released under a regular program. The only reason Adam ended up in the shelter was an Achilles injury; if he hadn’t been injured, he wouldn’t have been adopted.

“I’ll miss her,” Mark says, turning his attention to a nearby cage where longhaired Anna Lisa is lounging. Anna Lisa has also been adopted, Mark says, adding that “at most shelters, she’d have been euthanized.”

Why? Age. Anna Lisa is almost 10 years old. Older cats aren’t as adoptable, and while she was safe in the senior room at Whiskers, a no-kill shelter, at many places she wouldn’t have lasted very long.

It’s funny to see this oasis of cats, volunteers, prospective cat owners and media in the middle of the car dealership. Joel DeNooyer, the dealership president, must be a cat person. He’s certainly a Whiskers supporter. (“The organization should be commended for its contemporary approach to providing a safe and loving environment to stray animals,” he is quoted in a press release.) His employees seem good-natured about the disruption to their routine.

Wait a minute—media?

Yup. In addition to this reporter, someone else can be spotted scribbling down notes, and a cameraman from WTEN-TV (aka ABC-10, home of pet-friendly meteorologist Steve Caporizzo) has just arrived. A DeNooyer receptionist starts across the showroom floor, realizes the camera’s on, and ducks out of frame in the nick of time. Another employee asks if I need help—I show off my official reporter’s notebook, and she smiles and walks off.

“How do I tell if it’s a boy or a girl?” a little girl asks.

“The same way you tell with human beings—different equipment,” a volunteer helpfully replies.

“Mommy, I really want this one,” the same girl says a few minutes later.

It’s not likely she’s going to get what she wants, however, as mom isn’t exactly flashing a “yes” expression.

I walk over and reintroduce myself to Mary Gardy, a Whiskers volunteer I met on another story two years ago. She’s happy that a number of cats have been placed today. She’s even happier—and surprised—that they don’t have as many kittens this year.

“Last year,” she remembers, “we had 15 pregnant cats.”

She wonders if the spay-and-neuter efforts of Whiskers and other shelters, like the Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society, are starting to pay off. It was a warm winter, and one would expect more breeding-age cats to have survived than in a more typical season.

“Mohawk-Hudson is having a clinic in Latham today, and they don’t have many kittens either,” Gardy says.

Not everybody is going to a new home. Brothers Flash and Gimlet, identical grey cats with white paws, need to be adopted together. Caroline, an 8-week-old black kitten who was found in a parking lot the night before Thanksgiving, will be living for a little while longer with Kathy, her foster companion. And there’s Trixie, a grey tabby nervously scrunched down in her litter box, and Neptune, a special-needs black-and-white longhair, and . . .

Some more people have wandered in. A kid is looking at Adam, and Adam seems to like the attention. His father is explaining that he looks like Morris the cat.

“Morris used to be on TV commercials.”

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