Allie: ‘I want to get out of here, too’
Recent marketing efforts by the Susquehanna Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SQSPCA) have fallen under scrutiny and long-time shelter resident Allie Cat is lobbying for her own 15 minutes of fame.
On March 3, SQSPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes spent 444 minutes in a dog kennel. Haynes switched places for the day with Max, a 5-year-old pit bull terrier, to mark his 444th day at the shelter. The purpose of the exercise was to drive home to the public what an extended stay means for shelter dogs, and the importance of rehoming animals as quickly as possible.
Ten days later, Max was adopted.
“I’m happy for Max,” Allie said. “Who wouldn’t be? It was a great strategy, and it worked. But this is my 200th day in a shelter and I’m hoping for a little attention now so I, too, can find my forever home.”
Allie was surrendered by her owner on September 20, 2020 to the Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC). While the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic was over, the virus was still spreading at an alarming rate in eight New York City neighborhoods according to the New York City Department of Health, and city shelters were overcrowded. Heating issues at the ACC Staten Island location made it unsafe to house animals there, prompting the transfer of Allie and nine other cats to the SQSPCA in November. All of Allie’s traveling companions have since been adopted.
What’s holding Allie back? Well … let’s call it catitude.
Perhaps country music singer songwriter Lee Brice says it best in his song, “Hard to Love.” The first two lines of the chorus could have been written with Allie specifically in mind — “I’m hard to love, hard to love, oh I don’t make it easy. I couldn’t do it if I stood where you stood.” The 7-year-old brown tabby is easily agitated, prone to hissing, swatting, growling and the occasional bite. But this was not always the case.
According to her intake paperwork, Allie lived indoors with three adults. Her behavior toward strangers was recorded as “shy for a few minutes,” and she had no bite or scratch history. Her energy level was described as low and she, herself, as “mellow, independent and aloof.”
Allie is living proof that cats as well as dogs suffer from an extended stay in a shelter. At her initial medical behavior determination, Allie was rated by ACC with a color code of blue, “tense and nervous but mostly still.” She allowed all medical handling and petting and vocalized during the exam. But by the time of Allie’s transfer, after less than two weeks of confinement, ACC was recommending a home with experienced cat parents.
“The animal care staff does their best to make me comfortable, but I just haven’t adapted well,” Allie explained. “I lived a pretty quiet life before. The constant activity here is unnerving — dogs barking, different people in and out, cats coming and going. I’ve been here 200 days now, but I’ll never get used to it. And they wonder why I’m crabby.”
One SQSPCA staff member is undeterred by Allie’s defense mechanisms against shelter stress and overstimulation. Kathy Chicorelli is able to interact one-one-one with Allie without fear of injury. Mostly.
“Allie is easily aroused, but very social,” Chicorelli explained. “She rubs her head and body against me and lifts her tail up, meows, and enjoys treats. Allie is a contradiction in personalities, seeking attention but only allowing limited petting on the head and back before hissing or swatting. Her deterioration could very well be due to all the external stimuli.”
Allie’s biggest fear is that she will end up in a barn.
“Let’s face it — I’m not equipped to be a ‘working cat’ or to live outdoors. I’m overweight and slow, with a history of bladder stones. Unlike the young Turks who want to get out of the shelter, chase mice, and be on to their next great adventure, I’m just looking for peace, quiet and a comfy bed, preferably in a sunny window,” Allie said.
When asked about possible encounters with predators, Allie references Ralphie in “A Christmas Story.” Laying there like a slug would be her only defense. Cows? The heck with that, she said. She wouldn’t last a day. Power tools in a workshop? Worse than dogs.
SQSPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes is grateful to Allie for helping her see things through the eyes of a troubled cat.
“Just as with dogs, shelters can be extremely stressful places for cats,” Haynes explained. “We have seen cats react negatively to the shelter in a variety of ways, including over-grooming, aggression and weight loss. These problems then reduce their chances of being adopted quickly and further lengthen their stay.”
It’s a vicious cycle, Haynes said.
Allie is currently the shelter’s longest feline resident at 200 days and counting. Her adoption fee has been sponsored as she not-so-patiently awaits her forever home.
In operation since 1917, the Susquehanna SPCA is a 501c3 charitable organization committed to caring for homeless, surrendered, and seized companion animals and finding them loving, forever homes. For more information or to donate, visit www.sqspca.org