For volunteer, finding cats a home can mean adopting them
LEWISTON — You can tell who works in the Androscoggin Humane Society's cat room, according to longtime volunteer Jean Keefe: They have multiple cats at home.
"And it's not a very big house," she said. "It's a former summer cottage with one big room upstairs and three downstairs. It's actually a very tiny house; otherwise I'd have 10 cats."
It all started three years ago, she said. Her one cat had just died. Lonely, she was looking for another companion and came to the Humane Society.
"I came in for one, but I went home with two," Keefe said. "The first was Fay. She has no teeth, she's overweight and she likes it that way. The other was Juniper."
Keefe said she began volunteering days later — and eventually came home with two more: Fluff and Snow, a pair of white cats.
"They were bonded, just curled up together," she said.
Snow died, so she added Maddie and Yoko.
"Maddie doesn't like Fluff but other than that, they all get along pretty well," she said.
It's a common situation for volunteers at the Humane Society, according to Sandy Grahl.
"What happens is, these volunteers come in faithfully week after week and seeing a cat like Juniper not getting adopted and not getting any attention," Grahl said. "They start bonding, and their hearts go out to them."
Keefe's heart goes out to the cats twice each week. She comes in early to make sure they are cleaned, fed and to make sure they have fresh blankets to sleep on.
"This time of year, you get done in an hour and a half," she said. "I have worked almost four hours some days in the summers, when we are at peak with the kittens."
It's the lull season for cats at the Strawberry Avenue pet shelter, with fewer than 10 felines in the glass-enclosed cat area. That should change in the coming weeks as litters and litters of kittens are born, weaned and prepare to squeak and purr their way to new homes.
Keefe knows that one mama cat has just given birth: she and her kittens will likely go to a foster family for eight weeks until they are ready to be adopted. Then, they'll come back to the shelter and the 2015 kitten explosion will be under way.
"These bays will be all filled," she said. "We have cat condos that can go out in the lobby. And then we have wire cages for the kittens that can go out in the lobby as well."
She has favorites that she gets to see each week — a 14-year-old male tabby named Hamlet and a black and white male Pablo are her favorites.
"You get used to seeing them, especially the long-term ones," she said. "I know I'm going to miss them, but I'm glad they find a good home."
She hasn't met a cat yet that she can't find some good in. Even the ones that try to bite any hands that pass their cages have some charm. Keefe said she knows they've had a rough time.
One big tomcat comes to mind, she said. He was very unfriendly and would growl at anyone coming close to his cage. Finally, a farmer agreed to bring him home and make him barn cat.
"A week later, there was a picture on Facebook of the man holding him just laying there upside down," she said. "That was the perfect fit for him. He was just terrified of being here."