Today, we have an amazing success story that I am so very excited to share! You may recall a bachelor that I featured, not once but twice, who really touched me. Not in any inappropriate ways, of course, but right smack in the middle of my heart. May I remind you all of Levi, the James Bond lookalike who was looking for the perfect home where he could be snuggled, not stirred. Levi wasn’t a likely candidate for a permanent home – not only was he somewhere around sixteen years old (seniors pets are less likely to find homes) but he was also blind and deaf.
Luck, however, was definitely on Levi’s side. He was discovered wandering the streets and was scheduled to be euthanized, but fortunately he was swept up by Tabby’s Place and given a grant by the Paws and Claws Society, Inc. for $15,000 to provide for his care. After spending some time at Tabby’s Place, Levi’s lucky streak continued and he was adopted! And not only did he get a home, a loving hand, and a family, he also got a job!
In one of the happiest stories I’ve come across, I’m so pleased to report that lovely little Levi is working as a therapy cat. Today we have with us Katie Tontala, Levi’s adopter, to discuss Levi’s new life.
Crepes: Welcome, Katie! We’ve heard that not only does Levi have a home, he also has a new job! First, let’s talk about his home. Why did you decide to adopt Levi? Were you a volunteer or do you work at Tabby’s Place? Or did you just meet him and love him immediately?
Katie: I would love to volunteer at TP, but I live in Pittsburgh! I saw Levi on the TP site and followed him for months. For some reason, I just couldn’t get him out of mind, so my friends-probably tired of me talking about him- finally said-“why don’t you just go and get him!”! So I took the road trip to Tabby’s Place and brought him home-sight unseen. When I heard he was found wandering the streets of Newark-I knew it was fate..I was born in Newark!!
Crepes: Do you have other animals at home? Are any of them special needs?
Katie: I currently have five other rescue cats. Ginseng- 17yrs old-(she was one of my original cats who I have had since she was a kitten). She has early renal failure. Jefferson-foster failure. He is 12 yrs old, has behavior issues and is diabetic. Atticus is also about 12 years old and was the first blind cat I ever adopted… and has since also developed a hearing loss. Willow is 16 and I also adopted her last year as a blind senior girl. Mr Simon, who is about 5 years old, was another foster failure-he is a declawed cat who was going to euthanized because of aggression and big time biting issues. (Two years later-he is now a love bug) So I guess the answer is yes! My vets love me!
Crepes: We know that Levi is fairly advanced in his years. He’s going on 16 or so at this point. Was there ever any fear of adopting an older cat? Were you worried you wouldn’t have enough time with him?
Katie: Not in the least! I absolutely love older cats with special needs and advocating for them is my passion. I have written articles and taught classes on the challenges and joys of senior cats. I am also certified in cat massage therapy so they keep my skills up. Like anyone who has a family member with special needs, they are your first priority and you work your time around them.
Crepes: Being blind and deaf, has Levi experienced any problems acclimating to his new home?
Katie: He actually did wonderfully! I initially kept him in my “foster room” so that he would have a safe place to call his own and I could do the proper introductions to his sibs. But the little nosey fellow didn’t want to stay in there for long and was soon out exploring the rest of the house. He now hangs out mostly in the living room and dining room-he has his special sleeping spots, knows where the food and water and litterbox are located, and has no problems. He is quite the intrepid explorer and loves to climb (much to my consternation)
Crepes: Did you have to change anything about your home to make it safe for Levi?
Katie: Because I have other sensory impaired cats, I didn’t have to change anything-he fit right in!
Crepes: Tell us about Levi’s job! He’s working as a special kitty at nursing homes, is that correct?
Katie: Yes he is and he is quite the little celebrity when he goes. It is rare to find a cat who has the temperament to be a therapy animal-but we all know that Levi is one rare kitty! When I realized how much Levi loves to snuggle and how laid back he is, I thought I would try it out and see how it went. (I had had 2 deaf cats in the past who made great therapy cats) Animal Friends-the shelter where I volunteer, has a program called “Therapets” and I decided to go through them. My concern was that I didn’t want to force him to do therapy work if he was going to be stressed by visiting but, as it turns out, he seems to really enjoy the hugs, kisses and snuggles!
Crepes: What does his job entail? Give us a quick rundown of Levi’s day at work.
Katie: Levi currently visits two different skilled nursing homes. We visit the residents and ask if them if they want to meet and pet Levi. If they do, he sits on their lap or bed and lets them pet and dote on him! He gives them head butts and nuzzles their necks and then usually ends up snuggling into their blankets and falling asleep. Not a bad gig! The residents tell him about the pets they have had in the past, and sometimes they forget he is blind and they show him pictures (being a gentleman, he doesn’t let on). The benefits-both physical and emotional- are truly amazing-pet therapy rocks!
Crepes: How frequently does Levi go to work? And for how many hours at a time?
Katie: He goes about once/week and I limit his time at the facility to about an hour because I don’t want to tire him out or stress him in any way. He is starting to develop a cult following who wait for him to come on visiting day!
Crepes: Does he really wear the little tie to work?
Katie: His tie is new and he is going to debut it this week!
Crepes: Does Levi snuggle as much as we think he likes to snuggle?
Katie: YES YES YES!!!! He is the proverbial “Snuggle Bug!”
Crepes: And, Levi, this question is for you. How do you like your new home? And your new job? Do you feel like you won the jackpot?
Levi: Even though I miss all my wonderful friends at Tabby’s Place, I really do love my new home! My brothers and sisters are wonderful, and don’t seem to mind if I occasionally run into them, knock over their food or nestle up with them on cold nights. My favorite part of the day is early morning. After I eat breakfast, I find my mom, climb up on her lap, and help her do the morning crossword puzzle while she drinks her coffee. This is my special time with her and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. My new job is really great-who wouldn’t like a job where you get hugs, kisses, and treats, and everyone tells you how handsome you are! It’s a dream job!
Crepes: Is there anything else you’d like to include?
Katie: I literally have my choice of hundreds of cats that I could adopt, but I feel that there is a reason why I end up with the ones I have. Levi is truly a magical cat-I can honestly say he touches the heart of everyone he meets and I feel so blessed to have him in my life. Who rescued who?
Thank you so much to Katie Tontala, not only for answering our questions and providing photos, but also for adopting Levi and all the other little loves she has at home. You are a shining example of compassion! Thank you for working so hard for senior cats!