"Annie's adoption is a source of inspiration for us to continue working for all the animals that need extra help," the Dutchess County SPCA says
Annie is done waiting for tomorrow; after over two years in a New York shelter, the rescue cat with a rare seizure disorder is home.
In June 2021, Annie, a loving black cat, arrived at the Dutchess County SPCA (DCSPCA).
"Annie was brought to us by a healthcare worker for an owner who was suffering from dementia," Lynne Meloccaro, DCSPCA's executive director, tells PEOPLE.
It wasn't until September 2023, after two years and two months of patient waiting, that Annie found her forever home.
Obstacles unfortunately stood in the way of Annie's adoption. Shortly after Annie arrived at DCSPCA, the New York shelter observed that the cat was struggling with health issues.
"Because she was undiagnosed when she arrived, it took some time for us to learn what the problem was and how to treat it. We knew she had not been well cared for because of her owner's illness. So we did what we do with all our special needs cats — we rolled up our sleeves and got to work to figure out the best treatment plan for her," Meloccaro says.
"We also removed her from the shelter environment and put her in a quiet and stable foster home where she could have the time and space to recover."
Based on their exams and observations from Annie's foster home, where the cat spent eight months, DCSPCA discovered that Annie had feline hyperesthesia. This rare disorder causes seizures in some cats, including Annie.
"If untreated, her condition will manifest as fits of severe anxiety and self-mutilation. She will be fine one moment, and then the next, suddenly turn around and bite her own tail. Her tail was quite chewed up when she first arrived. During these seizures, she can't be touched and comforted because of agitated behavior she can't control, and that's heartbreaking because she is clearly terrified when these fits occur," Meloccaro explains.
DCSPCA put Annie on anti-seizure medication after diagnosing her, and the cat has responded well to the treatment. Since starting her medication, Annie's seizures have "dramatically abated," and her tail has healed.
"She will need medication for the rest of her life," DCSPCA's executive director adds of Annie.
Unfortunately, Annie's additional needs seemed to cause many potential adopters to overlook her when visiting the shelter.
"The average adopter might ask, 'Why should they consider a cat like Annie when there are so many other cats available without any issues?' That's why many shelters would not even let a cat like Annie stay for as long as she did, but we always try to do all we can to find that special adopter who is willing to give a home to a special needs cat, even if it takes two years." Meloccaro says.
For Annie, it was worth the wait. In September, she found an adopter who deeply understood the cat's seizure disorder, a loving individual named Renee, who has epilepsy from Sturge-Weber Syndrome — a rare vascular disorder.
"Renee manages a health condition of their own that allows them to understand that illness does not define the living being. Their natural empathy for Annie is apparent. From Annie's point of view, Renee must seem like they dropped from heaven to be Annie's human," Meloccaro says of the cat's adopter.
Renee learned about Annie after reading an article about the cat's 2-year wait for a home.
"I wasn’t intimidated by her feline hyperesthesia like some other cat owners due to the fact that I have had many elderly, special needs cats in the past. To hear that a kitty had to endure two years without a permanent home was awful, and I was bound and determined to remedy that. As someone with a rare condition myself — Sturge-Weber Syndrome — I know the unknown can be scary, but I was ready to face it with her!" Renee shares.
Annie has been renamed Tapenade since moving into Renee's home, where the feline is gradually adjusting to adopted life.
"She’s a bit timid on the surface, but once she gets comfortable with her environment, she’s incredibly curious and playful. Not only that, but she loves love and has been more than happy to simply cuddle!" Renee says.
Tapenade has "carved out" a comfy space by the window and is getting to know her new cat siblings and Renee.
"Focal seizures are a major part of everyday life for me, so when I heard that Tapenade had to suffer that, it was heartbreaking. The experience is scary to humans, so I can only imagine how scary it would be to a kitty," the cat owner shares.
DCSPCA is thrilled that Annie/Tapenade has found an empathic and supportive home.
"When an adoption like this happens with an animal like Annie, who has been here for a long time and whose chances to be adopted seem so slim, it always brings tears of joy to the staff who cared for her for so long. Annie's adoption is a source of inspiration for us to continue working for all the animals that need extra help," Meloccaro says.
Renee hopes their decision to adopt a pet with special needs inspires others to do the same.
"I hope that people are able to look at our story and realize that they shouldn’t be afraid to take home an older or special needs pet! It may seem like a lot on paper, and that may intimidate new pet owners; just know that it’s worth it," the pet parent says.
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