Why Has This Gentle, Caring 24-year-old Tortoiseshell Rescue Cat Been Rejected 30,000 Times?

You might have read this story as it’s all over the Internet. I resisted writing about it because it’s so sad but I thought I’d have a go at it nonetheless today.

Tilly is thought to be the UK’s oldest rescue cat at 24-years-of-age. She is a tortoiseshell cat and she has been at a sanctuary since 1995. She is currently looked after by Joyce Clarke who is the owner of the West Midlands Animal Welfare Sanctuary. She’s been at this sanctuary for 20 years.

Tilly and Joyce
Tilly and Joyce
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Joyce says that Tilly can be a bit difficult but that she is so good with the other cats in the shelter and has even looked after a few of them herself. Tilly appears to be uninterested or at least she shows a disinterest in visitors to the sanctuary who wish to adopt a cat. In addition Joyce says that Tilly can be a bit stroppy and would occasionally snap at people but doesn’t do it any more in her old age.

I suspect also that at a certain point in time the difficulties with her personality, which to be honest do not seem that bad at all, developed into a problem with her age. We know that older cats find it hard to attract an adopter. And cats of let’s say 10 years of age and above can be considered old by visitors. Certainly a cat who is 15 is considered old and therefore for the last 10 years or so Tilly has been effectively unadoptable because of her age.

But surely this is unfair and incorrect? Old cats should be adopted by older people. They’re ideal for older people except for the potential health issues but Tilly was a still is a healthy cat. The tortoiseshell coat is very attractive. Tilly is no longer a bit dismissive of visitors as Joyce has explained. Therefore, over the past 10 years there has been no reason really why she shouldn’t have been adopted by a more senior citizen.

The sanctuary where she is at do not euthanise cats and therefore she will live out her life at the sanctuary unless somebody has warmed to her due to the heavy Internet coverage and decides to adopt her.

That said, it could now be argued that she should not be adopted because she’s been so long at what appears to be a very good sanctuary. In fact, even after half the time that she has been at the sanctuary it could be argued that it would have been a bad idea to adopt her because she is clearly so settled in what is her permanent home.

Tilly a 24-year-old rescue cat rejected tens of thousands of times
Tilly a 24-year-old rescue cat rejected tens of thousands of times

What does this tell us about the attitude of people adopting rescue cats? It tells me that people are quite fickle really. They still tend to have adopt kittens and super attractive cats while shunning the idea that a person can form a very close and beautiful relationship with a cat who is less than attractive both in appearance and character as seen at a shelter (which is not always reflective of the cat’s true character). In addition there is a great reward in adopting a cat who is less popular because you are doing that cat a great favour and with plenty of TLC you can make that cat’s life very good and receive a reward in return from the cat.

There is not enough consideration given to the subtleties of the relationship between human and cat. A lot of people still adopt cats as possessions in much the same way that they purchase a new washing machine or car. People still, to a large extent, relate the domestic cat in that way. Clearly, there are many millions people who don’t think like that but there are still too many who do which is the reason why Tilly has been stuck at this loving sanctuary for most of her long life.

She is clearly a very healthy cat to live to 24 which is an extraordinary age for a domestic cat. It also tells us that the West Midlands Animal Sanctuary is very good at looking after their cats. There is though one last possible reason why Tilly has been rejected so often: has Joyce been doing all she could to market Tilly for adoption? That is not a criticism, just an obvious observation.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

7 thoughts on “Why Has This Gentle, Caring 24-year-old Tortoiseshell Rescue Cat Been Rejected 30,000 Times?”

  1. Considering her age and the probability that a consistent caretaker (not even Joyce) isn’t present constantly, ofcourse she would be temperamental. I don’t consider snapping or scratching to be a big deal, but I expect it would put a lot of people off. I’m sure that they don’t realize that moodiness and aloofness is expected when any cat is left confined with only “some” human touch and cuddling for years at a time. Those issues may be hard or impossible to reverse. But, I know that there is the right understanding person out there for her. I hope they appear.

  2. You’re absolutely right Michael, that the older cats others don’t want will be better companions – the bond will be deeper. And it should be, and those people don’t deserve the more seasoned older cats. I take in cats off the street, so I never know who the next one will be anyway. Most of the magic happens after they’re settled in too. I also think that cats have some “say” in who they go home with. The ones who’ve been judged “not good enough” might not warm up to them as well, and reserve their better behavior for the humans they like. I can’t imagine being rejected 30,000 times! Once in awhile practically devastates me.

    1. Thanks Albert. I agree that there is some magic in developing a close bond with a rescue cat who no one wants. When, through patience and TLC, you have that bond you have something no one else has achieved. And your cat warms to you. I think all cats will eventually warm to a person provided the person is a super cat caretaker.

  3. Diane Ricciardi Stewart

    Michael, great post! I would so adopt ANY senior!! It doesn’t matter to me the age, I love them all!! I just added 2 more to my *Clan*, taking me back up to 12 adopted/rescued kitties — and, yes, one is a 13 yr old senior — the other is a 6 yr old bengal mix. Adopted from a friend of mine who recently passed.

    As far as this article, I see that Tilly is well taken care of — I agrre with you that just maybe Joyce has gotten a little attached to Tilly, and really didn’t want to part with her. The expression in the above pic kinda makes me see that in her. Joyce looks to truly love gorgeous Tilly!!But it’s all good. Tilly won’t ever have to worry where her next meal — or love — is coming from!! ♥♥♥

    1. I totally agree with you. I don’t think Joyce minds that Tilly was not adopted. The news media have latched onto what they want to emphasize but Tilly has had a decent life That said Tilly should have been adopted. I believe there is a reward in adopting a cat other people don’t want to adopt. The bond will be deeper.

  4. I think most people will be put off by a cat with temperament issues. When I worked in the shelter, there was a beautiful calico who was very reactive and lashed out. She was kept for about 2 months before being euthanized. I was a cat cuddler, and avoided her after I was scratched.

    I believe this was more humane than leaving her in the cage, with no cuddling or petting.

    I adopted the feral cat I brought in, after she was left in the holding cage for a month because she was too timid, except with me. I had fed her, so she knew me. When they called to let me know her days were numbered, I stepped up to adopt her, because she was familiar with me.

    The reason I hadn’t adopted her originally was that my live- in landlord said no cats were allowed. But she changed her mind when I told her this cat was going to be killed.

  5. Tears falling. I adopted a young cat who had been rejected numerous times, adopted 2 or 3 times and been brought back. He, too, has temperament issues. I knew if I didn’t take him, he would remain where he was. Howie has been with me and the other feline kids for over 7years now. He is still afraid at times, and will lash out, but he is getting better each day. He has adjusted to being a member of the clowder, and can be super affectionate. I can’t imagine life without Headstrong Howie.

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