PART 1: How JR came to Cat by Cat Inc.
On June 15, 2022, JR found his way into the Cat by Cat shelter and simultaneously into the heart of Sally Merritt-Braciak, the director. Discovered living in the town dump, a plea for help brought Christine, a dedicated Cat by Cat volunteer, to the rescue. Swiftly trapped due to his dire condition, JR, his face covered in purulent discharge, was barely able to see or smell.
Confronted with JR's critical state, Sally said a silent prayer. Given that he’d probably spent most of his lifetime outdoors, it was uncertain how he would respond to human interaction. To closely monitor him, Sally placed a camera in his space. Commencing immediate triage, supportive care, and medication, she worked cautiously to gain his trust. Slow blinks, gentle movements, and constant reassurance became her means of communication. Despite continuous interventions, JR began to trust Sally, sensing her commitment to his survival.
In the ensuing days, JR struggled with basic functions due to his weakened state. A visit to Cheektowaga Veterinary Hospital revealed Hemaplasma, a microscopic blood parasite linked to insect bites. These parasites attack the red blood cells, causing another condition called Feline Infectious Anemia. With extensive treatment, JR rebounded, and his body was able to produce enough healthy red blood cells to correct the anemia. JR is also FIV+, and despite this, his body fought and won.
With the help of shelter volunteers, JR grew stronger and became more receptive to human touch and company. Eventually he was adopted, but the match didn’t work out, so JR came back to the shelter.
PART 2: Shannon volunteers
About a year ago, Tonawanda resident Shannon Newton was looking to adopt two cats. Cat-loving friends recommended Cat by Cat Inc., and before long, Shannon found her new pets with the help of Cat by Cat’s Medina team. “I really love cats, and everyone I met through the adoption process was wonderful. I was so impressed with Cat by Cat’s operation, I decided to volunteer.”
In addition to working her “day job” as a commercial claims specialist, Shannon found the time to give her all to Cat by Cat. As a volunteer, she wears a lot of different hats: “I’m that kind of person,” she says. “I’m willing to do anything to help.”
Last spring, Shannon started by providing direct care at Cat by Cat’s shelter: feeding and watering, cleaning litterboxes, doing laundry, and providing one-one-one attention to the shelter’s residents to get them used to humans. Soon Shannon got involved with the adoption team, and now she participates in many aspects of the adoption process, including screening applicants, setting up and supervising meet-and-greets between prospective adopters and cats, and making sure each human/cat pairing is the right fit. She also takes pictures of cats for posting on Petfinder.
Today, according to director Sally Merritt-Braciak, “Shannon is a key player on our adoption team.”
PART 3: How JR came to Shannon
When Shannon reported for her first direct-care shift, JR had just come back after his unsuccessful adoption experience. He had been placed in a crate for protection and comfort. Shannon says, “I sat down and opened the crate. The kitty inside was cute and cuddly, and happy to be petted.” But he wasn’t like that with everyone—though many potential adopters were interested in him, he showed no interest in them. “He was so shy, he didn’t make a good first impression,” Shannon said.
Gradually, JR’s attitude toward shelter visitors changed. “He’d put on a show at his meet-and-greets,” Shannon remembers. “He would be super-friendly. He was ready to go home.”
And, as it turns out, Shannon was almost ready to give him that home.
With three cats in residence already, Shannon’s house needed major repairs before she could expand her feline family. What’s more, JR had made a best friend at the shelter—Frankie—and was making great strides in socializing with other cats as well as humans. Then, Frankie was adopted, Shannon’s repairs were finished, and she welcomed JR into his forever home. “It was meant to be,” Shannon laughs. “And I think JR knew it all along.”
“He transitioned really well,” she says. “It usually takes about a week for a cat to get comfortable in a new place—but JR came out of his carrier ready to play right away.”
JR fit right in. He understood immediately that calico Nia, age 13, didn’t love other cats and needed to be treated with respect. And it wasn’t long before the other two feline family members, Ginger and Jingle, began responding to JR’s friendly overtures. A month later, JR, Ginger and Jingle are avid playmates, taking equal pleasure in their romps with feather wands, laser pointers, and kitty treats.
“JR is truly a cat’s cat!” Shannon says proudly. “It’s been so lovely watching him learn, heal, and grow, first at the shelter, and now in his new home. He’s becoming a healthier, happier, more confident cat every day.”