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Lisa + Millie + Apollo = Soulmates!

Lisa Epstein has volunteered with Cat by Cat Inc. for over a year and a half, working with the feline residents of the shelter located in the lower level of director Sally Merritt Braciak’s home. Lisa helps socialize the cats, most of whom have never been around humans, or have had a negative experience with humans. She spends hours every week talking to them and playing with them, at a distance if they are frightened. “Little by little they come around to me,” Lisa says. “It’s so rewarding to watch them transform.”

While Cat by Cat’s primary goal is caring for community cats through a Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR) program, they are also dedicated to making sure all cats have the best life possible. They shelter animals who, for one reason or another, can’t be returned to the outdoor location they came from.


“Apollo was a kitten when I started volunteering,” Lisa remembers. Painfully shy, black-and-white Apollo huddled in the corner of his cage and seemed to have a perpetual upper-respiratory problem. Lisa did her best to engage his trust, but he continued to pull back and flinch when she reached in to pet him.

As time passed, Apollo got sicker. His balance was affected, and he was losing weight. “He spent a lot of time at the vet,” Lisa says. Fortunately for the young cat, he was in a place where people loved him no matter what, and it seemed like he’d probably spend the rest of his life in the Cat by Cat shelter.

But then … Sally and her team deduced that Apollo was experiencing a neurologic issue, possibly as a result of Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). He responded to treatment, and once he was old enough, they tried placing him in a barn-cat situation since he wasn’t acclimating to humans. But it was not a good place for him, and he came back to the shelter.


Around the time Apollo was starting to get better, calico Millie came to the shelter with her six kittens. She was missing her right arm—she might have been caught in a trap, attacked by a predator, or injured while fighting to protect her babies.

“I loved her from the start, and I had an inkling that I might take her home,” Lisa says. “She was so sweet, so chill, even after losing her arm—and she took such good care of her kittens.”

Apollo & Millie

Meanwhile, Apollo’s health continued to improve, but he was still shy with humans and most of the other cats. Not with Millie, though! They hung out together when their cage doors were open. “If cats have soulmates, they were it!” Lisa exclaimed. “They were so happy together that Sally eventually moved them into the same cage.”

By now, Lisa had decided to take Millie home. She says, “But I couldn’t take her without taking him—they truly loved each other. How could I leave Apollo behind? He deserves a home, and he deserves to be with his best friend.”

Lisa knew Millie would be fine living with her, but she worried that Apollo would have difficulty in a new setting. He had spent his whole life in the Cat by Cat shelter; he had never lived in a house before. But she was determined to try.

So Millie and Apollo went home with Lisa. After two weeks, they had become comfortable in their new surroundings, and Apollo began to come out of his shell. Now, after a few months, he is super-playful, and—new for him—he communicates in chirps and meows. Lisa says, “He’s so happy all the time that his tail curls over and touches his back. I call it his ‘pig tail.’” No longer shy and reserved, Apollo follows Lisa around like a dog. “He even sleeps with me. I wasn’t expecting that!”

Lisa continues, “The thing about rescuing any animal is, sometimes the pet who ends up being right for you is the one who is shy and passed over by others, but will ultimately blossom into an outgoing, lovely, sweet pet. If you give them time, energy, and kindness, they often give it back to you tenfold. Millie and Apollo have far surpassed any expectations I had for them, and I am so happy to have them in my life!”


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