Faces of No-Kill: Sir Karen the cat fools everybody

Selfie of Sir Karen the cat (looking a little grumpy) with Taylor Seupaul
A grumpy kitty had some surprises in store for his caregivers at Best Friends, but now he’s fitting right in at his new home.
By Karen Asp

There’s never a dull moment when taking care of animals, something a cat named Karen proved upon arrival at the Best Friends Pet Resource Center in Bentonville, Arkansas. Karen came from a city shelter with paperwork indicating that this cat was female.

However, when the Best Friends veterinary team was prepping for Karen’s spay surgery, they made a shocking discovery: She was actually a he — a neutered one at that — so they quickly adjusted the name to Sir Karen.

Yet that wasn’t all that Sir Karen had in store for the staff, as his health began deteriorating. He had no desire to eat, his skin took on a yellow hue, and his bloodwork showed issues with his liver. Luckily there was hope for Sir Karen, even though his medical case edged into an emergency.

This story is a part of our Faces of No-Kill series, highlighting the journey of pets who lost their place to call home. These pets are thriving today thanks to an animal shelter that helped them rather than killed them. Best Friends’ goal is for every shelter and every community to reach no-kill in 2025, and this story shows why that’s so important.

“Having resources to help animals who otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity is what Best Friends is all about,” says Haley Volker, Best Friends lifesaving and care supervisor. “We’re saving animals like Sir Karen because they are living beings deserving of a place to call home and live out a happy life.”

TLC for a sick cat

Because Sir Karen wasn’t eating, no matter how many different types of food he was given, the team had him fitted with a feeding tube to keep him alive. He also received medications to help his liver.

In the meantime, Haley was visiting him several times a day, a unique bond forming between them. “I would speak softly to him, saying good morning and hello with his name and just being silly by playfully talking,” she says.

[Once grumpy cat finally gets his day in the sun]

Sir Karen began to recognize her, even treating Haley differently from other people. Whereas he would swat at most others when they tried to interact, Sir Karen was loving with Haley. “When I entered the room, he would perk up, roll over on his back, and rest his head in my hand, his eyes slowly closing,” she says. “It became quite the love affair between the two of us.”

Caregivers kept a close eye on Sir Karen for a few weeks, during which he made slow but steady progress. He finally gained enough weight that the feeding tube could be removed. His next sign of progress was moving to a room where people interested in adopting him could see him. Turns out, he already had a fan.

Finding Sir Karen online

Taylor Seupaul has always loved looking through Petfinder and finding cats with funny names. She wasn’t thinking of adopting a cat, but when she stumbled upon Sir Karen, she was mesmerized. “It was something about his big eyes and angry-looking face,” she says.

She decided to send in an adoption application, even though it wasn’t a good time for her to adopt. She would soon be traveling to Egypt while prepping for the MCATs. She continued to check Best Friends’ website almost daily though, even calling weekly to see whether Sir Karen was still there.

When she returned from Egypt, there was a surprise: Sir Karen was no longer on the website. Taylor inquired and learned that he was still there, but he’d just been pulled off the site because he had been sick. Yet now that he was eating on his own and bloodwork showed that his liver enzymes were back to normal, he was ready to be adopted.

[Meet a volunteer who turns even the grumpiest cats into purr machines]

Taylor didn’t hesitate. She went to meet Sir Karen in person and took him home that day.

It didn’t take Sir Karen long to adjust to his new home, as his loving side came out almost instantly. “He’s the most cuddly cat,” says Taylor, adding that he loves lying and falling asleep on his people’s chests. He’s also a pro headbutter.

He’s even befriended the other resident cat, Mister Waffles, and has formed a close attachment to a stuffed teddy bear. “As long as the teddy bear is in front of him, he’ll make biscuits all day,” Taylor says.

The one thing that has changed though? His name. Taylor didn’t think Sir Karen was the right fit for him. After learning that Kevin is the male equivalent of Karen, she renamed him. No complaints so far from Kevin, who’s happy he has a loving home, warm chests to lie on, and a teddy bear buddy.

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

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