Faces of No-Kill: Super Nova the cat shines in home

Nova the calico cat wearing a collar with a blue tag
Nova made a stellar transformation thanks to her caregivers and a family who believed in her.
By Christina London

We’ve seen it time and time again: a pet who is fearful of all the strange new things in a shelter environment but transforms into a sweet, calm companion in a home. That’s why it’s so important to find pets families as soon as possible and use foster care as a home-between-homes. Nova, a 6-year-old calico cat, is a perfect example.

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.

On another planet

When Nova lost her home of five years, she came to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Los Angeles with just her special gray blanket in tow.

“Her whole world was turned upside down,” says Faith Giesick, Best Friends lifesaving outcomes coordinator.

At first, nervous Nova was all hisses and growls, swatting away anyone who tried to come close. But this beautiful cat with striking eyes wasn’t mean: Being surrounded by so many unfamiliar humans and animals was scary for her.

Faith could see past Nova’s tough girl exterior and made it a priority to find her a loving home.

A star starts to shine

Nova needed a quiet place to decompress — and she would get it in foster care. Foster care is also an opportunity to get to know a pet’s authentic self. “Cats thrive on routine and being able to express their natural behaviors. So often those things can’t happen in a shelter environment,” explains Faith.

Sassy Nova stayed in several foster homes during her time with Best Friends. Each time, she started out scared and shy. But within a few days, her true personality began to shine through.

[Foster volunteer steps in for a shy cat]

So what did her foster caregivers glean about the real Nova? Simply put, she was a happy cat. She loved lounging in sunbeams, gobbling up treats, and chatting up a storm. (One foster volunteer said she was so vocal that it was like living with another person.) They also discovered that this formerly standoffish feline was actually a total lovebug. Of course, she set boundaries and always let her caregivers know when she needed space. But once Nova became comfortable, she never wanted to leave their side. She adored being petted, purring and making biscuits to show her appreciation.

“We can share (the information learned in foster care) with adopters, so they can envision their life with that pet,” says Faith.

Ready for launch

John Doppler and his family came to the pet adoption center looking for an affectionate adult cat. Faith immediately suggested one special kitty in foster care.

“Those beautiful eyes in her photo immediately caught our attention — bright and alert and curious,” recalls John. Faith knew Nova was just the cat they were looking for if they would give her a chance.

As expected, Nova didn’t make the best first impression. She hissed at her potential adopters as if to say, stay back. But after she became a bit more comfortable in the meeting room, John began to see glimmers of the true Nova. The family decided to take that chance and adopt her.

“We were nervous: What if she didn't warm up to us? Would she be comfortable in our home? Would she run away and hiss if we tried to pet her?” says John.

“As it turned out, our fears were unfounded.”

Super Nova

Nova was finally home. But just like in foster care, she spent her first few days hissing, growling, and hiding. The family knew she needed space, and they gave it to her.

“About a week later, she suddenly strolled into the living room, jumped up on my wife's lap, and started purring loud enough to hear from across the room. It was completely unexpected,” says John. “I think that was her way of announcing that she was finally home.”

Today, Nova is completely at ease in her new home. She is the center of her family’s universe and makes them laugh every day with her adorable antics. While she loves pouncing in boxes and batting around crumpled-up balls of paper, her absolute favorite toy is a fuzzy green worm on a string. She waits expectantly at John’s feet until he pulls it out, and then she leaps through the air to catch it.

[One kitty’s transformation from scaredy-cat to queen of her castle]

Another one of Nova’s favorite activities is binge-watching cat TV. She paws at the screen as mice scurry around and birds flit by. “When one disappears off-screen, Nova will race around to the back of the TV to see where it went,” says John.

After a rousing play session, Nova is always ready to be cuddled and petted. Her slow blinks let her family know that she’s comfortable, content, and trusts them completely.

“We all love her deeply, and we're so glad we made the decision to bring her into the family,” says John.

“It is definitely an adoption I will never forget,” says Faith. “It makes my heart warm when I think of Nova in her new home.”

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

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill in 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.

Silhouette of two dogs, cat and kitten

You can help save homeless pets

You can help end the killing in shelters and save the lives of homeless pets when you foster, adopt, and advocate for the dogs and cats who need it most.

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Together, we're creating compassionate no-kill communities nationwide for pets and the people who care for them.

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