Overlooked cat is fabulous first feline

Larry the cat with his new family
Larry’s special medical needs meant it took a while for him to get adopted, but he became the perfect first cat for Tara.
By Sarah Thornton Photos by Tara Cooley

Tara Cooley had a plan when she came to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary: She was looking for a companion for herself and her senior dog, Luke. Two years earlier, her family had said a sad farewell to the second half of its doggy duo, and the time finally felt right to open their home for a new furry family member.

To match 13-year-old Luke’s low-key energy, Tara thought another senior would be just right. And since Luke had started enjoying his solo walks, perhaps a cat could provide the right amount of companionship without interrupting those walks. Tara also wanted to give a home to a pet waiting a long time while others were getting adopted — a pet she could shower in much-deserved love.

She ended up choosing Larry, a sweet tuxedo cat with crinkled ears and a list of special medical needs that caused other potential adopters to avoid choosing him. Just one year old, he wasn’t a senior at all, but the other two boxes were checked and an instant, undeniable connection made up for the third.

Photo by Tara Cooley

Lovebug with a laundry list of medications

Larry came to the Sanctuary from a shelter in Arizona, and it was clear his early days hadn’t been easy. At some point his ears had been injured and then had healed into their permanently crinkled shape. He also tested positive for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and had scabs and huge patches of missing fur all over his body from a skin condition and allergies.

[Healing help for scared, blind cat]

Larry went through all sorts of treatments for his skin: medicated shampoos, oral medications, ointments and a special diet for food sensitivities. He even wore a onesie for a while to stop him from scratching or overgrooming and making his skin worse. On top of that, he was prone to upper respiratory infections due to his weakened immune system, which required additional medicine.

None of that stopped Larry from being one giant lovebug, however. He adored making new friends and was always ready to greet caregivers and volunteers with a head-butt and a purr. Caregivers suggested him as a sleepover buddy for volunteers who wanted to take a pet home for the night during their stay. That’s how Tara met Larry.

Photo by Tara Cooley

Sleepovers and second thoughts

“I took a trip to Best Friends,” Tara says, “and volunteered for the week and stayed at the roadhouse so I could take animals overnight. (Larry) was with me the first night — just him — and I just couldn’t believe how friendly he was.”

Larry was easy to fall in love with — so easy, in fact, that Tara was at first convinced she should keep searching for her overlooked cat-to-be, thinking that she shouldn’t take him because he was so adoptable and others would surely adopt him.

The second night, she took Larry back to her room for another sleepover. But this time his 17-year-old feline roommate joined them. The senior checked all the boxes Tara had been looking for, and he had no problem putting himself front and center. But Tara noticed that with another cat there, Larry ceded the spotlight.

While Larry climbed all over Tara’s computer looking for attention on their first night together, with the roommate around he mostly tucked himself away. So, when she returned the pair to the Sanctuary, Tara was torn. She’d planned on adopting a senior cat, but when it came down to it, she just felt that Larry needed her more. So, it was Larry (the cat who’d already captured her heart) who she adopted and took home.

Photo by Tara Cooley

The purrfect first-time feline

It took just a week for Larry to settle into his new abode. He spent that time taking over the second floor loft of the apartment, and his new canine companion, Luke, showed no inclination to go upstairs.

It was a great setup as the two pets got used to each other, but Larry’s love of living life on the edge (literally) worried Tara, a first-time cat person. “I’ve never had a cat before,” she says with a laugh, “so I was asking my cat friends (questions): Is this okay? Is he gonna fall? This seems so dangerous.”

Eventually, when Larry extended his domain to the lower floor, Tara experienced another familiar feeling for cat families — frantically searching for him while he was happily napping away on top of the kitchen cabinets.

[Love for cats with special needs runs in the family]

Of course, there have been the cute firsts, as well. “I was sleeping,” Tara recalls, “and I started to feel pain in my chest. I think I woke up because I was feeling this pain. And in my head, I was thinking, gosh, it feels like someone’s lying on my chest.”

When she opened her eyes and looked down, there was indeed a 13-pound someone. Larry was snoozing happily on top of her. “It’s really cute. He’ll lie on my upper legs or on my stomach,” she says. “He’ll basically just find a spot somewhere on my body and just come and lie (down). He's a very friendly, cuddly cat.”

That friendliness also extends to any new person Larry meets. When introduced to his would-be pet sitter, he went right for his signature head-butt greeting. “He’s so easy,” says Tara. “He doesn’t care who it is. He’s just like: ‘Hello, new adult.’”

Larry warmed up to Luke, too, and in line with Tara’s original hope, the two have formed a comfortable companionship. They’ll stretch out on the couch together, and sometimes Larry teases Luke into a game of chase (which he inevitably wins, when he hops up the stairs). And though Luke enjoyed his solo walks, he doesn’t seem to mind when Larry joins them in a stroller.

These days, Larry’s living large and healthy. His fur has all grown back, he’s had no more issues with upper respiratory infections, and aside from his special diet, he’s been able to leave his medications behind.

“I just lucked out that I got this amazing guy, because other people missed out by not adopting him earlier,” Tara says. “He is the perfect first cat for me.”

Photo by Tara Cooley