Senior cat conquers life-threatening illness and meets someone special

Senior cat, who is 15 years old, is diagnosed with kidney disease that is now being managed with a special diet. He's fostered then adopted.
By Nicole Hamilton

Hootie the cream colored tabby cat taking a napHootie the cat is a lover of all people and pets, a lap enthusiast (sometimes at the most inopportune times), and a shadowing master who will follow you quietly from room to room. He’s a 15-year-old kitten and a social butterfly, and although he had kidney disease when he was brought to the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Salt Lake City, he shows no signs of slowing down.

In fact, life is good for Hootie these days. In some ways you could say it’s just getting started.

Help for a cat with kidney disease

Before coming to Best Friends, Hootie was at a municipal shelter in Salt Lake City where, as a senior and surrounded by younger cats, age was not on his side. To make matters worse, Hootie didn’t look very good, which meant he probably didn’t feel good, either. His coat lacked luster and his energy level was far from what it is today.

It was clear Hootie didn’t just need a little extra TLC, he needed ongoing medical attention. And when he came to Best Friends, he saw a veterinarian who got to the bottom of why Hootie looked so rough — kidney disease.

The team at the center got to work to help Hootie feel better. First, they put him on a special diet and gave him extra fluids. Then they reached out to foster volunteer Amy Rohman Needham, who agreed to bring sweet Hootie to her house.

A cat heals in a foster home

At Amy’s place, Hootie had a room all to himself where he could relax, although she and her husband, Tyler, scheduled daily playtime to help him regain his mojo. And since Hootie only has one tooth, he received unlimited amounts of wet food, which he ate gingerly. He didn’t even make a fuss when Amy gave him his subcutaneous fluids.

When Hootie started to feel better, Amy could see he’s got personality in spades, though she tempers her assessment with a dose of reality. “He comes with a lot of burps and sneezes, but he’s just the sweetest guy,” she says.

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Hootie the cat taking a supervised walk on a leash outdoors

Be that person

With his foster stint a great success, it was time for Hootie to return to the center, where he met soon Kelly Smith, who didn’t plan on falling in love with him. In fact, the day Kelly met Hootie, she had come to adopt a different cat, namely her foster cat Bonnie. When she saw Hootie sitting quietly in his cage, her heart went out to him and she hoped that somebody would soon come in and give him a loving home.

She never envisioned that person would be her, and when she left that day with Bonnie, she thought she’d never see Hootie again.

The following Saturday, though, she found herself back at the center to see him. “He wheeze-purred and stole my heart,” says Kelly. “But I really didn’t think I could handle a second cat. I left, thinking that someone very specific would have to come along.”

Four days and a couple more visits later, Kelly finally realized she could be that person and adopted him.


A post shared by Hootie And Bonnie (@hootieandthebonfish) on

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Change for the (way) better

Today, Hootie is flourishing at home with Kelly, although it hasn’t been without challenges. For starters, Hootie likes to sit on Kelly’s lap when she’s putting on her shoes to head out. And you know how that goes. Have you ever tried to get cat off your lap once they’ve settled in? It’s tough.

Hootie also takes good old fashioned cat curiosity to another level. Every day he tries (without success) to examine the contents of the trash bin. And when he hears dogs barking outside, he cries at the window because he wants to see what all the fuss is about.

Life has definitely changed for the way better for Hootie. Not only is his kidney disease being managed with a special diet, but he’s found an adopter who will gladly wait a little longer to leave the house so Hootie can get in more lap time.

Of course both Hootie and Bonnie have changed Kelly’s life as well. She’s currently working on her Ph.D. and the two help when school gets tough.

“Grad school can be a frustrating, lonely experience,” says Kelly. “Every night, I came home to an empty apartment. There were many days where I would go to bed feeling inadequate and wake up feeling inadequate. It was hard.”

Kelly says Hootie and Bonnie don’t care if the grad school experiments didn’t work. “They love me just because I exist and they are happy to see me regardless of how my day went. It’s made my life so much better. I can’t believe I got so lucky.”

Hootie the cream tabby cat being adopted

Adopting a senior cat

Sometimes when Kelly tells people she adopted a 15-year-old cat, they respond with sympathy, reminding her that she won’t have as many years to spend with Hootie as she would with a younger cat. But she tells them she’d rather deeply miss Hootie one day than regret never getting the chance to love him.

“People have a lot of misconceptions about adopting seniors,” says Kelly. “Just like every cat, their personalities are individual. Hootie is every bit as rambunctious and affectionate as a kitten.”

Save a life. Adopt a pet near you.

Best Friends in Utah works collaboratively with animal rescue groups, city shelters and passionate individuals who are all dedicated to the mission of making Utah a no-kill state. As part of this mission, Best Friends hosts adoption and fundraising events, runs the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Salt Lake City, operates two spay/neuter clinics and leads the No-Kill Utah (NKUT) initiative. Together, we will Save Them All.

Photos courtesy of the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Salt Lake City