Cat is a combat veteran’s new best friend

Eeyore the cat in a harness on the back of Allen Burkhart, who adopted him
Eeyore the tabby cat not only accompanies Allen wherever he goes, but he’s also a source of comfort from PTSD.
By Kelli Harmon

Allen Burkhart didn’t plan to change his mind about not really being a cat guy, but he’d also never met a cat quite like Eeyore. He and his wife, Kerrie, already had a cat and a dog at home when they decided to visit the Best Friends Pet Resource Center in Bentonville, Arkansas. Eeyore was one of many kittens to arrive in the height of kitten season, when shelters are inundated with kittens.

Luckily, the shelter where Eeyore ended up is one that has partnerships with other organizations, such as Best Friends. That’s one of the most important ways that shelters across the country have reached no-kill — by working together to save pets.

Allen and Kerrie adopted Eeyore, and right from the beginning, there was something different about the handsome tabby.

First, he was rather wild. He loved to jump and climb, including climbing up Allen as though he were a cat tree. Eeyore followed Allen everywhere in the house, a constant presence whether he was cooking in the kitchen or in front of the mirror in the bathroom. The family’s other pets tolerated the precocious kitten and adapted to his boundless energy, but before long Eeyore became Allen’s special pet.

Cat is a comfort when PTSD strikes

For as rambunctious as Eeyore can be, it soon became clear that he was connected to his new person on a level that no one expected. “I’m an old combat veteran, and I’ve got PTSD problems,” Allen says.

[Quirky dog brings joy to adopter coping with PTSD]

When he’d get upset or angry, Eeyore would go to him, climb up on Allen’s chest, and rub his face all over him. He’d gently nibble Allen’s nose, eyebrows, ears. “He’s a good therapy cat,” Allen says. “I can be upset, I can be angry, and he’ll show up.”

A cat about town

Allen shows up for Eeyore too, expanding the cat’s world beyond their home. He wanted to take his cat to downtown Bentonville, where people often bring their dogs. “Since I’m now a cat owner and a cat father, I decided that my cat’s going,” Allen says. But he hadn’t ever seen anyone take their cat out on the town and wasn’t sure how to do it safely.

So Allen researched online and found a backpack made to carry a cat. He put Eeyore in it as a test. “He loved it,” Allen says.

[How a dog guy became a cat person]

Now, the two are a fixture at the local Walmart, where greeters know Eeyore and announce his arrival to the store. People are delighted to see a cat in a backpack and are eager to meet him. Eeyore’s equipment now includes a stroller, harness, and leash so that whatever the situation, he can explore with Allen.

The two have come a long way together — Eeyore, who’d started life without a home, and Allen, who’d spent a lifetime “not a fan of cats” (his words). All it took to change that was a precocious little kitten who got a second chance at a happy life.

“I don’t tolerate him,” Allen says. “I love him.”

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.

Silhouette of two dogs, cat and kitten

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