Cats are hardy animals. You might not guess that, though, just from looking at the statistics about them.
“Cats who spend significant unsupervised time outdoors tend to survive to be about 7 years old, while indoor-only cats can be expected to live to around 14 years of age.”
Well, that certainly didn’t prove true for my childhood feline, a roamer named Calico who made it into her early twenties. And a Baltimore, Maryland, cat named Chester similarly beat the odds.
According to a letter posted on the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter Facebook page, Chester entered the lives of the Garner family when he was at the advanced age of 18. Heather Garner, who wrote the letter, told the terrible tale of how the alley cat had made it to BARCS in the first place.
See, Chester wasn’t especially injured, ill or malnourished. I mean, he wasn’t in good shape either, but you’d expect that from a feline living on the streets.
No, the way that he came to the shelter’s attention was that he simply wandered out onto Baltimore City’s Cold Spring Lane. Then he lay down in front of a woman’s car.
Fortunately, the motorist stopped, picked up the ancient animal, and brought him to BARCS. “Everyone there was heartbroken to think that perhaps homeless Chester’s actions were an attempt to give up,” Garner wrote.
That was when she and her family entered the picture. Not long after Chester’s arrival, they showed up at the shelter to drop off a donation. When Garner heard about the kitty, “I asked if we could meet him, and there was an instant connection.
“But Chester was in really bad shape. He had an upper respiratory infection, was bony and missing hair, was sneezing, and had an abrasion on his face.”
After a quick conference with her husband, Garner agreed to adopt Chester. But they treated the adoption as a “hospice” situation, a way to alleviate his suffering, because he certainly wouldn’t live long — right?
Oh, how wrong the Garner family was. Chester continued to live, and he lived life to the fullest.
Garner wrote, “We honestly did not think Chester would be with us for longer than a week or two. But he made it to celebrate his 19th birthday with us … and then his 20th birthday … and his 21st … and his 22nd.”
With every year that passed, he ingratiated himself a little more into the family’s life. He did things like snuggle “in our son’s bed almost nightly” and he “took over the bed that was for our 60-pound dog.”
In other words, the hoary, doomed-to-death cat became an ordinary pet. And Chester lived with the Garners for five beautiful years.
“Chester was three months shy of celebrating his 23rd birthday when we found him resting comfortably this past Saturday (November 24), having crossed over the rainbow bridge,” Garner said. “While we took him home knowing he was our ‘hospice cat,’ we will forever be grateful that he loved us so much that he decided to stick around an extra 1,640 days.”
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