Laura Cassiday, of Dundalk, was searching on Facebook Wednesday, looking at the different animal rescue pages, when she saw Baltimore County Animal Services' plea for a cat named Thomas.
The 26-year-old feline had been at the Baltimore County shelter for a month after his owner fell ill. The geriatric cat, too, had several medical conditions of his own, including severe dental disease, arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and an abnormal liver that may be caused by his hyperthyroid disease. The cat needed out of the shelter immediately but as a rescue, he needed special care.
Cassiday, 27 — surprised that the senior cat was just a year younger than her — said she read the post "three or four times to make sure it wasn't a typo," and then she resolved that she would foster Thomas. She picked him up the next day.
"I went and got him and everybody at the shelter was so excited because he had been there for a month," she said.
"I really wanted to get him out of there. … I know the toll that shelters take on animals, especially senior animals," said Cassiday, who works as an admissions coordinator and animal care technician at Maryland SPCA and has fostered dozens of cats over the past few years.
Today, Cassiday has seven cats in her care, but Thomas has undoubtedly gotten the most fanfare, resulting in several articles about him and his old age, and more than 1,000 followers on his Facebook page "The Adventures of Thomas the 26-year-old Cat."
"All the fame he's getting is incredible," she said.
Cassiday said Thomas is getting acclimated to his new home, in which he has his own room. He's a bit shy, she said, and doesn't like taking his medicine. It's likely that he'll be spending his last days with her.
"We considered putting him up for adoption. At this point, he's so old. …. There aren't many people who would want him," she said, and taking care of him would be a task.
"His teeth are terrible — some of the worst that my vet has ever seen," said Cassiday, adding that because Thomas cannot go under anesthesia for surgery, the cat is now on antibiotics to help clear up infections. Cassiday also noted that Thomas does not have much muscle mass and that her vet found a mass that could be a tumor. With his old age, however, there's not much they can do.
Cassiday said Thomas will be prescribed the necessary medications to make him more comfortable. Her vet has advised her to "feed him as much as he wants, let him do what he wants," she said. "I've been pretty much letting him live like a king."
Though Thomas has required more care, the fostering experience overall has been rewarding, Cassiday said, especially knowing that taking in one animal can save two lives. When one animal gets a home, a space is freed up at the shelter for another animal in need.
And though she encourages other pet lovers to "adopt, not shop" for their pets, she challenges them to take one step further.
"Don't just go there to think you're going to get a puppy or kitten. Take a chance on a different kind of animal," said Cassiday, adding that animals that are older and have health issues or are not as gregarious often get overlooked. "Take a chance on fostering. … You're saving a life, and the alternative for the animal is not a good outcome."
Thomas serves as a perfect example.
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An earlier version of this article misstated the place at which Thomas was being cared for before Laura Cassiday fostered him. It was Baltimore County Animal Services. The Sun regrets the error.