Family Matters

T he rescue cat’s name was Arthur, the same as a beloved feline the Ferriby/Stackhouse family of Hamden had had in the 1980s. His orange and white coloring was nearly identical to that of the first Arthur—as proven by a painting a friend once made of their beloved companion, whom Gavin Ferriby calls “an extraordinary character and an extraordinary cat.” Adopting the new Arthur, who’s about three years old, from Halfway Home Rescue in North Haven was hard to resist. What tipped the decision was the fact that Ben Ferriby, the youngest of the family’s three grown children, had just been sent home from his senior year of college along with the rest of the class of 2020. “We needed something good to happen in the house,” Gavin says.

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The Ferriby/Stackhouses aren’t alone. Shelters and rescue organizations report they’re getting plenty of inquiries about adoption these days. “I think people were feeling badly for the animals that were being left in the shelters over this whole period,” says Mary Tedford, volunteer vice president of adoptions for The Purr Project, located at Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine, which moved from New Haven to North Haven in 2013. “And I think people, too, realize that they miss something in their lives,” she adds.

But organizations agree that not everyone should take on a new pet in these new times. “We’re seeing an influx [of] people who are interested in adopting, and we’re trying to be very thoughtful about how we’re going about doing adoptions,” says Laura Burban, director of the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter in Branford, which reopened on May 1. In addition to cleaning between each visit and limiting in-person visitors, Burban says they’re asking applicants questions specific to the current situation. “I’m not interested in adopting to somebody who doesn’t have a plan in place for how they’re going to handle the situation” once work and normal activities resume.

At the same time, Cosgrove Shelter is hearing from many current pet owners who, due to the financial crisis, are struggling to care for existing pets. Food, medications and medical issues can be costly. The shelter attempts to help those who want to try to keep their animals. Others, Burban says, can’t see their way out of the situation and are surrendering pets for re-adoption.

Over at The Purr Project, all of the cats who were in residence have been adopted or sent to foster homes for now. After volunteers were asked to stay home, staffers at Central cared for the cats until they were placed. Tedford, too, says people should think twice before adopting, especially if they haven’t had a pet before. “Cute little kittens do grow into adult cats,” she says. “There will be medical issues, there may be emergencies. Make sure that you have enough money set aside or pet insurance” to cover unforeseen circumstances.

Even pets who’ve been with their families for a long time may experience some difficulty as restrictions ease and the house isn’t full of people all day long, Burban says. People “should really start getting their animal into a position of understanding a routine” before a return to work, she suggests. For example, if you always walked your dog at 6 a.m., it may be time to start again. If you always had a dog walker visit at noon, figure out who’s going to do that job now.

“I think that we’re going to actually see an influx of dogs and cats having some behavioral issues because they aren’t going to understand what’s happening,” Burban says. “Dogs and cats depend on the consistency of our schedules.” And if you’re realizing your pet is going to become too much for you to handle, she says, “Start having that honest conversation with yourself now… Right now shelters probably have space to take in the animals, but in two months or three months from now, there may be an influx of animals being abandoned.”

At his new home in Hamden, the new Arthur—smaller and shyer than his predecessor—is negotiating with the family’s other two kitties, Luna and Dawn, and settling in comfortably. He’s the eighth cat the family has had, and he’s clearly doing just fine. He’s also a “serious lap cat,” Ben says, a good companion both for tough times and—fingers and paws crossed—better times to come.

Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Image 1 features Gavin Ferriby with a painting of Arthur I. Image 2 features Arthur II in the arms of Luke Ferriby.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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