Cat Sanctuary

Heartbreak Harry

I try to keep the Neko Blog focused on the joys of the Sanctuary – and there are many joys.  But for all of us, staff and volunteers, the hardest part is always when we lose a cat.  I blogged when we lost our beloved Cookie almost two years ago, when we lost beautiful Kojak (with a memorial to our other leukemia cats) and when we lost sweet Daisy last month. Lee asked me last week to post something about Mindy, and I hesitated, because she wasn’t well known to a lot of people – I ended up posting Lee’s tribute on Mindy’s blog page.
But this week has dealt a blow to many of us with the death of our beloved Harry, and I’m breaking my own rule and offering a cat-obituary.


Harry came to us just over four years ago.  We like to call ourselves Richmond’s best-kept secret – our address is not posted, our entrance is not signed – people wishing to surrender cats take them to the No 5 Road shelter, where it is decided if this is an adoptable cat or one that needs to come to us. Harry’s owners had obviously done their detective homework; he was found in a cage at the door by the morning med staff, and attached to the cage was a note that let us know that Harry had a peeing problem, and that in spite of surgery, the problem continued – to the ruination of their floors.

The Sanctuary exists for cats like Harry. We instantly fell in love with him – and it was mutual. After a short cage-stay to acclimatize him, Harry ventured out and made slaves of us all.


Sadly, he was either carrying the leukemia virus latently, or picked it up; a blood test let us know that Harry had to be moved into the Old Aids area with the other leukemia cats.

Leukemia cats are very susceptible to every random germ, and it hits them hard, since their immune systems are down. Not only did Harry catch every upper respiratory infection going, he was also stressed by other more dominant cats in the enclosure.


It was decided to remove him into the Leukemia room at the back of the single-wide trailer. There he shared with no more than four or five other shy cats, and rapidly settled down.

There are all sorts of jokes about “dogs have owners; cats have staff” and “in ancient times, cats were worshiped as gods; they have never forgotten this”. And there’s a grain of truth in it – many cats will accept our love as long as they please, and then walk away when something else is offered. But Harry was a lover; he gave back love to those who loved him, and he was never happier than when sitting on a lap, and looking lovingly into the eyes of his friend. And everybody was Harry’s friend. Many people made a point of going to the Leukemia room any time they visited, to have Harry-time, and there was no better way to spend an hour.


One thing we always know about our leukemia cats – we lose them too soon. Over four years with us, Harry had fought off a series of infections and renal problems and always pushed through. This time it was too much for that tired body.


Many of us will be holding you in our hearts, Harry, and looking for you when we, too, get to the Rainbow Bridge.

Blog by Brigid Coult
Photos by Claire Fossey, Phaedra Hardman, June Price, Debbie Wolanski, Michele Wright