A Canadian woman has helped seniors at the end of their lives re-home 100 of their pets through a foundation she created to give them peace of mind about how their furry friends will survive after they can no longer care for them.
Angela Rafuse was motivated to launch her charity when her 85-year-old grandfather passed away in 2019, leaving his cat Mackenzie homeless.
“At the time, there wasn’t any other option other than a family member to adopt her or to put her into a shelter,” Rafuse told CTV News.
Angela decided to take in the calico cat on her own, because none of her relatives wanted to shoulder the responsibility, due to Mackenzie’s “mean, grumpy” demeanor.
“I didn’t want her to spend her final years in a shelter, so I decided to adopt her,” she shared.
Angela quickly recognized that despite Mackenzie’s agitated demeanor and excessive hissing, the feline was just frightened after the passing of her human.
The elderly feline ultimately warmed up to her new owner after receiving plenty of affection and care, which inspired the Canadian woman to launch a the rescue in 2021.
Angela’s non-profit organization, “My Grandfather’s Cat,” fosters the adoption of dogs and cats owned by seniors who are terminally ill, or desire to relocate to a retirement home that doesn’t accept animals.
Angela moved into her parents home in Nova Scotia with the cat she has affectionately dubbed “Mackie” after a bad break up, and began sharing videos of of her grumpy pet on TikTok.
The videos went viral and the pair amassed a following of 656,000 people, many of whom had similar stories regarding how their deceased grandparents’ pets had to be placed in shelters.
“I don’t really have words for it anymore. I try to articulate and explain what’s happening but it’s hard,” Rafuse said about their surge in popularity.
“It is almost like we’re reminding people about this forgotten group and we don’t do it in a sad, or grieving, or make-you-feel-guilty way — we try to do it in an inspiring way and an empowering way.”
Now most of the rescue’s intake comes from care homes and shelters refer that refer seniors to My Grandfather’s Cat. They simply have to submit an application, and the charity’s team creates a social media profile for their pet to help them find their new forever home.
When potential adopters are identified, the charity interviews the candidates to determine which home will be a suitable match, and the senior who is giving up their beloved pet gets the chance to speak with the family to ensure their compatibility.
“They get to interview each family that’s interested in adopting their animal, and ultimately they choose who adopts their animal,” she noted.
The foundation doesn’t just serve seniors, it also helps those who have fallen gravely ill at a less advanced age.
“For a lot of people, they get to a point in their lives where they know that they need extended care, or a lot of younger people, as terrible as it is, get diagnosed with a terminal illness (and) the pets are the ones that get left behind,” she noted.
“My Grandfather’s Cat helps seniors and terminally ill people arrange homes for their pets before they move into their retirement homes or pass away.”
With more than 41.5 million likes on TikTok, Rafuse has so many people interested in her rescue, that there’s a list of 50-60 people waiting to be approved to foster pets.
She has a group of 15 volunteers who help her coordinate with ailing pet owners on a national level, to keep their furry loved ones out of shelters.
“Our criteria is that you have to have a cell phone that you’re willing to use, you have to be mentally strong — as mentally strong as any of us can be in this pandemic — to be willing to deal with a senior or a grieving family,” Rafuse said about potential fosters.
Rafuse’s niche foundation offers hope to pet owners at the end of their lives.
“You can take control of your situation, even if you are terminally ill or if you’re a senior moving into a retirement home,” she remarked. “You don’t have to not have a plan for your animal.”