Coronavirus Pandemic Prompts Two Cat Lovers to Adopt

April 22, 2020

Wolffish and Shark

Days before New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, declared that non-essential workers should stay home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, potential adopters were still walking through the doors of the ASPCA Adoption Center seeking new furry family members. 

“When I heard about COVID-19, I thought to myself, ‘it looks like I might be home for some time, or could be,’” Marta tells us. She was looking for a cat with whom she could share the co-op she had recently purchased and renovated in Queens. 

At the ASPCA Adoption Center, Marta spotted a small black-and-white kitty hiding inside a box.

“The sign on her door said she had lived with other cats and wasn’t sure she enjoyed it,” Marta recalls. “She was just a scared little thing—but fierce.”

The one-year-old cat had a name to match her personality: Shark. 


“She had a tendency to hiss every time someone opened her door, but she was quick to warm up,” says Adi Hovav, ASPCA Manager of Behavior. “We knew she had the potential to be a great companion, so we put her up for adoption hoping someone could see past that.”

“It seemed like she needed a quiet, stable home and might be a little challenging,” says Marta. “I’m patient and willing work with anything, so I decided to adopt her.”

A few days after Marta met her match, two other feline fans, Hillary N. and Nathaniel C., also visited the Adoption Center with hopes of finding a new friend to add to their family before the impending outbreak and uncertain times ahead. 

“The timing had never been quite right, but then Nathaniel started working from home the week before,” explained Hillary. “We wanted to be home and help a new cat get settled, so this seemed like a good opportunity.”

On March 15, Hillary and Nathaniel met and fell in love with Wolffish, a ten-year-old female tabby. They adopted her the same day.


A Tough Start for Two Cats

Though the two families never met, the two adopted cats shared a sad history. Shark and Wolffish were two of dozens of cats rescued by the ASPCA Community Engagement (CE) team on February 25, 2019, from an overcrowded home in Queens. The situation had been referred to the ASPCA by an Adult Protective Services caseworker.

“The client started with three cats and took in strays,” said Community Cats Outreach Manager Isadora Peraza-Martinez, who worked tirelessly on the case. “Over time those cats multiplied, and the population exploded.”

The ASPCA Community Medicine team, including veterinarians, had visited the client and spayed and neutered 26 cats in a mobile vehicle parked in front of the home. They also treated other cats who required medical care.

Unfortunately, conditions in the home grew increasingly uninhabitable, so the ASPCA Community Engagement team was called in again, this time with permission to remove all 38 cats—including Shark and Wolffish.

ASPCA responders moving rescued cats onto a transport

Additionally, 15 cockatiels and parakeets were also rescued and taken to the Center for Avian and Exotics in Manhattan.

“Shark was living in the attic of the home with about nine other cats,” recalls Lisa Kisiel, CE Manager of Casework, Training and Events. Lisa was able to lure Shark with food before gently lifting and removing her from the attic.

Like many of the cats, Shark suffered from an upper respiratory infection and was underweight. Wolffish had severe dental disease. Other kitties suffered from ear mites, skin conditions, FIV and feline leukemia.

Wolffish being examined
One of the cats who was rescued alongside Shark and Wolffish.

New Homes, New Names

On the subway ride to her new home, Shark wailed in her carrier. Once home, Marta placed Shark in a bathroom along with her favorite box, which Dale Spies, an ASPCA Matchmaker, had passed along to help ease her transition.

“She wanted to play, but was scared and stayed in her box, where she felt safe,” says Marta. “Now and then she would stick a tiny paw out to get the bouncy toy. It took patience and coaxing, but she finally came out of her box to play with me on day three.”


Two days later, Shark was confident enough for some petting and explored more of Marta’s apartment. That’s when Marta decided to play some cat videos she found on YouTube.

“When she heard the cat meowing, her eyes got really big and she walked over to my phone and rubbed against me,” says Marta. “We did that for two days, and it’s like a switch flipped.”

Shark has a new name: Chantilly, or Miss ’Tilly for short, as Marta thinks that the sweet kitty looks like she’s gotten into some Chantilly cream.

Shark on her back

Wolffish had  surgery to treat her dental issues at the ASPCA Animal Hospital before she was adopted. In her new home, she has been renamed Mothra after the recurring character in the “Godzilla” movie franchise who has two humanoids assist and speak for her.

“We’re those humanoids,” says Hillary, who, like Nathaniel, works for Columbia University and is working from home for now.

Wolffish napping on a lap

Hillary is not surprised that Mothra, who adjusted to her new home quickly, once had to compete for food with several other kitties in her previous home.

“At first, she tended to eat things really fast,” Hillary tells us. “We’re now feeding smaller meals throughout the day which seems to work better.” 

Wolffish sleeping

Moving on from their difficult past, Chantilly and Mothra are now finding their roles reversed—it’s up to these two brave kitties to provide love and comfort for their new caregivers in these uncertain times. Who really rescued whom? As long as each of these families are safe and together, it may not matter at all.

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