Loving Senior Animals: An NYC Artist Meets Her Match

November 7, 2018


Growing up on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean, Nichole B. was frequently surrounded by cats. 

“There were so many strays,” she recalls. “I was always bringing cats—and dogs—home and getting them fixed.”

When Nichole relocated to New York three years ago and moved in with an uncle, she missed the kitty company.

“I really wanted to have that little somebody around,” says Nichole, a freelance photographer whose most recent collection of work features scenes in Barbuda, Antigua’s sister island, as residents coped with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma last December. 

You’ve Got Some Merv

Two years ago, when Nichole and her boyfriend Adé moved into their own place in Brooklyn, they decided to adopt a cat. Acting on a recommendation from a friend who adopted a cat from the ASPCA, Nichole and Adé visited the ASPCA Adoption Center on July 15.


“There was quite a selection,” Nichole recalls, but she and Adé wanted a cat who was already grown and didn’t need constant monitoring. They quickly zeroed in on a 10-year-old silver tabby named Merv.

They first saw Merv when the feline poked his head out of his makeshift “fort,” a cardboard box covered with a blanket, where the cats liked to hide.


“He had such a serious face, but was very receptive to petting,” Nichole says. “We looked at most of the adult cats, and they were very sweet, but I was really taken with Merv.”  

A Long Road to Home

Merv’s story began when he arrived at Animal Care Centers of NYC in Brooklyn, in the fall of 2008 before being transferred to the ASPCA. 

He was adopted and returned twice, once after four years and again after six years, though both times were related to the owner’s circumstances. 

After adopting Merv, Nichole and Adé promptly changed his name. “He just looked like a Benjamin,” says Nichole. “We call him Benji for short.” 


Recreating the fort he enjoyed at the ASPCA, Benji took over an empty Amazon® box before eventually moving to more desirable spots like the cushy bed and a sunny windowsill.

“He won’t come and sit on your lap, but he does want to be near you. Though he doesn’t always greet me when I come home, he’s affectionate in his own way. And he’s a good listener.”

Nicole and Benji

Benji is also vocal when he wants to be fed and will stand in the corner and meow loudly when he wants attention. 

Benji and Nichole recently appeared in Time Out New Yorkmagazine’s September issue that showcases people and their pets. 

“There were cats and dogs at the photo shoot, and the line got backed up, but Benji stayed calm,” recalls Nichole.

Calmness is just one of the many benefits Nichole finds in having an older pet.


“He doesn’t seem old—he’s just super laid back,” she says. “And his personality is already set; I can’t influence it. He’s his own cat, which I really like. And he’s fun, cute and sweet.”

“I 100 percent recommend adopting an older cat,” Nichole states firmly. “Our Benji is just adorable.”

November is Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month, and as we celebrate our mature feline and canine friends, we hope that you’ll feel inspired to make more happy endings like Benji’s possible. Bringing a senior pet into your life comes with a myriad of benefits, and they are ready to live out their golden years with that special someone. If you’ve been thinking about adding a four-legged-friend to your family, consider opening your home and your heart to an older dog or cat in need.