The idea for the organization came after Angela Rafuse's grandfather's cat was left without a home after his passing.
Pets can be incredibly significant for elderly people in many ways. For one, they can provide companionship and help reduce loneliness and isolation. Also, pets can provide a sense of purpose and responsibility, which can be important for seniors who may feel like they no longer have a role or purpose in society. However, these pets might find themselves alone after their owner passes away, posing an issue of their care.
Angela Rafuse experienced this after her 85-year-old grandfather's passing, which left his cat, Mackenzie, without a home. Rafuse was inspired by this experience as she realized that there are many pets out there who are rendered homeless after an elderly caregiver passes away, reported Good News Network.
As none of Rafuse's family members were capable of taking on the responsibility, she decided to adopt the calico cat herself. At the time, she had relocated to her parent's residence in Halifax, Nova Scotia, following a difficult breakup and started residing in the basement with the cat. She said, "I was processing the grief and heartbreak of a breakup and losing my grandfather, but the only options left were taking her to a shelter or me adopting her. I had to take her."
Despite Mackenzie's initial grumpiness and tendency to hiss, Rafuse recognized that the cat was frightened and with a great deal of affection and attention, the feline gradually grew comfortable with its new owner. This experience inspired Rafuse to establish a nonprofit organization named "My Grandfather's Cat" in 2021, which helps senior citizens who are terminally ill or looking to move into a retirement home find homes for their dogs and cats through adoption.
During the 18 months that Rafuse and Mackenzie resided in her parent's basement, she began sharing videos on TikTok. Eventually, the pair gained a substantial following of 656k, many of whom shared stories in the comments about how their grandparents' pets had to be surrendered to shelters following their passing. She said, "It was like a divine intervention. I knew this is what I should do. We had 30k followers at that point and I thought 'I can launch it on TikTok, as there were so many people in need.'"
On May 18, 2021, which happened to be her late grandfather's birthday, Rafuse launched her venture, which has since brought a sense of reassurance to 100 pet owners. She expressed, "It gives me so much purpose in life—and I have an amazing team of volunteers." My Grandfather's Cat typically receives referrals for senior citizens from care homes or shelters. These individuals then fill out an application and the organization's team creates a profile that is shared on social media. The team then conducts interviews with potential adopters to determine who would be the best match for the pet and the senior also has the chance to interview the prospective adoptive family.
Rafuse explained, "The senior then picks their pet's second forever home—and the adoptees can stay in touch with the new owner who will share updates." Rafuse recalls a particularly memorable case where she assisted a woman who had terminal cancer and opted for euthanasia. With the help of My Grandfather's Cat, the woman was able to find a new home for her feline companions, Koko and Lily. She ultimately chose a wonderful multi-generational household comprised of two seniors, their daughter and their grandson. Thanks to Rafuse's assistance, the woman was able to pass away with the comfort of knowing her beloved pets had a safe and loving home, which was the final and most significant item on her to-do list.