A cat who learned how to high-five should teach us an important lesson – Alex Watson

Old animals in shelters are often overlooked by those looking for a new pet, but Alex Watson has found the experience of adopting Sherry the cat, now 64 in cat years, particularly rewarding.

Sherry was initially shy and silent, but grew in confidence, even learning how to high five (Picture: Craig McLeod)

Sherry is 64 years old. She likes to take life at a slower pace than I do. She’s a sun worshipper. She has stiff joints, and she sleeps a lot. She was diagnosed with heart disease earlier this year, but she’s still active. Feisty, even.

Come to think of it, on paper, Sherry isn’t the ideal flatmate. She’s unemployed. She doesn’t do any housework. She suffers from mood swings, and she has a lot of very loud opinions that she likes to share at 5am on a Saturday. Her understanding of the concept of personal space isn’t great. But she gets away with all of this, and much more, because Sherry is a cat.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Record numbers of pets up for adoption

The Scottish SPCA launched an urgent appeal at the start of this month. Its Glasgow rehoming centre was struggling to feed the record number of cats it was housing - more than 160 of them.

At Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home (EDCH), 688 animals were rescued in 2018. Impressively, 589 of them were reunited with their owners or found new homes. But that still left 99 living in limbo.

Read More

Read More
Cats form bonds with owners just like dogs, new study shows

That’s where Sherry came from, the EDCH. She was 11 when I met her for the first time, in August 2018. Overweight and nervous, the shelter staff told me. Not good with other cats, or dogs, or kids, they said. There was a much younger cat available. He was only three (or 20 in cat years), and probably would have been with us for much longer than Sherry will be.

He was playful and energetic. He probably would not have turned out to have a rather expensive heart condition just a few months after we took him home. Logically, he was the better choice of pet.

Not the logical choice?

“It can be more difficult to rehome older animals,” says Elliot Hay, who manages the Scottish SPCA Animal Rescue and Rehoming Centre for Angus, Fife and Tayside.

“Sometimes people are replacing an animal they have lost and don’t want to go through losing another again. Or, a family may have young children and want them to grow up with the animal, so they are more inclined to choose a younger one.”

Sherry is 64 in cat years, with heart disease, but I’m not writing her off quite yet. When I reached out to stroke her in the EDCH cattery, she reached back. She may not have been the logical choice, but love isn’t often very logical. The charity asked for less money to adopt Sherry, because she was old. They had been trying to rehome her for a while. She was miserable in the rescue centre environment, but nobody was willing to take her out of it.

The SPCA is currently campaigning to rehome Poppy, a 13-year-old Jack Russell terrier currently in their Caithness and Sutherland centre who has been overlooked for 280 days. Like Sherry, Poppy is a friendly, affectionate girl with some baggage. Like Sherry, I’m certain Poppy would thrive if someone took a chance on her.

Seniors in your area looking for love

After more than a year with us, Sherry is happy, I think. When I first knew her, she was shy and silent, but now she has found her confidence and her voice. She has made a permanent cat-shaped dent on the sofa. My endlessly patient boyfriend has taught her how to high five - in exchange for a treat, of course. She sleeps on his chest every night, by the way. I don’t get a look in.

Sherry is still a little nervous, but she is safe. She is just as much of a comfort to me as I hope I am to her. It sounds cliched, but she really does make the house feel like a home.

Adopting any animal and giving them a happy life is both admirable and fulfilling. There are lots of pets of all ages in Scotland waiting for a second chance. But if you’re in a position to make a senior cat or dog’s remaining years happy, I’m certain you’ll find it especially rewarding.