On 17 July 2019, Josie, Lort Smith’s resident cat peacefully crossed the Rainbow Bridge with close friends at her side. A small but stoic calico domestic short hair, Josie left us five months shy of her 21st birthday.
Josie was the first stray mother cat with kittens to arrive at the newly built hospital after its opening in 2000. Her three little kittens quickly found homes, but Josie’s forever family was destined to be much larger.
While screening potential families in the Adoption Centre, Josie made it clear that no one was up to scratch. Staff remember her resolve to come and go as she pleased, prying open the latch on her door to roam the hospital at will.
During a time where it was more challenging to rehome those with particular ‘cattitude’, the team decided Josie would call Lort Smith home. She roamed the hospital for nearly two decades – at times with other resident cats Jeff, Cloud and Marge. While she occasionally shared her status as top cat, for the most part, she ruled the hospital like the Iron Lady.
The benefit of residing at Lort Smith was instant access to quality vet care – her health and wellbeing was always at the forefront of our minds. For every vaccination there was someone to comfort her; when she had a toothache, we ensured she was treated with care and precision.
There was a time in 2012 when staff were very concerned for her health after discovering her hyperthyroidism (an over-active thyroid gland). While many cats might tolerate the twice daily lifelong medication, Josie would not.
With her wellbeing in mind Lort Smith organised for her to receive radioiodine therapy at the University of Melbourne veterinary school hospital – a treatment which was only performed at a few clinics in Melbourne at the time.
Josie spent a week at the external hospital, and a further two weeks in foster care to ensure a peaceful and complete recovery. Since then Josie had other ailments that most cats who live to her age endure. Her arthritis – typical of a geriatric cat – was closely monitored to ensure her quality of life was at optimum levels.
Lort Smith staff and volunteers celebrated many milestones with Josie. Her eighteenth birthday was a grand affair. We had a special cake made and a bottle of the finest Pinot Meow was labelled in her honour. As she reached her nineteenth and twentieth the team celebrated with the same enthusiasm.
Alas, while we hoped for the best, Josie’s health steadily declined until one cold winter afternoon the experts all agreed it was time.
The next morning, with tear stained cheeks, we held Josie’s paw and eased her pain respectfully, peacefully, and with dignity.
Over the past month many fond memories of Josie have been shared. From those who met her when she first arrived, to the most recent members of the Lort Smith family, all agree she served as a beautiful reminder that we never give up on any rehomeable animal.
It is possible Josie may be the last resident cat, as animal welfare has come a long way since she arrived in need of help.
Over the course of Josie’s long life Lort Smith has expanded its foster care network, meaning the burden of shelter life has been lifted for those who need it most. These changes happened because people like you, have helped. Whether it be through donating a gift, or donating your time, it has helped more animals find a brighter future more easily.
Additionally, adult cats are not as overlooked by their kitten counterparts in the Adoption Centre. The rise of social media allows us all to share those available for adoption in new ways. This means Lort Smith is able to rehome a wider range of adult cats in a shorter period of time – that’s a great thing and you have helped us achieve this.
Josie and the residents who left before her symbolise how we all feel about animals. The need to ensure every animal has the best fighting chance, that we strive for better, and that we never give up on any rehomeable animal.
While Josie’s passing marks the end of an era at Lort Smith, her spirit lives on in all those who loved her.