Helping Cats Who Need it Most

woman with cat and hospicewoman with cat and hospiceBy Nina Malkin

When local strays began showing up on cat lover Lynn Stitt's property in Harrisburg, PA, 33 years ago, she couldn't help but take them in, despite already having two cats. Soon, there were 10. "It reached the point where they were destroying our home!" Lynn, 61, recalls. So when her then-husband, Bob, offered to build a large heated dome (in the photo on the left) for the cats in their backyard, Lynn was all for it. That was the start of The Best Little Cat House in PA (BLCH), a nonprofit hospice for terminally ill felines, like Garfield (in the photo on the right), who's so friendly, Lynn calls him her "Walmart Greeter." Photo courtesy of Mike Dale.

Getting Started
Lynn, a nurse who works part-time at a nearby hospital, initially cared for 25 of the oldest and sickest cats. But as word spread to local veterinarians and rescuers, it was clear there was a desperate need for the kind of care Lynn was providing. "Older or ailing cats aren't considered adoptable, so shelters put them down," she says. "These cats deserve better than that."

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The Cast of Cat Characters

Take marshmallow-colored Fluffer-Stuffer, a daredevil who once leapt into a 90-gallon fish tank as Lynn was cleaning it. Or Pancake, a scrappy tabby who'd never been indoors before. "He not only climbed the walls, he climbed the windows," Lynn says. The cats can be a little wild, but Lynn doesn't like the word feral. "We refer to them as bikers, like they're Hells Angels."

Why They're Sick

Though all are ailing, a majority of Lynn's 110 "bikers" have FeLV, an incurable retrovirus common among strays. Contagious cats like these have the run of the dome, while those dying from other illnesses romp in a separate enclosure.

What Their Lives Are Like

Life may be short for the residents of BLCH, but it sure is sweet. Luxury accommodations include baby mattresses, snug cubbies for snoozing, and screened-in courtyards for bird-watching and sunbathing. Food and treats are replenished constantly. "My attitude is, when you're on your way out, if you want a snack, go for it!" Lynn says, chuckling.
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Keeping the Hospice Going

Lynn works constantly to keep the cats pampered. BLCH operates entirely on donations and a volunteer staff for general upkeep. But some days, Lynn is on her own, starting at 4 A.M. with the first feeding. Next comes cat litter duty (pans are dumped and sterilized daily to control germs), followed by mopping floors and about eight loads of laundry. If no emergencies arise, Lynn does her final rounds at about 7 P.M.

"The most rewarding thing about this place hits you on a really cold night," says Lynn. "You walk through and see them sleeping-they're warm, they're safe, they're fed, they're content. It's not forever, but for now, it's as good as it gets."
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Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.


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