The Humane Society of the United States
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Once so sick from neglect he could barely breathe, Orren the cat is loving life in his new home

All Animals magazine, January/February 2017

by Tanya Mulford

Orren plays with one of his favorite toys in his new home. Photo by Jordan Mendys/The HSUS. 

The loudest sound HSUS rescuer Sára Varsa heard when she entered the dark, filthy building crammed with 60 animals was a cat struggling to breathe. Varsa reached for the black cat—noting his weeping eyes, runny nose, injured ear and the patchy fur covering his starved body—and got a surprise. Instead of shrinking back in fear, he walked straight up to Varsa as if he were welcoming her. And when she picked him up, he climbed up her arm to her shoulders. This cat seemed eager to see what would happen next.

Orren had no reason to welcome Varsa so optimistically. One of 150 cats, dogs, horses and farm animals rescued in July 2015 from a neglectful situation in North Carolina, he suffered from an upper respiratory infection, malformed hind legs, a heart murmur, ringworm and painful arthritis. He was in such bad shape, the staff at SAFE Haven for Cats, which took in 34 cats from the rescue, dubbed him “The Train Wreck.”

  • Orren shortly after his rescue. Photo by Jay Kim/The HSUS.

But the Train Wreck turned out to be the Little Engine That Could. Orren had unflappable affection for everyone. He made himself the shelter’s unofficial greeter, singing out a loud meow to welcome each person who approached his corner cage, then throwing himself on his side, purring to be petted. His calm, friendly attitude eventually earned him the job of socialization cat for new arrivals.

By February, when Orren was ready to be adopted by someone who could provide the level of long-term care he needed, volunteer Beth Lindsey had fallen in love with him. Lindsey wasn’t alone. Orren rode home with her in a carrier covered with goodbye messages from the staff such as, “We will miss you so much every day” and “We will remember you always.”

Orren has thrown himself into his new life with Lindsey, her husband and orange tabby Lilly with his usual zest. He’s discovered the joys of charging up and down stairs, playing hide-and-seek with Lilly and leaping after bugs. Strong and active now, Orren shows no sign of arthritis pain. That means he can focus on his favorite things: playing with a battered bird toy, watching the world from the top perch of his cat tree, gobbling food (which he generously shares with Lilly) and snuggling—on the floor with Lilly, in bed with Lindsey and her husband or in Lindsey’s lap while she works. Both healthy and adored, “he’s a happy man,” says Lindsey.

Varsa says words can’t do justice to how it’s felt to watch Orren’s journey to a safe and loving home. She marvels at his resilience, his ability to embrace every new situation without fear. There’s something special about Orren, she says. “Everyone who encountered him felt this magic.”

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