On New Year’s Day in 2014, a lonely cat was destined to be put out in the cold, snowy streets of Mansfield, Ohio, in the midst of a polar vortex. Its owner would no longer take care of her and had decided the cat would follow in the footsteps of the countless cats who could not find homes, forced to fight for their own survival.
However, Joseph Balliett, a senior studying history, and his family stepped up and made the decision to give the cat food, a forever home and a name: Rosie.
Oct. 29 marks the annual holiday National Cat Day, which allows cat owners and cat lovers to reflect on the impact their beloved pets have had on them and their home. The holiday is also meant to spread awareness toward the overpopulation of cats as well as their need to be rescued.
Heather McDowell, member of the Board of Directors of the Athens County Humane Society and chair of the Education Committee, said the humane society works primarily to advocate for and assist in cats getting spayed or neutered. She said overpopulation of cats is a big issue that makes getting new kittens spayed or neutered crucial.
McDowell said there is not a single cat shelter in all of Athens County. She said this is because there is no government action to establish these shelters for cats.
“Legally, the county is responsible for dogs, so there is a dog shelter ... Cats fall between the cracks,” McDowell said. “They’re not protected in that sense.”
Although the humane society does not have a shelter, it manages a large network of fosterers who help find their cats permanent homes, McDowell said.
Balliet said rescuing Rosie was a great feeling. She is a very loving cat, and he believes every time she nuzzles into his lap, she is thanking him for saving her life.
“It makes me happy knowing that I rescued her, and I think she knows that, too,” Balliett said. “Animals that are rescued know that they are rescued, and they show it.”
Balliet loves cats because they are easy to take care of but also because they can be calm and comforting when you need them most.
“It was nice having her around, especially in the high-stress moments whenever you need a support system,” Balliet said. “Rosie has kind of become an unofficial support animal for my sister and myself.”
Sarah Bodi, a freshman studying stage management, adopted her emotional support kitten, Binx, on Oct. 3. Since she is a first-year student, she and Binx are living in the dorms, which required some paperwork, but she said it was well worth it to bring Binx into her life.
Bodi said in addition to helping her with her mental health, Binx has been a source of energy and drive for her. She said feeding her, giving her baths, taking her to the vet and taking care of her in general has given her more to do and allowed her to be more productive.
“Even though it's just a cat … it’s giving me that motivation that I didn’t have before getting her,” Bodi said.
Unfortunately, Balliett wasn’t able to convince his parents to let him bring Rosie to campus with him, he said. He said his sister sends him daily pictures of Rosie so that he is able to remember the loving companion he has waiting for him at home.
Balliett said he advises anyone with the means to take care of a cat to adopt one if they want a way to relieve stress.
“If you think you can afford it or you can maintain a cat and what they need to live comfortably and happily, I would say it’s a very good thing to do,” Balliett said.
Having a cat as a student can sometimes cause challenges with Bodi’s schedule and in general, she said. There will be times that Binx will keep both Bodi and her roommate up at night by running around the room and literally bouncing off the walls, but she believes it is worth it to have her cat with her on campus.
Ultimately, Bodi feels lucky to be one of the few students who have the means to be a cat parent while living the dorm life.
“It’s just nice to have something that reminds you of home and brings you comfort and joy,” Bodi said.
She said she enjoys coming home from classes and having someone waiting for her. Bodi and Binx have a mutual relationship because as much as she takes care of Binx, cats can always recognize how people are feeling, and she said it is nice having that comfort.
“It just kind of overall boosts my mood because even if I’m upset, she chases her tail or plays with her toys, so it makes me laugh and happy to see her having a good time,” Bodi said.
As a cat lover herself, McDowell emphasized that cats are companion animals, and they need a family as much as a family may need them.
“They’re loyal to their family,” McDowell said. “They’re depending on us for care, for a home, because they need a home.”