Family Takes in 18-Year-Old “Hospice Cat,” But His “Final Days” Turn Into 5 Years

Heather Garner and her family learned that love is the best medicine when they adopted an elderly cat who was in rough shape and wasn’t expected to live much longer. With the right care and attention, the animal began to thrive and gave the family five more years of precious moments!

Garner and her family stopped at BARCS Animal Shelter one evening to drop off some donations when she heard about an 18-year-old cat who’d been brought in a couple of days before. The poor old kitty had walked into traffic and lain down in front of a woman’s car in Baltimore City, and the woman brought him to the shelter.

“Everyone there was heartbroken to think that perhaps homeless Chester’s actions were an attempt to give up,” Garner recalls in the story she posted to Facebook.

Garner asked if she could meet the cat, and she says there was an “instant connection” when she did. She and her husband agreed to take in Chester, who had an upper respiratory infection, missing hair, and an abrasion. The sneezy and bony old cat wasn’t expected to live long, but they were happy to be able to give their new “hospice cat” the chance to be part of a family, if only for a little while.

“We adopted him because we wanted Chester to have the opportunity to be someone’s pet, perhaps for the first time or perhaps again,” says Garner. “We honestly did not think Chester would be with us for longer than a week or two.”

But the old cat still had a lot of life left. All he needed was some love and special treatment to get him back to a healthier state. 18-year-old Chester, who wasn’t expected to live more than a few weeks, saw not only his 19th birthday but also his 20th, 21st, and 22nd.

“Chester slept under Christmas trees, snuggled in our son’s bed almost nightly, trained us to turn on the tub faucet (because tub water is better, you know), and acquired the most amazing collection of T-shirts and sweaters to keep his old body warm,” writes Garner. “He stole popcorn out of our bowls during movie nights, and took over the bed that was for our 60-pound dog. Chester chased stuffed mice, played administrative assistant whenever someone had their laptop out, and taught us that love really is the best medicine.”

Chester’s long and wonderful time with the Garner family came to an end one peaceful Saturday just three months shy of his 23rd birthday. They found him “resting comfortably,” having quietly passed over the rainbow bridge without their knowing about it. Garner says she and her husband and son are thankful for the time they got to spend with him and the blessings he brought to their lives.

“While we took him home knowing he was our ‘hospice cat,’ we will forever be grateful that he loved us so much that he decided to stick around an extra 1,640 days,” says Garner.

The family hopes that Chester’s amazing story will encourage other potential adopters to consider older animals, even ones that seem like they don’t have much time left.

“Chester gave us more in his five years than we ever thought possible when we first met him,” she says. “The house is a bit quieter now, the giant dog bed lies empty, a Donald Duck T-shirt is unworn, and our hearts are a bit broken…but we would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

Are you considering adopting a senior cat or dog?

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Elizabeth Morey graduated summa cum laude from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI, where she dual majored in English Literature and Spanish with minors in Writing and Business Administration. She was a member of the school's Insignis Honors Society and the president of the literary honors society Lambda Iota Tau.

Some of Elizabeth's special interests include Spanish and English linguistics, modern grammar and spelling, and journalism. She has been writing professionally for more than five years and specializes in health topics such as breast cancer, autism, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. Apart from her work at GreaterGood, she has also written art and culture articles for the Grand Rapids Magazine.

Elizabeth has lived in the beautiful Great Lakes State for most of her life but also loves to travel. She currently resides a short drive away from the dazzling shores of Lake Michigan with her beloved husband.

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