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Happy Tail: Cleo

From community members who keep an eye on homeless cats in their neighbourhood, to colony feeders and assessment volunteers, to fosters who house and socialize cats before adoption, there are numerous Annex Cat Rescue volunteers involved in rescuing just one cat from the streets of Toronto.

While Cleo has been happily settling into her home with adopters Lisa and Aaron for about a year, like all rescues, this five-year-old cat’s story begins outside. Part of a colony cared for by the ACR community, Cleo was observed to be friendly with other cats and after a few years, comfortable seeking pets from caretakers. When caretakers noticed Cleo limping with signs of bite wounds, they alerted ACR volunteers who trapped and brought her to a veterinary clinic for treatment.

“She recovered in a volunteer’s home and although she was quite skittish, she was full of purrs, she loved to play with other cats, and she’d happily accept a good head scratch,” says Sherri, who fostered and helped socialize Cleo after ACR had accepted her into the assessment program. To date, Sherri has fostered 15 cats for the Annex Cat Rescue, including Cleo.


When fostering cats, Sherri focusses on building trust. “I think with trust, social and health improvements will naturally follow,” she says. “A cat who trusts their foster is more likely to eat properly, play openly, express pain or illness, get to the vet with less struggle and feel open to meeting other people. Chronic stress and trauma impact every system in the body – human or animal – and street cats have experienced plenty already, so we really try to make their experience as calm and encouraging as we can for both their health and their feelings.”

Cleo’s first few days with Sherri were a mixed bag. Cleo was good at hiding and too clever to be easily found, and Sherri worried a bit when her appetite took a few days to appear, but her behaviour otherwise was healthy and encouraging. “She’d play, purr, and accept some (not-too-close) pets,” Sherri says. “Now she’s found a wonderful home with Lisa and Aaron, who have been endlessly attentive and kind to her.”

Lisa and her partner Aaron have always been cat people. They shared their home for more than a decade with two barn cats they adopted as a bonded pair, sisters Piper and Sass. When Piper passed away suddenly in March 2020, they knew they would need to find Sass a companion for her golden years but did not realize they would find the perfect fit within a few weeks.

When Aaron came across Cleo’s profile on the Annex Cat Rescue website, he immediately said to Lisa, “This is our cat!” She was a mature cat at five years old and was known to groom and cuddle up to other cats in her colony. “If we were going to get a friend for Sass, Cleo seemed like a great fit,” said Lisa. “It was meant to be.”

They set up a video call with foster Sherri in order to meet Cleo and ended up keeping in touch. “Sherri was such a great foster. She answered all our questions and sent me videos so I could get a sense of Cleo’s personality and mannerisms. Cleo is our first rescue cat, and as she was settling into life indoors, Sherri sent me tips to help her become more confident and comfortable so I felt really supported.”

Happy Tail: Cleo
Happy Tail: Cleo

These days, Cleo has the run of the house. Though she is still finding her confidence, she’s quickly adapted to the luxuries of being an indoor cat, including daily wet food treats, crinkly catnip toys and a favourite spot on the couch for looking out the window. “Rescues may never be lap cats, but there is a lot of love that they show you in different ways. Cleo didn’t meow and was completely silent at first, but now she chirps and talks with us, it’s so sweet,” says Lisa. “Watching Cleo’s personality develop over time, and helping her literally find her voice, was a beautiful thing to be a part of,” she adds.

For Sherri, fostering is a labour of love and a community effort. “ACR puts so much work into supporting their fosters,” she says. There is no need to worry about resources, as ACR helps with volunteer drivers, food donations and will match you with a cat that will settle well into your particular home. “Please give it a shot!” she says. “The most important resources you need, as corny as it sounds, are patience, attentiveness, and love.”

-Jessica Pellerin