Beyond Smokey


There’s the young mother, Charlene, the laid-back tiger, Minnow, and dozens more, all with compelling stories and looking for a home.

AUBURN – When potential owners walk by, Maximus knows how to get attention.

He purrs. He meows. He rubs up against the bars of his cage.

Like Smokey, the kitten found dangling from an Auburn storm grate last week, Maximus is a shelter cat.

But unlike Smokey, Maximus didn’t make headlines for the plight that landed him at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society. He isn’t being courted by dozens of potential owners.

So, when all else fails, the young gray cat rolls over in his cage, thrusts his paws into the air and gazes plaintively into the hall, looking for someone to stop.

The animal shelter has about 50 cats right now. With kitten season starting in April, more come in every day. Too few go out.

“The numbers usually go up further than they go down,” said Allyson Collins, senior animal technician.

Smokey was one of the lucky ones. Young, cute, with a dramatic story that played in the Sun Journal and on the nightly news, he got a new home within days. Dozens of families, some from as far away as Massachusetts and New Hampshire, vied to adopt him.

His sheltermates also have sad stories. But families have been slow in coming for them.

Minnow, a friendly, laid-back tiger cat, was dropped off when his owner had to go into a nursing home. At 8, Minnow is older than most people want.

He’s been at the shelter since early November.

“He works it up as best he can to get people’s attention,” Collins said. “He sits up, looks pretty, sticks his paw out. He’s very much a gentleman.”

Charlene, a petite, cream-colored cat, hasn’t been at the shelter as long, but her stay has been just as traumatic. She was a year-old and pregnant when she arrived. She had her kittens in a foster home, but they died one by one.

She is now in a cage at the shelter. Although the staff plays soft jazz music and bird videos to entertain the cats, Charlene doesn’t perk up until people come by.

“She’s very sad and depressed. She’s very quiet,” Collins said. “She’s just a baby herself.”

The humane society got 3,500 cats last year, a record number for the small shelter. Last month it saw 168 cats and 41 kittens.

Workers hope to find families for them all, even the older ones that don’t wind up on the news.

“He’ll stay here until we find him a home,” said shelter manager Kathi Grenier of Minnow, the oldster. “We just haven’t found the right one yet.”