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Stray kitty enjoys cozy ninth life; Nursing home adopts cat as resident pet.

Byline: Amanda Roberge

FITCHBURG -- Anyone bearing a name like Horatio commands a certain level of respect and admiration. Horatio Golden Livingstein is no exception.

It is of no consequence to the most recent resident of Golden Living Center on John Fitch Highway that a small but vocal group of his new roommates can't stand him and that another handful of them don't mind the idea of him but deem themselves allergic to his presence.

At least one person has to medicate themselves to spend any length of time in the same room with him, and is actually more than willing to do so.

The most important thing is that for a vast majority of residents at the short- and long-term nursing facility, Horatio the cat is like a balm to their souls. He is, in fact, the first pet the facility has ever allowed, and his entrance into that role is what many consider a case of divine intervention.

The story begins when LPN Deborah Tata was leaving her per diem shift in early October. She saw a cat -- what some have called a lookalike to Morris, the 9-Lives cat of television commercial fame -- making a slow progression through the parking lot. She went in for a closer look.

"He was limping and really, really thin,'' said Ms. Tata, who is also a volunteer for the Fitchburg Animal Shelter. "But even though he was hurting, he was very sociable.''

She struggled to convince the cat to take a ride with her. Although she did get him into her vehicle after several attempts, the victory was short-lived.

Horatio -- who would be named later by the shelter staff -- made a narrow escape from the car just as the door was closing.

Defeated, Ms. Tata went home and tossed and turned over the lost chance to help an animal. She may have slept more peacefully had she known the feline would be waiting for her the next day.

A brief conversation with residents of Golden Living would have revealed that the cat had become something of a permanent fixture on the grounds for at least a week, and everyone had kind of grown used to him skulking around.

But despite Ms. Tata's serious allergy to cats -- yes, she is among those who need a strong dose of Zyrtec to tolerate him -- when she returned to work on Monday morning she made sure Horatio made it to the shelter.

During the following week, the friendly feline was brought back to decent health, getting neutered, vaccinated and basically overfed until he was satiated and strong.

He was tested for feline leukemia, given X-rays to rule out broken bones and out on crate rest until he was ready for adoption.

The care occurred courtesy of the shelter, where, according to manager Amy Egeland, at least three cats and four dogs are brought each week, whether they have been abused, abandoned or -- like Horatio -- found wandering with no place to call home.

While Horatio was receiving the love and attention of the shelter staff, strange things were happening over at Golden Living. The staff and residents were making the ground-breaking decision to adopt a resident cat. Though not unanimous by any means, the vote passed, and the decision had been made. Now, they would need to find a suitable cat.

"I couldn't believe the coincidence,'' said Ms. Tata. Golden Living officially adopted Horatio Golden Livingstein just a few weeks after he showed up on its property.

According to Ms. Egeland, such a quick adoption "almost never happens,'' and the shelter staff is pleased that both parties found what they were looking for.

"It's good for the residents to have him there,'' she said, and Ms. Tata agrees. Apparently, Horatio can be found at any point sleeping at the foot of a resident's bed.

"He is the perfect cat,'' said Ms. Tata, though not for the comfort he brings or for his feet-warming capabilities, especially as he provides companionship for a dying hospice patient.

"It's because despite whatever he went through, he rose above that and he is good and trusting. He did not let his circumstances keep him from liking humans.''
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Title Annotation:Weeklies
Author:Roberge, Amanda
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 13, 2013
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