Feline Good at Hearts That Purr

Hannah and Mari
April 25, 2022

When most people think of an animal shelter, they picture long hallways lined with sterile silver cages marked by a foul odor and the shrill barks of dogs and meows from cats. Hearts That Purr is the exact opposite of the stereotypical animal shelter. We notice this the second we stepped through the doors to this marvelous haven filled with “senior” kitties of all kinds.

Hearts That Purr is a Tucson-based animal rescue founded by a wonderful woman named Jeanmarie. It specializes in rescuing senior cats when their owners can no longer care for them. The long-term residents of the shelter typically have health conditions that make them unable to be adopted. Hearts That Purr aims to keep its residents comfortable and provide them with the best care possible. Despite many of the cats’ health issues, they are content at Hearts That Purr. 

Let Me Tell You a Tail…

When we walked into the main room, we could hear the soft sounds of music playing from radios, accompanied by the soft purrs of sleeping cats. Large windows lined with cat towers and chairs let in copious amounts of sunlight for cats to lounge and nap in. Cat toys and water bowls were scattered across the floor of every room. Cats roamed between the connecting rooms freely. Some cats are tucked away in beds and boxes, curling up for their pre-lunch nap. Some of the younger and healthier cats are full of energy and perk up in anticipation of the cuddles to come. This room brought us a feeling of ease and comfort and left us wondering… How did all these special cats end up here today?

While taking us on a tour, Jeanmarie guided us to a cat tower next to the decorated fireplace. A small ball of black fluff was curled up and slowly awoke with the sound of familiar voices. With his long whiskers and jet black hair, Munchie was instantly entranced in the attention focused on him. A small vampire-like fang became visible the closer we got to Munchie. When Munchie woke, his face resembled the expression of an exhausted college student waking up for an early morning class. However, his expression settled with a few chin scratches and some kind words as he plopped back down, ready for another nap.

Adoption, fostering, and much more…

Munchie was brought to Hearts That Purr through the Feline Guardian Program and has been a resident for seven years. The Guardian Program is a prearranged intake agreement for owners who do not have a place for their cat to go if their pet outlives them. Munchie was the youngest cat that Hearts That Purr had taken in through the Feline Guardian Program. Despite his young age, Munchie was not adopted out of Hearts That Purr because his terminally ill owner wished for him to remain with his three elder siblings. Despite being younger than many other residents, Munchie has been contented to live at Hearts That Purr. Munchie’s siblings have since passed on, and Hearts That Purr hopes to find a new forever home for Munchie. 

While many of the cats at Heart That Purr enjoy curling up on someone’s lap to receive pets and take a quick nap, there are a few timid residents, especially those new to the house. A newer resident at Hearts That Purr is Jemma. She has only been a Hearts That Purr for just over a month. Jemma’s owner passed away, and Jemma was taken to Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) before being rescued by Heart That Purr. After being brought to Hearts That Purr, Jemma spent some time in the Little House before joining the rest of the cats at Hearts That Purr to ensure she didn’t have any diseases that the other cats could catch. Jemma had only been in the main house for about a week when we visited.

If Jeanmarie hadn’t told us where she was resting, we could have easily walked right by Jemma, a small Snowshoe Siamese cat. With no desire to be disturbed, Jemma remained tucked away in her corner of an isolated cat tower in one of the side rooms. Prior to her rescue by Hearts That Purr, Jemma had a mammary gland tumor removed, while at PACC, and it is not known if it is cancerous. Therefore, Jemma is currently being fostered by a member of the Hearts That Purr community until more is known about her health condition. 

One of the other programs at Hearts That Purr is Senior Citizens and Senior Kittizens, a long-term foster program that allows cats owned by Hearts That Purr to live with senior citizens outside of the shelter. Not only does this program give cats a home away from the shelter, but it also provides the foster parent with a loving companion. For a cat to be considered for foster care, they have to be relatively healthy and well-mannered. Most importantly, the potential foster home has to be the right fit for the cat. 

Cat(ch) you later!

After meeting Jemma, we sat with Jeanmarie on the couch, surrounded by a few cats seeking attention. Our conversation was cut off when a curious black cat bolted into the room, ready to play. Browsing the large selection of toys, the cat that we learned was named Angel, settled on a neon pink mouse, tossing her prey around until she was satisfied. She began to ascend the staircase leading to the couch but found us to be less interesting than her mouse and scampered off to continue her hunt. 

Our time with the cats left our hearts full after being away from our families’ pets while in college. As we pulled out of the gravel driveway, leaving the big and little house behind, we had no worries in our minds about the safety and well-being of our newfound friends. With plenty of spaces to cuddle and endless toys to choose from, we knew that each feline resident would be living their golden years in peace.


Hannah Bruene and Mari White are coauthors of this article. They are first-year students at the University of Arizona studying Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences.