WAIF’s ‘independent’ longtime resident needs home for the holidays

Resting snugly on a sun-lit bench, Ivan was drifting slowly into cat dream land when a red dot on the floor caught his attention.

Caitlin Bryant had come to the Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation Cat Adoption Center in Oak Harbor to learn more about the large domestic short-haired tabby with a funny face and curious history.

She was struck by a social media post that explained that Ivan was getting ready to spend his fourth Christmas as a shelter cat, making him the longest current resident among any dog or cat at any of WAIF’s three adoption shelters on Whidbey Island.

“It broke my heart,” Bryant said. “That’s why I ran in here.”

She entered the Oak Harbor center’s play room armed with questions as well as a laser pointer, and broke the ice with a head-scratch test, which Ivan failed miserably, quickly jerking his head back.

“I won’t push it,” Bryant said.

A second head scratch later was better received once Ivan grew more comfortable around the visitor.

“It’s just his personality,” said Donna Dunn, an animal care technician with WAIF. “He’s very independent.”

“He can be very loving,” said Shari Bibich, WAIF’s shelter manager who works at the main Coupeville facility. “He picks and chooses the people and the times he wants his pets.”

Undeterred, Bryant soon pulled out a laser pointer to get down to the nitty gritty and see about Ivan’s playful side.

He passed that test with flying colors, chasing the dot across the floor, piquing her interest in him even more.

She said she couldn’t adopt him yet, but he would be weighing heavily on her mind over the holidays.

“I think he’s great,” Bryant said.

Ivan has been a fixture at the cat adoption center on Midway Boulevard for three years, often seen sprawling out on the bench in front of a large window, soaking in the afternoon sun and watching the world play out in front of him.

His personality has rubbed off on staff at WAIF, particularly Dunn, who’s known him the longest.

She was working the day he and another stray arrived at the former shelter on the Seaplane Base in March of 2013 and has grown wise to the habits and quirks of the 16-pound cat.

“He’ll let you pet him a minute or two,” she said. “Then he’ll either bite you or scratch you. It’s part of the reason he’s been here so long. It’s on Ivan’s terms.”

The conventional thinking is perhaps he might break that habit while settling into a new home and away from other cats and the constant flow of visitors at the shelter.

“He’s an amazing cat,” Dunn said. “He just needs somebody who understands him. I have too many in my home.”

Ivan was one of 19 cats up for adoption at the Oak Harbor center Thursday. There were 28 more cats and 13 dogs housed at WAIF’s main animal shelter in Coupeville, a newly-constructed, state-of-the-art facility that recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.

WAIF has another cat adoption center in Freeland and manages a holding facility in Oak Harbor.

There are older dogs and cats at WAIF facilities, but none with longer residency than Ivan, who is about 6 or 7-years-old, according to Dunn.

One of the obstacles that has kept Ivan from adoption is a urinary tract condition that requires a special diet prescribed by a veterinarian. Without the diet, crystals can form in his urinary tract, potentially causing a dangerous blockage.

Still, other cats facing far more dire circumstances, have found homes, Bibich said.

“It’s unusual,” she said. “I don’t understand why he’s still up there.

“Some cats come up to everybody. He picks and chooses. He warms up when he does.”

Adoptions are up at the main Coupeville shelter. As of Thursday, there had been 143 cats adopted in 2016 compared to 83 in 2015, and 122 dogs this year compared to 85 last year.

But Ivan isn’t alone in his resident status. A scratch at Bibich’s closed office door revealed Molly, a long-timer in Coupeville’s facility.

“She has a lot of catitude,” Bibich said.

WAIF, a nonprofit founded in 1990, operates under a “minimum kill philosophy,” with euthanasia virtually non-existent and ranked among the lowest in the country, Bibich said.

Euthanasia is done only for severe health or extreme behavior issues, never for a lack of space or time spent at the shelters, she said.

Lucy and Ethel are arthritic elderly cats who will be likely living out their days at WAIF headquarters. They were resting in their beds near a window Thursday.

If they go, they are a package deal.

“They are our babies,” Bibich said. “We adore them.”

WAIF rotates cats from their cages to allow ample free roaming time in various rooms and open spaces.

At the Cat Adoption Center in Oak Harbor, Ivan often makes a beeline for the bench in the window.

He’s mostly a mellow cat who likes things his way, enjoys the sun and often doesn’t mind an occasional scratch.

He turned into a lap cat Thursday, which surprised Dunn.

“I think it’s time for you to get adopted,” Dunn said to the cat. “Yeah, it is.

“I see him in a different light than everyone else coming in. He’s a sweet cat. Part of it is the frustration of being here so long. In a home, it would be completely different. He’s kind of a goof ball sometimes.

“It’ll be a bittersweet adoption when he goes home.”