Suellen Duga’s home is a sanctuary for needy felines with 12 rescue cats–all with disabilities. There’s Julie, who’s got cerebral hyperplasia, a male calico cat called Roo who can’t walk on his front legs, blind Buddy, and dislocated hip Cory. Two of the cats have IBD, and many require frequent medication and visits to the vet. Each cat has a unique need individualized, but they all have one thing in common: thanks to Suellen, they have discovered a loving home.
Giving cats a place to call home is something that Suellen has done throughout her career. Suellen discovered newborn kittens outside her apartment building in the 1970s remaining in the bushes. She was determined to assist with no mom cat in sight. She fed the kittens and was devoted to their survival from a smooth nasal spray bottle. During the day, she smuggled them into her town office building to feed them, risking her work for their well-being. She told iHeartcats,
“I wasn’t fooling anyone actually, everybody knew they were there, but no one turned me into management.”
Not only did the kittens survive, they earned permanent places in the home and heart of Suellen.
“Of course when it came time to adopt them out, I couldn’t part with them.”
Suellen has loved cats all her life, and for 20 years she and her husband owned a local natural food shop. She was prepared for a change in 2007 and joined the Westfield Homeless Cat Project as a volunteer.
“There were cages piled on top of each other from the concrete floor up. For a 62-year-old woman to be on her hands and knees on a cold concrete floor was admittedly not the best way to do things, but I felt strongly about helping the cats.”
She never hesitated to bring them in when newborn kittens arrived in need of bottle fed.
“I knew the community had supported my store for over 20 years, and I felt the need to give back. Sounds corny, but that is the way I run my life.”
The difficult work and commitment of Suellen ultimately gained her the role of Coordinator of Adoption for the shelter. She has facilitated numerous cat adoptions, but she gives the cats with special needs a unique location in her core. She explained to iHeartcats that adopters often overlook the handicapped cats in the shelter. And if taken out, many will be taken back to the shelter.
“I just could not stand to see that happen over and over.”
Suellen began to open her home to fosters special needs and says,
“I was well on my way in the Foster Failure Program!”
Many of the 12 cats presently sharing Suellen’s home are “foster failures.” For her cats, she goes beyond and beyond and has converted her home to suit their requirements. The “cat wall” is a place for her friends to go and “get away from it all.” Julie, who can’t walk without tipping over, has a unique litter box created from a boot tray, and Roo’s litter box has a ramp. She also has on wheels a kitten cage she takes from room to room.
In order to maintain her home clean and maintain her cats safe, Suellen utilizes a commercial steamer, a unique floor cleaning machine, a Dyson stick vacuum and her “ancient fashioned pail and mop.” Suellen works a second job at night to pay for the vet bills when she doesn’t care for her feline family at home. She also has a life insurance policy of $5,000 to guarantee that if she leaves before them, they are well cared for. She said, “She said,
“I almost hope I do because their losses are so devastating to me—the worst thing ever. I love them all so much.”
Suellen has devoted her life to the care and well-being of cats with disabilities, and her tale is an inspiration to cat enthusiasts everywhere.