Helix isn't in a hurry to get human attention. He will let a human stroke his buff-colored head and will lean into the human's hand. And when it leaves, he will move to stick his head back where he wants it.
And eventually, a purr is coaxed from him.
Helix came to the Tri-Cities Animal Control shelter in March, a lot longer than the average stay of 12 days for an animal last year.
And he wasn't one of the 840 animals who were adopted from the shelter last year, said Angela Zilar, animal control director. That is down compared to 2010, when 999 animals were adopted.
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Helix was fostered with a family for a while, but he didn't do well with the dogs in the house. He escaped outside and had to be caught using a trap, Zilar said. He is a bit temperamental and probably would do best as the only cat or as a barn cat.
Tri-Cities Animal Control Authority, created by Pasco, Richland and Kennewick, took in 4,006 animals last year, compared with 4,316 in 2010.
Zilar said officers actually dealt with more animals last year. But pets that can be returned by officers in the field based on identification such as licensing tags or microchips aren't included in the agency's statistics.
Animal control returned 451 pets to their owners last year, compared with 608 in 2010, not including those that were returned without going to the shelter, Zilar said.
With a local push for microchips, Zilar said animal control officers have had greater success in returning animals out in the field.
Brewster wasn't so lucky. He was found Dec. 30 at the rail yard in downtown Pasco, and although he has a microchip, his owner didn't register it.
The purebred husky has a tumor behind his right ear, Zilar said. Blood marks where he has rubbed the raw sore on the white duvet that makes his bed.
A rescue operation will take Brewster in and pay for the tumor to be removed, Zilar said. That is not something animal control can do.
But first, Zilar said she has to make sure Brewster is cat friendly, since the foster family who would take him in has cats.
Animal control works with about seven rescue operations to find homes for animals. Last year, 1,276 animals were rescued by no-kill shelters, Zilar said. That compares with 784 in 2010.
The increase in rescued animals helped the animal shelter lower the number of animals euthanized last year. A no-kill shelter doesn't euthanize healthy, adoptable animals, Zilar said. The Tri-Cities Animal Control Shelter does everything it can to not euthanize healthy, adoptable animals, she said.
A total of 1,153 animals were euthanized last year, Zilar said. That's a 21 percent decrease from the 1,459 animals euthanized in 2010.
The dogs that were euthanized last year were severely ill or injured or too aggressive to adopt, Zilar said.
None died because of lack of space at the crowded, aging shelter. But some of the cats did, she said.
Most of the cats were either too feral to adopt or were ill and couldn't be treated, she said.
The shelter is old and has maintenance, sanitation and space issues. But a new shelter is still three to five years out, Zilar said.
While Pasco budgeted about $300,000 to purchase land for a shelter this year, Kennewick and Richland didn't. Richland has the shelter project in its capital facility plan for 2013 and 2014 but doesn't have a funding source identified.
Earlier this week, about 30 cats and 27 dogs were in foster homes. Ten of those dogs were being trained by inmates at Connell's Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.
Zilar said the program has been successful in finding homes for dogs who are less likely to be adopted.
So far, all 34 dogs that have finished the training have been adopted, and most already have a family by the time they finish the program, she said. Last year was the first full year for the program that started in October 2010.
And 57 dogs and 44 cats were staying at the shelter one day this week. Among the dogs was Kate.
The obese "chug," a Chihuahua and pug mix, came in with two 8-week-old puppies Dec. 29. Zilar said Kate had been adopted about three years before, but her owner no longer wanted her or the other female dog and puppies the owner said she had found.
Kate's puppies already have found a home, and now Kate waits. Earlier this week, she was recovering from her spay surgery in the shelter's medical room.
Her little body quivered as Zilar pet her, and she kept trying to get out of her kennel. Gradually, the shivers stopped, and Kate licked Zilar's face.
It's scary coming to the shelter from a home and losing her puppies all in one go, Zilar said.