A 22-pound cat surrendered Friday at the Benton-Franklin Humane Society became an unlikely internet sensation and an even unlikelier candidate for adoption.
But Mao, an elderly male with a weight problem and other health issues, won hearts almost as soon as staffers posted his photo on the Humane Society Facebook page Friday.
Within 20 minutes, a Lind family placed a hold on him and by Saturday afternoon, he was headed to his new home in a medium-sized dog crate.
Emily Maier, adoption counselor, said Mao’s new family are prior adopters who fully understand the challenges of adopting an older animal and the costs that entails. She said the wife spotted the post and immediately consulted her husband.
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The husband agreed, saying Mao was the only thing he wanted for Father’s Day.
A 14-year-old cat would normally be a tough sell for the Humane Society, but Maier said Mao was an instant celebrity, garnering thousands of likes and comments on its Facebook page. A Tri-City Herald post garnered similar interest.
The attention brought 10 visitors Saturday morning, eager to check out the plus-sized feline and have photos taken with him.
For his part, Mao was initially jittery when he was surrendered by an elderly woman who had been caring for him for her brother. Mao quickly settled into the medical room and the attention.
“He enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame,” Maier said.
Mao’s new family will work with a veterinarian to help the cat, which appears to have some Maine Coon lineage, lose weight. He is arthritic as well as overweight and has a sensitive stomach, which will require special food.
For the Humane Society, the presence of a celebrity was an uplifting experience staffers hope will translate to legitimate interest in adoption.
The shelter is struggling through kitten season and has plenty of animals, both feline and canine, available. The Humane Society posts adoption information about most animals online at bfhs.com.
It is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday at 1736 E. Seventh St. in Kennewick.