Nova Scotia

How a cat scratch led to new group that finds homes for seniors' pets

Angela Rafuse recently started My Grandfather's Cat as a way to help seniors, or anyone with a terminal illness, who need to find a new home for their beloved cat or dog.

My Grandfather's Cat aims to ensure no one waits to seek care on behalf of pets

Mackenzie is unimpressed. The Halifax-based cat inspired her owner, Angela Rafuse, to start a non-profit that finds new homes for the pets of seniors and those with terminal illnesses. She's also gathered quite the online following. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

It all started with a scratch to the face.

Angela Rafuse of Halifax tried to take a cute video with her 15-year-old cat, Mackenzie, in front of the Christmas tree. But she got a paw to the forehead instead.

Rafuse shared the video with friends and family, who told her it was definitely internet-worthy. She posted it to TikTok, eventually with more examples of Mackenzie — or "Ms. Murder" — being her grumpy self. 

People loved it. Mackenzie now has a dedicated fan base, and the videos have gotten millions of hits from around the world. 

Despite Mackenzie's anti-social ways, Rafuse said she's loved getting to learn more about this cat with a "fiery spirit" after taking her in when her grandfather died in 2019.

"Nobody wanted to take her. Nobody was signing up. And just a grumpy cat like Mackenzie, we knew she would spend the rest of her life in a shelter," Rafuse said Sunday from her parents' home in Chester, N.S.

"So I adopted her, and it was the best decision I've ever made."

Angela Rafuse of Halifax started My Grandfather's Cat as a way to ensure people don't put off moving or going into care out of concern for their animals. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

The pair love kayaking together, playing in the snow, hiking, or hitting the beach.

Rafuse said she started getting messages from people sharing their own stories about how they couldn't adopt their grandparents' pets, and wished they could find them happy homes.

This gave Rafuse an idea, and just six weeks ago, My Grandfather's Cat was born.

The non-profit is for seniors, or anyone with a terminal illness, needing to find a new home for their beloved cat or dog as they enter long-term care, can no longer care for the animal, or die.

It would have made such a difference for her own grandfather, Rafuse said, who refused to go into long-term care because he didn't think anybody would adopt Mackenzie.

He eventually died in hospital, Rafuse said, instead of a more comfortable place surrounded with his own things, and friends and family.

"I think about that all the time and how I wish I could do something to make sure that situation hadn't happened," Rafuse said, her voice breaking.

Angela Rafuse holds her cat Mackenzie at her parents' home in Chester, N.S., on Sunday. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

The non-profit is built on a simple idea, Rafuse said, but "provides so much comfort."

While Rafuse said she loves the work done by the SPCA and other shelters, she believes My Grandfather's Cat fills a gap and keeps power in the family's hands. 

The family must approve a new owner for the pet and there are no fees for anyone on either end of the adoption process.

Patty Saunders of Bridgetown, N.S., recently found her late mother-in-law's cat, Pepper, a new home through the organization and gets regular photos and updates.

She said keeping a connection with the new family has been amazing and unique, since it isn't always possible with some organizations to know where an animal ends up.

Saunders added that people getting to know the backstories of the adoptable animals likely piques people's interest and empathy.

"It's just great she's finally going to have the life that she deserves," Saunders said.

They've had an "overwhelming response" so far and placed four animals into new homes in various Canadian provinces, Rafuse said, while seven more are pending adoption.

Rafuse thinks her grandfather likely wouldn't "get" the TikTok aspect of Mackenzie's journey, but said she knows he'd be very proud of what she's built already.

"Granted, I could sneeze and that man would be proud of me," Rafuse said with a laugh.

There has also been a lot of interest in the U.S., and Rafuse hopes to expand south of the border this fall.

Mackenzie now has fans around the world, and is the face of merchandise that helps fund the organization alongside donations.