Navy veteran and adult shelter cat throw past lives overboard to start new life together

Navy veteran and adult shelter cat throw past lives overboard to start new life together

Havarti was an adult shelter cat with a hard-luck life when she was discovered by a Navy veteran searching for a friend. Now adopted, the pair are comfortable with one another, but it did not start off that way.

Both pet and patriot had to say goodbye to one life and hello to another, which brought about a lot of new changes and experiences.

From sea to shining sea

From 1992 to 1997 Theresa served in the Navy in the field of aviation ordinance. These specialists are responsible to manage all aspects of the handling, storage, and servicing of weapons carried aboard Naval aircraft.

Theresa was stationed in Guam, Japan, and San Diego, and served aboard the U.S.S. Nimitz, the oldest aircraft carrier in the fleet. Her time in Guam provided the fondest memories from her time in service.

“I had spent two and a half years there,” she says. “Throughout all of my duty stations, I met some really great people.”

Service members are accustomed to moving to where the military needs them, but that does not make Permanent Change of Station (PCS) easy. Often they involve leaving behind everything – and everyone – familiar. Still, Theresa was not fully prepared for the sacrifices she would make when moving from one coast of the United States to the other.

Someone was missing. Two someones, to be exact.

“When I moved from Tacoma, Washington to Richmond, Virginia, I had to leave my two cats behind for another family to adopt,” she shares.

Once in Richmond Theresa started work for a prominent law firm, but there was still a void in her world.

Shy adult shelter cat follows in the paw prints of others

The Navy veteran missed the comfort and company of having a feline friend.

“I wanted to have a cat because I like having one around,” she explains.

As luck would have it a stray cat came into the Richmond SPCA, which has been a Pets for Patriots adoption and veterinary partner since 2012. The organization offers veterans in our program a reduced adoption fee of $50, ‘welcome home’ supplies, and access to their full-service, low-cost veterinary clinic.

At the shelter Theresa met Havarti, a then five year-old cat with stunning green eyes and impossibly long whiskers. Havarti was very shy, perhaps owing to her time as a stray.

Still, something drew the Navy veteran to this somewhat aloof little cat. Four days after she was approved by Pets for Patriots, Theresa welcomed Havarti home.

The light of their lives

The fetching feline may have had a difficult life prior to her adoption, but in time Havarti began to adjust to her new surroundings. She is a joy to be around, even if at times she seems hesitant and insecure.

Navy veteran and adult shelter cat throw past lives overboard to start new life together

“Havarti is a sweet, loving cat who was shy in the beginning,” says Theresa. “She had a rough patch for a short time. She was found outside and brought to the local humane society, but clearly was an inside house cat.”

Adjusting to new surroundings and circumstances can be difficult. During her tour in the Navy Theresa learned how to cope with inevitable ebb and flow of military service. Perhaps she used these skills to help Havarti understand that she has a home for life.

With her days as a stray far behind her, Havarti has claimed her perch as an indoor cat – one who loves to be petted.

“Once you start,” Theresa says, “she does not want you to stop.”

There are times when Theresa misses the two cats she had to leave behind in Tacoma. After all, they were her family, too.

“While Havarti is not a replacement for them, she sure brightened my life,” she shares.

Of pets and patriots

Theresa does not recall how she found Pets for Patriots, but is glad that she did.

“It is a great organization that helps us with the costs and it helps get pets adopted sooner than later,” she shares.

The benefits of our program make it more affordable for military veterans, like Theresa, to adopt a cat or dog. And because we focus solely on the most overlooked companion pets, including adults, animals like Havarti have a chance at a new life.

“There is nothing wrong with getting an older pet, instead of always going for a kitten or puppy,” Theresa says. “They all need hope if they are in a shelter.”


  1. bethz

    Hi Heather,

    Thank you for your service and interest to adopt an older cat. We have a special place in our hearts for senior animals. They, too, need a loving home and have so much to offer.

    You can learn more about how our program works here and start the process to see if you pre-qualify:

    If you have any questions we re-open Monday at 9am ET. Thank you!


  2. Heather Anthony

    How does a veteran connect with your group? I am alone, crippled, and in need of a older cat.

  3. Mary Eaton

    A handsome guy and I can almost hear him purrrrrrrring via his snapshots. Thank you for reaching out to bring him home and into your heart. So many nice shares in the above messages. Appreciate your years of service as well.

  4. Alyson

    Thank you for your service – I’m so happy for you and Havarti!

  5. Christine E

    Havarti has such a pretty face. Love those big whisker pads! So glad you can help each other with your life transitions.

  6. Owen Billing

    I have adopted a younger cat with a disability. A funny thing is that I have a similar disability. We are still in the process of knowing each other. From what I can see we have a good start on a long friendship.

  7. Pam H.

    Love this story. My first cat as an adult came from the Richmond SPCA and we loved each other so much. He was actually more like a dog who would fetch his balls and followed me from room to room always. That’s not to say he liked anyone else. My best friend swore he was “a jealous lover from a previous life.” All my other cats have bee stays I have adopted from outside that no one else wanted. Your Havarti is beautiful and I can tell is such joy in your life. Congrats!!

  8. Panda Johnson

    Thank you, first, for your service, Theresa…and then thank you for taking a chance on Havarti! Your story just proves the truth of the saying “You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need”. God Bless you both.

  9. Teresa Owens

    They you for sharing and thank you Theresa for giving this previous kitty a home. Older cats need a home too and I am so thankful there are those who are willing to give them a chance. Cats with proper care and love can live a long time, so adopting a cat even 10 years old can give you many years of happy kitty companionship.

  10. AnnieLaurie Burke

    Please keep educating people about the advantages of adopting an older pet — they will be glad they did!

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