A little kitten named Lucky is finally living up to his name, despite the odds against him.
Lucky was born outside to a “community cat" (formerly called “feral"). But Virginia’s Arlington County has a robust trap-neuter-release program, in which neighbors and shelter workers use humane traps to collect community cats, have them spayed or neutered by a veterinarian, and then release them back into the community since they typically won't do well inside a home.
When the moms have babies, like Lucky, they can enter the Kitten College foster program at Animal Welfare League of Arlington.
“We have to bring kittens in before they hit about the six-week mark, because before six weeks is really the socialization window for kittens. It becomes a lot more difficult to get them to adjust to being a pet after six weeks,” Chelsea Jones, a spokesperson for the nonprofit, told TODAY. “So it’s a very short window.”
When Lucky entered the Kitten College last August, he was 3-4 weeks old and weighed just 1.2 pounds. He thrived in foster care, but when he was ready for adoption at 8 weeks old, he had trouble finding a forever home.
Lucky was the only black cat in his litter; his tabby brothers and sisters were adopted first. At the end of September, a family finally adopted Lucky, but returned him after three days, saying having a kitten was more work than they’d anticipated.
“We appreciate that they brought him back to us, so that we could find him a home that was maybe a little bit more ready,” Jones said. “But when kittens get returned, it’s always like, ‘Well, gosh. Darn.’”
At the shelter, Lucky got a roommate who was light-colored with bright green eyes. The roommate got adopted, and Lucky next partnered with a gorgeous Siamese mix — who was also adopted instead of Lucky.
Many black cats across the country face challenges getting adopted due to superstitions and because it can be harder to notice darker fur at a shelter.
“I don’t necessarily believe that people don’t like black cats, but we do tend to find they often get picked last,” Jones said.
Then Lucky hit the jackpot. Baltimore residents Caitlyn Hart, 24, and her fiancé, Ben Owens, 25, decided to adopt their first pet together — and chose Lucky because they like black cats and he seemed a little mischievous.
“The adoption process is what the special part is because I’m also adopted,” Hart told TODAY. “My parents are the most amazing things in the entire world. So now to give back — granted, it’s not a child, but he feels like our little child — getting ready for him and making sure our home was perfect, and just showering him with love. … It comes full circle for me in a really special way.”
Lucky loves climbing his 5-foot kitty tower, playing with ribbons and being close to his people. Hart is touched that after just two weeks together, Lucky seems to realize “we’re his humans.”
“He literally lets both of us hold him like a baby,” she said. “He always has to have a paw on us or be near us.”
Hart and Owens are both working remotely as teachers for Baltimore County public schools. Since Hart is a dance teacher, she’s active during lessons, so Lucky safely snuggles with Owens, who sits while teaching science.
Owens is also a graduate school student, so Lucky joins him for well-earned naps. Hart loves seeing the two of them together.
“It’s just cute to see that relationship building,” she said.
Hart is considering dressing in a black cat costume for Halloween so that she and Lucky can take a "twinsie photo" on the holiday, and plans to give him a special treat to celebrate.
She is grateful to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington for rescuing Lucky and matching him with their family. She hopes other people will consider adopting pets, including black kittens and cats, because they can be such wonderful companions.
“Black cats matter,” she said. “They really do.”