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After Toby the cat walked 12 miles to get back to the place he thought was home, his original family took him to a county shelter and requested that he be euthanized.
Luckily for the 7-year-old Maine coon mix, the shelter, not wanting to euthanize a seemingly healthy cat, contacted the SPCA of Wake County in Raleigh, North Carolina, for help. “The shelter called us at the SPCA to ask if we could take him in and help him find a new family,” the nonprofit wrote on Facebook. “Of course we said YES!”
According to Tara Lynn, SPCA of Wake County communications manager, Toby's former owners tried to give him away to another household, but the strong-willed feline found his way back to them.
“It’s a hard concept for me to understand: somebody asking that a pet be euthanized,” Lynn told TODAY.
Although it’s unclear why his original family had such a strong request for the county shelter, Lynn said the shelter told the SPCA that Toby struggled to get along with the family’s other cats. Toby also has feline immunodeficiency virus. Lynn speculated this condition could have been another motive for the family’s decision.
FIV behaves very similarly to HIV, weakening the immune system and therefore making the cat more susceptible to illness. However, Lynn said that with proper medical treatment, FIV-positive cats can live out healthy, happy lives.
After 45 days at the SPCA of Wake County, Toby finally found his fur-ever home. He was adopted by local resident Michele Puckett and her two children on April 13.
Puckett first heard Toby’s heartbreaking story from her sister in New Hampshire who read about him through celebrity animal activist Beth Stern’s Instagram account.
“North Carolina friends: Ok sorry to be Debbie Downer but this just about killed me,” Stern, wife of radio personality Howard Stern, wrote in the caption to her 416,000 followers. “He still needs a home as he's at the shelter - a home with someone who will not only love him, but guard him as he'd likely try to get 'home' again.”
“I think there was actually some debate in the family about which of the three sisters was actually going to keep Toby,” joked Lynn.
Toby’s adoptive family is already embracing him with open hearts (and paws). They even made him an Instagram account to document all the family fun, and it already has more than 16,000 followers. According to Lynn, Puckett said, “It’s like he’s always been here.”
The SPCA of Wake County is holding its 2018 K9-3K Dog Walk & Woofstock on May 6 to take a stand for homeless pets and help thousands of other animals in need. They’re hoping that Toby’s inspiring story encourages locals to participate.
"Toby's story is very special. It's resonated with a lot of people," Lynn said. "There are a lot of Tobys out there. That's why we're asking people to walk or donate or get involved with their local rescue. We can't save them all unless we have the resources to do so.
"With people's support, we were able to say, 'Yes, we can save Toby.' There are many more animals that have been abandoned, neglected and need our help."
—Hilary Sheinbaum contributed to this story.