A North End woman and her adopted cat have become celebrities of sorts — thanks to a recent profile in the pages of People Magazine.
“It’s very overwhelming,” says My Grandfather’s Cat founder Angela Rafuse about being featured in one of the best-selling weeklies in the world. “You know, like imposter syndrome and how it doesn’t seem like reality? This whole thing does not seem like reality anymore — it seems like a dream.”
The article, published on January 10 by the New York-based magazine, is the culmination of an impressive amount of success in the very young life of the non-profit charity.
Launched only in May of last year, Rafuse has been shocked by the amount of publicity her organization aimed at pairing pets to their “second forever homes” has received in the short time that it has existed.
“I don’t really have words for it anymore. I try to articulate and explain what’s happening but it’s hard,” admits Rafuse. She started the charity after adopting her own grandfather’s 14-year-old cat Mackenzie. “It is almost like we’re reminding people about this forgotten group and we don’t do it in a sad, or grieving, or make-you-feel-guilty way — we try to do it in an inspiring way and an empowering way.”
The quick rise of My Grandfather’s Cat is quite honest actually. After Rafuse volunteered to take in Mackenzie after her grandfather passed away, she began posting videos featuring the feisty feline on the social media platform TikTok.
After one particular video earned more than 75,000 views and raised a lot of questions, Rafuse began to realize there was a large segment of the population who could empathize with the situation — that if Rafuse hadn’t adopted Mackenzie, the cantankerous cat would have likely ended up spending its final days in a shelter.
“For a lot of people, they get to a point in their lives where they know that they need extended care, or a lot of younger people, as terrible as it is, get diagnosed with a terminal illness (and) the pets are the ones that get left behind,” says Rafuse, noting without friends or family, pets wind up in shelters. “(So) My Grandfather’s Cat helps seniors and terminally ill people arrange homes for their pets before they move into their retirement homes or pass away.”
Surprisingly, there wasn’t much in the way of this type of service available previously — and it shows. Since May, My Grandfather’s Cat has been quickly gaining attention and growing in popularity across the country.
The non-profit currently has 15 volunteers working from coast to coast to help assist pet owners and ensure animals don’t end up in shelters. In fact, her organization has attracted so much attention, Rafuse now has a list of about 50 or 60 people waiting just to become volunteers.
“Our criteria is that you have to have a cell phone that you’re willing to use, you have to be mentally strong — as mentally strong as any of us can be in this pandemic — to be willing to deal with a senior or a grieving family,” says Rafuse, who is onboarding about two volunteers a month. “They are not paid a dime and they just do this for the love of animals.”
It was because of the quick growth and Rafuse’s popular TikTok videos that one of People Magazine’s writers soon came calling.
“She was so inspired by what we were doing that she just reached out and just wanted to talk to us. It was really wonderful,” notes Rafuse. “I never thought we’d get international media attention.”
With the high-profile spotlight, Rafuse now sees even more expansion coming for the young Halifax-based charity. While she is careful not to become overwhelmed by the demand for the services of My Grandfather’s Cat, Rafuse does hope that — if nothing else — all the attention helps people to realize that their pets should not be overlooked even at the most challenging times.
“You can take control of your situation, even if you are terminally ill or if you’re a senior moving into a retirement home,” says Rafuse. “You don’t have to not have a plan for your animal.”
For more information on My Grandfather’s Cat, visit the website.