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Lulu’s litter box problem was almost the end of her. But now, the viral sensation has a new family

Lulu, a Himalayan cat with long beige fur, stares at the camera with a forlorn look.
Dutchess County SPCA
Lulu the cat is the newest superstar-Rochesterian.

A 13-year-old Himalayan cat named Lulu recently went viral after her former owners tried to have her euthanized for not using the litter box properly.

But little Lulu lucked out.

The concerned vet — recognizing that the cat was entirely healthy, other than treatable kidney issues — refused to put her down. Instead, the vet called the Dutchess County SPCA in Hyde Park, about two hours north of New York City. The shelter immediately took Lulu in.

“So we put Lulu on what's called a urinary diet, which is a prescription food that helps prevent the formation of crystals. And she never failed to use the litter box once,” said Lynne Meloccaro, executive director of the Dutchess County SPCA and former English professor at the University of Rochester.

She said that after arriving at the shelter, Lulu made it clear that she didn’t want to stay in a kennel — so she became Meloccaro’s office mate.

“I really loved her, and she spent her last day with me forcing me to sit on the very edge of my chair because she had to take up the rest of the chair herself,” she said.

After People Magazine picked up on Lulu’s story, support came flooding in. Pet supply companies offered to send free cat food and litter, and hundreds of applications to adopt the beige beauty overloaded the Dutchess County SPCA’s inbox.

And then, a retired teacher in the Rochester area opened her computer to check her email.

“I was minding my own business, and it came up on my Google feed, and I was, like, horrified, like everybody else, by the story,” said Ellyn Kleinberg, who had recently said goodbye to her 21-year-old cat and was planning on adopting another one at some point.

She has a particular soft spot for senior cats.

“It breaks my heart when they've been in a home for so many years, and all of a sudden, here they are in the shelter, and they don't understand what's going on,” she said. “And they're stressed, and they're scared, and they deserve to have a really good end of life.”

For Meloccaro, choosing Kleinberg as Lulu’s adopter was a no-brainer. But after Kleinberg and her daughter drove nearly five hours to adopt the cat, and then five hours back that same day, the question still loomed: what would Lulu think?

“She's exploring her surroundings and she has taken over my chair. It is now hers,” she said. “And she's been climbing on her cat tree, and she's doing OK.”

So far, Lulu seems to approve of her new home and family. One might even say she has Kleinberg exactly where she wants her.

“She's just gonna be a queen. She's gonna lounge around, she's gonna play with her catnip toys, she's gonna sit on my lap,” Kleinberg said.

There are countless cats in need of homes. In Lulu’s case, she found the perfect one.

But Kleinberg — who, like Meloccaro, wants nothing more than for every homeless kitty to get the care they need — said that if you’re not going to be in it for the long run, get a hobby instead.

“ Pets are a commitment,” Kleinberg said. “And if you're not willing to commit to caring for them, you shouldn't adopt them or buy them in the first place.”

Jasmin Singer is the host of WXXI’s Weekend Edition and Environmental Connections, as well as a guest host for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Connections.