Jason and Lori Griggs kept striking out in their search for a therapy cat for their daughter, Kiley, because frightened kitties would run away from the teen’s motorized wheelchair.
Then, staff at Suncoast Animal League in Florida contacted the family with the great news that they likely had the perfect cat for their household. When Kiley’s parents took her to the shelter and met the friendly cat, he confirmed that he belonged with the Griggs family.
“He just came walking up like he’s the head honcho … meowed at us and jumped right into Kiley’s lap,” says Jason, who at the time said, ‘Really? Well, I guess we’re taking this one home.’
“He’s just not fazed by Kiley’s disability or the wheelchair whatsoever,” says Jason, whose daughter has cerebral palsy. “You find the pet or the pet finds you. This pet truly found us.”
As for Kiley, she knew she had found her cat.
“He was put in my lap, and he stayed there,” she says. “He was growling at the other cats like he was saying, ‘These guys are mine.’”
Happy at home
The family immediately took the cat home and named him Richey. The name was inspired by his all-night meowing after getting neutralized, which made his humans think of singer Lionel Richie’s song All Night Long. The Richey spelling matches with their Florida town, New Port Richey, which is near Tampa Bay.
Although Richey sleeps in his parents’ bed at night, he is 100% Kiley’s cat during the day and keeps the home-schooled girl company. He sits on her lap often, and while she does her schoolwork, Richey lounges by the window behind Kiley’s laptop and paws the top of the computer screen. The talkative cat looks at the wheelchair as just another lap, Jason says, and he often sits in it even without Kiley.
Nothing seems to bother Richey — not even loud noises or the sombrero his family bought him. He is unusual in that he actually enjoys nail clipping and belly rubs. When the family took Richey along on a boating trip, he stayed safely away from the water but loved the adventure. Jason took him out for “dock walks,” and Richey enjoyed socializing.
A celebrity connection
About two years ago, Richey, who is now around 6 years old, was a lucky find for Chris Poole, also known as Cat Man Chris, whose kitties Marmalade and the late Cole are internet celebrities.
The dirty kitty was part of an apartment colony that Chris had been feeding, trapping and neutering. When the new cat showed up very hungry one day, Chris discovered that he was also very friendly and definitely not feral. Chris thought the cat should be adopted out to a loving home.
Chris took him to the shelter, where the future Richey became a favorite with staff and volunteers.
“He met the purrfect family,” Chris says. “Definitely one to remember!”
Richey has brought so much love and soothing to the Griggs family, who had lost senior cats Chicago and Shawnee in recent years.
“Richey’s probably one of the best things that could happen for Kiley,” Jason says. “Just pure companionship, calm nerves and everything else.”