PITTSFIELD -- October has a home thanks to a cat-loving local veteran and his granddaughter.

The frisky female feline recently was adopted by Larry Senecal, a retired Army sergeant, through the Berkshire Humane Society's "Pets for Vets" program. The just-concluded November promotion allowed Senecal -- free of charge -- to gift the 2-year-old stray black cat to Elisa Senecal.

The 15-year-old immediately took a shine to her new furry friend and vice-versa.

"She's pretty, rolling around in her cage and very playful," Elisa said, recalling her first encounter with October during the adoption process.

As a lifelong cat owner, Senecal appreciates the shelter's extra effort to place October with his family.

"Her shots were up to date," he said. "She was spayed and well taken care of here."

The "Pets for Vets" is one of several incentives the Berkshire Humane Society and other area animal shelters use to encourage adoption of unwanted cats, dogs, rabbits, etc. The nonprofit organization on Barker Road also, at reduced rates, pairs older cats and dogs with senior citizens and seeks to place two cats at a time per home through the "Feline Buddy" program.

"People who work in shelters have a passion for what they do," said BHS Executive Director John Perreault. "Nothing's harder than adoption -- matching the right person with the right pet."

This time of year, cat adoptions are a high priority as local shelters see an influx of stray cats due to the colder weather or from owners who can no longer afford to keep them.

This past weekend, the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter held expanded hours, in part to successfully place 13 cats and six kittens in order to make room for some of the 24 cats waiting to be surrendered to Pittsfield's municipal shelter located in Downing Industrial Park.

"Like children services tries to keep kids in a good home, we try to keep pets in a good home," said shelter director Laurie Vilord.

Even as Vilord discussed the cats' plight with a reporter, she learned of a woman who has to surrender her 15 felines by today as the pet owner was being forced to leave her condemned house. Vilord said it's "fairly common" for a large number of cats to be living under one roof -- usually strays taken in by someone with "good intentions" but who ultimately can't afford to care for them.

For years, local shelters have strongly urged pet owners to "fix" their cats and dogs to prevent unwanted litters of kittens and puppies, increasing the glut of adoptees.

Later this month, the Berkshire Humane Society is sponsoring "100 Cats for Christmas." On Dec. 18, the first 100 cat owners who are preregistered by Dec. 14, will pay a low-cost of $25 to have their pets spayed or neutered by area veterinarians.

Funding from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, through Subaru's "Share the Love," the automakers annual holiday charitable campaign, will cover the remainder of the spay and neutering fees, which vary depending on the pet.

Perreault said keeping the feline population in check increases the chances of shelter cats being adopted.

"More and more people are doing spay or neuter and not letting their pets run loose," he said. "This event will help our neighbors ... be good, responsible cat owners."

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233

Adoption resources

For pet adoptions and services in Berkshire County contact:

Berkshire Humane Society

214 Barker Road

Pittsfield, MA, 01201

(413) 447-7878, www.berkshirehumane.org

Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter

63 Downing Parkway

Pittsfield, MA 01201

(413) 448-9800, www.pittsfieldanimals.org

North Adams Animal Shelter

1040 Reservoir Road

North Adams, MA 01247

(413) 664-4442

Berkshire Animal D.R.E.A.M.S (cats only)

441 North St.

Pittsfield, MA 01201

(413) 997-CATS, www.
berkshireanimaldreams.org

Purradise (cats only)

301 Stockbridge Road

Great Barrington, MA 01230

(413) 717-4244

www.berkshirehumane.org/
purradise