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Chicago shelter cat — who wears a diaper — gets her 15 minutes of fame

Nara Schoenberg, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

People magazine, home of the "Sexiest Man Alive" and A-List celebrity interviews, is making space for a four-legged Chicagoan.

Kele is an 8-month-old shelter kitten with a fluffy white coat, big golden eyes, a petal-pink nose and an outgoing, playful personality.

One of nine pets nationwide featured in a two-page People spread about adoptable dogs and cats, Kele (KEY-lee) is described by People as a "special needs kitten." In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, PAWS Chicago assistant director of feline behavior Erin Mayes elaborated, saying that Kele, who appears to have a congenital malformation of the spine, is incontinent, so she needs to be diapered and gets a bath once a day.

At PAWS, where she's been living since being transferred from Chicago Animal Care and Control in January, she's proved to be a real charmer, accepting diapering, playing energetically with toys, and cuddling enthusiastically with humans.

"She's a fantastic little girl. She's in one of our primo spots -- people love to watch her," said Mayes, who added that sometimes when a dog needs to be tested for his response to cats, he'll be led by confident Kele's glassed-in living space.

"She's not afraid. If anything, she shows interest," Mayes said.

Another Chicago-area shelter pet, Melon, a terrier mix at the Hinsdale Humane Society, was also included in the People spread, which promotes the Clear the Shelters adoption drive Aug. 17, when many shelters across the U.S. will waive or reduce their adoption fees. The Hinsdale Humane Society said via email that Melon, a "bouncy and absolutely adorable" stray brought in by the police, was adopted in just 10 days.

Kele -- sometimes pronounced Kelly -- probably began her life as a stray, Mayes said. At PAWS, she became good friends with an older cat, and got to work learning how to wear a diaper. She has both urinary and fecal incontinence.

Staff used food to train her to accept diapering. She's crate-trained at night, retreating to her own space with bedding, water and toys.


Staff members at PAWS submitted Kele's story for People's annual article on Clear the Shelters and were thrilled when she was chosen, according to PAWS associate director of media and community relations Sarah McDonald.

Kele has been waiting for adoption since mid-March, but Mayes pointed to the example of another incontinent PAWS cat, a long-haired calico named Nola, who was eventually adopted and has been doing well in her new home since January.

"There truly are amazing people out there," Mayes said of those who bring home hard-to-adopt pets. "They just want to provide a good home for these animals, and they're very special. They're like our guardian angels."

Kele, too, will find her amazing person, Mayes predicted: "They will come in eventually."

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