Sunday at the SPCA


Isn’t it incredible how animals make us better versions of ourselves? This is the story of how a tiny cat inspired a big change in the lives of many.

Tess was a diminutive little cat that adored everyone she met during her 5-year stay at the Fredericksburg Regional SPCA. After years of struggling to find a home due to IBS, she was transferred to Rikki’s Refuge, where she passed shortly after arriving.

What people loved most about Tess was’t her indiscriminate affection or heartbreaking pleas to be held, but her remarkable, almost supernatural ability to connect with people. In less than five minutes of meeting her, it would feel like being with a friend that you’d known for lifetimes. She was a walking “namaste moment”, and letting her fade into the memories of the few who knew her wasn’t an option.

Service is a way to celebrate the lives of those who have passed others while healing yourself. It’s also a means to grant immortality; the rippling effect of deeds done in one’s honor can change the world in immeasurable, unknowable ways. The smallest gesture has potential for greatness; rallying a small army to help in Tess’ honor was the natural choice.

Friends of Cat Hustler came from all corners of Nothern Virginia (up to 70 miles away) to help with cleaning, laundry, dishes, minor repairs, organizing, feeding, planting cat grass, and more. Admiral’s Advocacy and Education and Humane Society of Loudoun County were there, as were volunteers from TNR clinics and other shelters, first-time volunteers, two mother-daughter teams, and even the person who adopted Lancelot, Tess’ former wobble-cat roommate! Through their big-hearted effort, the group made sure that Tess’ little light will shine on in the infinite echoes of their work.

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Chores were just the beginning for our group.

  • The cat grass we planted while brunching on a donated Panera spread was sold in the SPCA’s retail shop as a fundraiser.
  • Marty McKee, the regionally famous rescue photographer, found his happy place in the spacious cat enclosures and snapped pictures that helped make adoptions happen. You can see his full gallery here.


  • Shae, Lancelot’s adopter, adopted another special needs cat while volunteering with out group.


  • Kristie & Amber Wood of Admiral’s Advocacy and Education found a soft spot for Paco, the shelter’s longest-term resident. They sponsored his adoption fee and media boosts on Facebook to help him be seen. He ended up being adopted by his foster, who paid it forward by transferring the fee to another long term resident.

  • Bianca Albone and her daughter, Mikki, were first-time shelter volunteers.  They fell in love with a cat named Castile, whose bonded brother, Roman, would have been one cat too many for the household. When their family returned the next week to meet Roman (just to be sure), they fell in love with a fearful kitten named Tito and decided that he had a more immediate need for liberation than the gregarious brothers.  Now “Ghiradelli Chococat”, the kitten is blossoming with his three feline roommates and has become a chirpy momma’s boy.


The acts of love and compassion that came of this event are a mirror image of sweet Tess’ essence. The spirit of the day was infectious and uplifting; even the poop-scoopers and volunteers that smelled like hot garbage afterward were asking where and when the next round would be.

Many thanks to Marty for the event pics and beautiful, adoption-boosting cat portraits, to Xavier at Panera Bread #601006 for the bagel brunch, and to the staff at the Fredericksburg Regional SPCA for having us. A special thanks to Megan Schnellenberger, who found an old photo of Tess on the Cat Hustler Instagram gallery and used it to let us know the sad news. Without her, this event would never have happened.