P: Tell me, Leo. What’s this protest you are staging today?
L: Well, it’s about finding a home. Tree House is great, but I’m searching for more permanent floors to sit on.
P: And where does the chicken hat come in?
L: I just needed a shtick.
Since his arrival in December of 2017 at Tree House Humane Society in Illinois, six-year-old Leonardo Pescatore has been persistently passed over by adopters.
For that reason, in April of 2019, Leonardo decided to stage a quiet protest with the help of Tree House staff by wearing a chicken hat. “Adopters go for the younger cats, the cats who smell better,” Leonardo said. “I might have The FeLV and I might have The FIV, but I still have plenty to offer. I am happy to sit beside you and get a good back scratch. Sometimes I’ll even let you pet me and I’ll lick the air while you do it. Therefore, I shall wear this chicken upon my head (when I feel like it) until someone, somewhere, finally sees the gem that I am.”
According to Tree House’s Marketing and Community Relations Manager Alana Grelyak, Tree House has helped Leonardo through obesity and an itchy skin condition caused by the obesity. The humane society has also cared for his Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). “Just a few years ago, a cat like Leonardo would have been euthanized upon entry into a shelter,” Grelyak said, “but Tree House Humane Society is one of the few organizations nationwide that supports and promotes the adoption of FeLV-positive cats, an illness that we feel is manageable, even if it is not presently curable.” FeLV can cause a shortened life span in the cats who have it, which is why Tree House wants to make sure that Leonardo spends the rest of his years not at a shelter but in a loving home.
It’s also why Leonardo decided to take matters into his own hands. “Leonardo is determined to find a home,” said Shelter Shift Leader Ricky Peacock. “We thought maybe he would make himself more visible to adopters by purring or meowing a little louder. Instead, he managed to find a chicken hat, so we’re letting him express himself.”
In addition to wearing a chicken hat, Leonardo has been consenting to interviews.
ALLISON: How did you end up at Tree House?
LEONARDO: I don’t like the term ‘end up.’ It’s not my end. It’s my temporary pasture of floors while I wait for the right home. But to answer your question, I was transferred here from another rescue organization who wasn’t able to set me up because of my FeLV+ status.
ALLISON: What do you most like to do?
LEONARDO: Eat. Definitely eat. Also, I like to sit on floors. When you put my food on the floor, I am complete.
ALLISON: What kind of mischief have you gotten into?
LEONARDO: None. I’m angelic. Can’t you see that in my face?
ALLISON: Is there anything you don’t like?
LEONARDO: The chicken hat.
ALLISON: Who is your closest friend at Tree House?
LEONARDO: Well, I liked Ginger, but she got adopted. Also, I like this guy Ricky. He feeds me and I appreciate his support in my quiet protest. So I guess the answer would be Ricky.
ALLISON: I understand you have FeLV? How does Tree House help you with this?
LEONARDO: They don’t really. There’s nothing to do for it other than monitor my health. It doesn’t require any treatment. Although, I suppose they DID give me a safe place to live, and for an FeLV cat, that’s pretty rare.
ALLISON: Any special requirements of your forever home?
LEONARDO: Floors and food.
ALLISON: Describe your dream home.
LEONARDO: Does it have floors and food? Then I’m good. Also, I’d prefer someone who likes to know I’m there, give me scratches when I wish, but not be overly touchy with me. I like my me time.
ALLISON: When you meet your forever family, what’s the first thing you plan to do?
LEONARDO: Sit on the floor, eat, and thank them profusely with my eyes.
Tree House’s Marketing and Community Relations Manager Alana Grelyak first brought Leonardo to my attention. Grelyak has been been a volunteer and supporter of Tree House since 2005. She’s worked on various events with them, partnered with them through her web series (CATastrophes), and helped as much as possible both financially and physically over the last decade and a half. Now she takes photos of cats at Tree House and finds creative ways to market them. “When I found out a position was available that matched my skill set,” Grelyak said, “I did my best to make sure I got it. I love it here, and feel lucky every day that I get to do what I do.”
Leonardo caught the eye of Grelyak due to what she views as too long of a stay at the humane society. “Being that he has FeLV and FIV, he’s going to potentially (and I say “potentially” and not “certainly”) live a shortened life span,” said Grelyak. “He’s cool, he’s cute, he’s a staff favorite, but he’s hard to place. I want to see him get into a good home.”
For anyone who is interested, Leonardo would do well in quiet home with a patient adopter, cozy napping spots, and plenty of scrumptious wet food!. There is no current treatment for Leonardo’s illnesses, and so he will require regular veterinary care after adoption to maintain his current levels of health. Leonardo enjoys watching the world go by and sitting next to his human companions. He would also really like to take the chicken hat off.
P: And the asterisk? There’s an asterisk in your press release that says, “for limited amounts of time and only at his own discretion.”
L: I can’t just wear the hat all the time. That would be ridiculous.
P: Isn’t that the point of a protest, tho?
P: … Never mind. Anyway folks, Leonardo is still searching. Find him in Colony 10 at Tree House Humane Society in Chicago. They’re doing great, cutting edge things for FeLV-positive cat.
If you would like more information about or to arrange an interview with Leonardo Pescatore, please call Alana Grelyak at 773-262-4000 ext. 118 or email her at agrelyakATtreehouseanimalsDOTorg.