When the Fabulous Furry Friends Animal Shelter opened its doors Monday morning to kick off its "AR-15s for 15-Year-Old Cats" trade-in program, a line had already stretched around the block.
Molly Coriander, executive director of FFFAS, said her organization found homes for 13 elderly cats as of noon and she expected at least another dozen would find owners by the end of the day.
"We've been very impressed with the turnout," Coriander said. "It's true that a majority of the people who've shown up today were required to trade in their guns for cats as part of court-ordered anger management, but it's working out great for these kitties."
She said that older cats are difficult to adopt because most people come to the shelter looking for kittens. In many cases, senior cats never even make it to adoption listings and are often euthanized to make room for their more desirable, younger counterparts.
Sonia Barenkrieger, director of county probation, said the pilot program represents a nascent effort to give angry men a healthy outlet to address their rage. Surrendering firearms is often a part of probation, Barenkrieger said, and the program allows those losing weapons to gain something in return.
Cats seem to have a pleasant effect on angry people, she added.
"Cats exude a certain aloof jerkiness that is disarming to people with anger problems," she said. "We see it as a win-win. Angry men learn to love something, and old kitties get homes."
Sean Mortimer stood at a table inside the shelter and handed over his Killmaster Arms SR-15x carbine and received a 15-year-old marble tabby named Mr. Cuddles.
"This is ridiculous," Mortimer said while cradling Mr. Cuddles, who bore an impassive expression and meowed at a surprisingly low register. "Not only are they infringing on my god-given Second Amendment rights, I feel absolutely ridiculous right now."
Mortimer recently pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage to a mailbox, which he said he kicked repeatedly because an iPhone charger he bought online hadn't arrived in the two days guaranteed by Amazon Prime.
"I mean, I really needed the charger," he said, anger rising in his voice. "It just makes me so mad. This cat is so soft."
Mortimer paused for nearly 10 seconds. He stroked Mr. Cuddles. The old cat began to purr and drool. Mortimer suddenly broke into loud sustained sobbing and was nearly incomprehensible for about 45 seconds.
"I'm sorry," he finally said. "I don't know why I'm so angry all of the time. Life can just get really frustrating sometimes, you know? It's exhausting always being so wound up. I'm sorry."
He held Mr. Cuddles closer and walked toward the door. The sense of relief was palpable among the volunteers at the shelter.
"Oh my god, I love this kitty so much," he continued outside. "What's his name? Mr. Cuddles? Oh my god, that's so adorable."