Meet 8-week-old Fork, a wiry black kitten taking shelter among the 105 cats at the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Yet Fork wasn't crying the blues over this week. He plugged his furry face against the steel cage door in anticipation of a visitor's attention, and flexed his pads.
Each of the 172 animals, including 56 dogs, at the Stock Island shelter gets the dignity of a first name during the waiting game of adoption.
Fork is short for forklift, which wounded the little guy and left him recovering from surgery at the local SPCA.
Throughout June, Fork and his feline colleagues are available for free, as the shelter attempts to unload some of its cat population. A private donor has made it possible for the nonprofit to waive adoption fees, which run from $15 to $40.
"Free means free," said Tammy Fox, who returned to Key West earlier this year to take the executive director's spot at the SPCA, 5230 College Road. "If someone is considering adopting a cat, now is the time to do it."
Prospective adoptive cat parents must fill out the shelter's mandatory application first.
The free cat adoption special isn't veiling any death threats. The cats and the shelter's other animals don't have a time limit on how long they can live there, said Fox.
"We do not euthanize for space," said Fox, who ran the shelter from 2005-2009 before moving to Pennsylvania to be closer to her family. "As long as they are healthy and happy and thriving, they stay here for as long as it takes."
The shelter only puts down dogs and cats that are aggressive or terminally ill, she said.
An adult cat named Stacy has been at the shelter for three years, while another cat, Marietta, is a four-year resident.
All cats and kittens come installed with microchips that help locate missing pets, vaccinations and tests for feline leukemia and immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
The shelter spays or neuters all of its charges, and offers a few extra resources for new owners.
"We will throw in a bag of food; they're litter-trained," said Fox, whose husband, Matt Royer, is the shelter's director of operations. "Cats just want to hang out and be petted."
June is national Adopt-A-Cat Month, decreed by the American Humane Society, given the fact that each spring ushers in thousands of newborn kittens.
Key West has an undeniable crush on the feline form.
About 40 of the six-toed polydactyl cats get to call Ernest Hemingway's old place home, even surviving, so far, the federal government's legal scrutiny over their freedom to laze about the museum.
And neighborhoods, like it or not, help feral cats survive life on the streets as the stray cat numbers in Key West seem to rival those of roosters.
Any mariner worth his saltwater knows that cats have long been considered a living good luck charm on boats -- likely for their history of devouring stowaway mice.
At the Keys SPCA, which since 1999 has served Monroe County from Key West to Mile Marker 16.7, cats are treated to spacious "colony" homes where they can choose to go outdoors onto enclosed porches -- unless they are recuperating like little Fork, or feral, like a trio of tabby kittens curled up with their mother.
"They get to be cats in here as opposed to a cage environment," said Fox, as she gave a tour of the colony rooms where cats ready for adoption chilled out on a recent humid day.
All except Cookie, a black-and-white number who wore an innocent expression in a cage of her own due to her only-child temperament.
"She doesn't like other cats," Fox said. "She got voted off the island."
Kitty Garvey, a 12-year veteran employee at the SPCA, works with the ferals to help them socialize and shed their fears.
"I handle them a lot," said Garvey, who has been caring for cats since she was 5 years old. "I can make sounds like a cat and try to communicate with them."
The most unfair myth that keeps people from adopting?
That would be that male cats are apt to "spray" the interior of an owner's home, said Garvey, who categorically dismissed the notion that she believes unfairly keeps male cats from being adopted at the same rate as females.
On a recent afternoon, the SPCA's front office featured seven kittens all ready to leave with an adoptive parent. Jorge, a black kitten, lounged on the top floor of a makeshift cat condo, while a couple of cats dozed in size-appropriate hammocks.
Out back, four cat colony rooms were holding 44 adults also awaiting adoption, while the shelter had 31 strays and had handed out the rest to foster families.
While Fork, Jorge and the rest of the kittens wore carefree expressions, some of the older cats knew their share of hard knocks.
Abbott, who has a Siamese streak, huddled with his partner, Kittay, on a shelf inside a colony room.
A local woman surrendered Abbott and Kittay to the shelter recently, Fox said.
"Her husband had been in a car accident and she lost her home," Fox said. "We would like for them to stay together. They love each other."
The SPCA is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Call 305-294-4857 for information.