Two white paws reach up from off-screen to swat at Edie Riggs’ name tag as she cradles a cat in her lap: Gnocchi, the fluffy feline subject of our video chat.

“He’s such a goofball,” Riggs says, laughing at him. “He just loves anything that dangles; he has to have it.”

Gnocchi was one of 110 Maine coon-type cats rescued from a breeder in October when local authorities served a search and seizure warrant to a residence in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Our Animal Rescue Team helped the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and Chesterfield County Animal Services remove the animals after the owner had racked up more than 50 Animal Welfare Act violations since March 2023 and had their U.S. Department of Agriculture license suspended in August.

Gnocchi the main coon cat playing in a box
Edie Riggs

Despite their poor living conditions, the cats were “really, really outgoing,” says Laura Koivula, director of animal crimes and investigations for the Humane Society of the United States. “They were coming up and jumping in our laps and jumping on shoulders, playing with our boots and our pants—they were really eager for attention.”

Riggs heard about the rescue from her mother, who works for the HSUS, and adopted Gnocchi so she’d have a companion to come home to during medical school in southwest Missouri.

“The first month was an adjustment because he was pretty young and everything was an adventure for him,” says Riggs. “But when he finally stopped, like, stomping on my face at night and would actually lie down next to me on my bed and start to cuddle with me, I was like, maybe now he feels OK.”

Gnocchi quickly started discovering his favorite things, like salmon-flavored treats, birdwatching from the balcony and playfully attacking Riggs’ feet as she walks around their apartment.

“We’ve made it a kind of makeshift hide-and-seek game—he can be a little bit of a mischievous cat,” she says. “But honestly, he’s fantastic, and he’s made my experience here so much more enjoyable. He seems to be really happy.” 

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