This past week I had to see off my favourite foster cat thus far as she went to her forever home—a happy moment, of course, but I still can’t help but feel sad that she’s gone. I really grew to love Minnie since we began fostering her at the end of February; from then until just recently, we didn’t hear from anyone interested in adopting her. She was overlooked, just the same as she was for the month that she spent at the shelter before we took her in.
When placed in the cattery, loose with some fifty or so other cats, Minnie hid. She only has three legs, so Minnie can’t jump very high. She found a nook under the sink where other cats didn’t bother her and where caretakers always left her special bowls of food and water – it was a good hiding spot, but not a good spot for a cat looking to be adopted. People who come to adopt a cat will be drawn to the cats that approach them, that follow them around the room or jump into their lap the moment that they sit down. Minnie wasn’t going to do that, yet by no means is she an unfriendly cat. Once we brought her back to our home, Minnie became a lovable lap cat who stole all of the attention from her big brother!
One of my cats had a similar shelter experience: It was the summer of 2007 when Kasimir caught my attention. Not too surprising that I noticed him right away, as it was probably the first time that I had ever seen a Persian-looking cat outside of cat shows. He was way up on the highest shelf in the cat room, sitting in a corner and looking very out-of-place. Because of his scaredy cat mannerisms, this easy-to-adopt cat (Persian? Declawed? Younger than five? Check, check, check!) was completely overlooked, likely discarded as the “nervous type”.
Now, it doesn’t take long knowing me at the shelter to realize that cats with attitudes like Kasimir’s are the cats that I insist on befriending, whether they like it or not (thankfully most of them do like it…even if takes a while). I set to work on making Kasimir my friend right away. I drummed my fingers on the shelf below the one Kasimir was perched on, which persuaded him to jump down. He wasn’t a fan of being picked up, but loved to have his neck scratched. I noticed little knots forming behind his ears, so I’d always make a point of getting them out; grooming tends to lower on a cat’s priority list when they’re left at a shelter. He was so persistent about staying in his hiding spot that employees didn’t get a collar on him until a few weeks later, at which point we learned his name. Further digging into his story showed that, at three years of age, he was dumped off due to allergies. Well, no wonder he was nervous! Three years in a cozy home and then, suddenly, a strange environment with stranger cats and humans… I think the cats that treat such a change as normal are the weird ones!
This November it will be four years since we adopted Kasimir. He’s still awful at grooming himself, but his confidence has multiplied tenfold (at least!). Minnie may still be a little wary in her new home, although I’ve already heard from her new family and she’s apparently napped with them and given loving headbutts. A cry for help posted on behalf of a terrified cat named Charbotte led to him finding a forever home, and the family has been posting updates on Facebook about how he is coming out of his shell and showing them his real, amazing nature.
So if you ever look to adopt or foster a cat from a shelter with a cattery, don’t forget to stop and pat those cats in hard-to-reach places and ask why they are there. You may be surprised to learn that the cat who flinches like a wild cat when you move to pat him has “affectionate” enthusiastically checked off on his entry form, but is just too frightened to show his true character. Give these cats a chance—not many people will.