The Woman Who Refused to Give up on an Angry Cat: Sarah’s Story

Angry tabby Cat

While I was perusing my favorite cat message board a few months ago, I ran across a touching story by a woman whom I will call Sarah. She was at her wits’ end about her 13 year-old brown tabby’s extremely aggressive behavior. She was on the verge of returning the cat to the no-kill shelter from which she had been adopted.

When she first set eyes on the cat at the shelter she fell in love. Her gentle, sweet disposition and big brown eyes cast a spell on her heart. The kitty spent a lot of time hanging out in the reception room, welcoming visitors and playing peacefully with the other shelter cats.

Sarah had been longing to get a new kitty for a while. Although she adores kittens, at the same time she also believed that it was important to give senior cats a chance to have a permanent loving home. These are the cats that are often passed over due to their age and possible medical issues. But when she met and fell in love with “Lovely”, she immediately filled out adoption papers.

When Sarah brought the cat home, at first things seemed to be going extremely well. She had “catified” her home, providing Lovely with an electric water fountain, high quality nutritious cat food, a double decker condo, interactive toys, a scratching post, a cat tree, a window perch; and she also placed Feliway diffusers strategically around her apartment to help keep the kitty calm. So you can only imagine her shock and dismay when just a few weeks later, Lovely suddenly turned into a “demon”.

Unfortunately, several weeks after she was adopted, she was badly frightened by a man who was delivering packages to Sarah. When the “stranger” entered the apartment, Lovely became terrified and freaked out. In her attempt to escape the room to hide under a bed, she accidentally caught a claw in the carpet causing one of her nails to snap off.

Since Lovely was obviously in excruciating pain Sarah immediately rushed her to the vet. But all the vet could do was to give the cat antibiotics and a few day’s worth of pain medication. There was nothing more he really could do.

Sarah figured out that somehow Lovely associated that pain with her. Possibly due to her extreme fright and discomfort she would lash out at her viciously; growling, hissing, and even trying to bite her. And no matter how Sarah tried to comfort her, when she was calm and apparently content, with no warning, Lovely would turn on her with a vengeance.

Sarah knew very little about Lovely’s background. The shelter staff told her that Lovely only had one home with a man who adored her. But when he became gravely ill, he was no longer able to care of her. His family was unwilling to take her so she ended up at the no-kill shelter.

Sarah tried everything she knew how to regain the cat’s confidence. She went to the ends of the earth to keep her… but the aggressive attacks were becoming dangerous, so she thought it best to return her to the shelter.

Then one evening the miracle occurred. Lovely started giving Sarah slow eye blinks; the equivalent of kitty kisses, demonstrating trust. This was a HUGE step forward. It certainly gave Sarah a great deal of trust. But when Sarah was getting ready for work every morning, Lovely would start becoming wary and aggressive. It finally dawned on us all that Lovely might be fearful that she might once again be abandoned by someone she loved.

Sarah began turning on music for Lovely before she left for work. When she returned she would play with her interactively, and then feed her. Slowly but steadily Lovely began to demonstrate increasing trust, and started sitting on her lap. Sarah’s patience is paying off in spades and all thoughts of returning Lovely to the shelter have faded away.

Thank goodness for Lovely Sarah was ambivalent. Instead of returning Lovely to the shelter, her willingness to take support, to be open to suggestions, Lovely now is assured a permanent home. And even though Lovely still has occasional relapses and angry outbursts, Sarah fully understands that her kitty’s rehabilitation will be a lengthy process. Sarah can wait, she isn’t going anywhere.

I love touching turn-around stories, don’t you? Share your thoughts in a comment.

Jo

Photo credit – Flickr User: The.Rohit (please note: the cat illustrating this article isn’t Lovely)

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The Woman Who Refused to Give up on an Angry Cat: Sarah’s Story — 21 Comments

  1. jo thats just so amazing such a lovely story of persistence and it paying off. So pleased she chose an senior cat too. As theres usually a reason why they go angry can be a number of things. Often its a very subtle thing thats upset them.

  2. I wonder whether Lovely all of a sudden associated the place with a bad experience that she had had with a person in the past, when the stranger entered the lady’s home.

    It is hard to know sometimes how a cat forms an association between unpleasantness and a certain experience. It may have been the case that the previous owner was not quite as loving as has been made out. That is highly speculative. Or it may been the case that the previous owner had friends who visited his home and when they did so Lovely had a bad experience so when the stranger visited this lady’s home that bad earlier experience was remembered.

    I do think cats harbour bad experiences because they are highly sensitive creatures and they are very defensive creatures by nature.

  3. God bless Sarah for working with Lovely. . .just like people, kitties (and all anipals) need “security” as well. . .<3 <3

  4. Much admiration for Sarah for not giving up on Lovely.
    Obviously the man delivering packages stirred up some trauma from the past, cats never forget, their hurts lie dormant, but just like us, if a reminder comes along it brings it all back.

  5. I just want to say how impressed I am with Sarah for persisting. Her persistence is as good as that of a cat and we know how persistent cats can be. There are rewards, though, for people who go the extra mile when looking after a difficult cat adopted from a rescue centre. I believe that it creates a stronger bond if things work out but I believe it always will work out if the caretaker provides tons of loving care combined with educated caretaking.

  6. Michael, I totally agree. Sarah IS getting the rewards already- I truly wish that everyone who has a “problem” kitty would be as patient, compassionate and willing to go the distance to rehabilitate a very frightened and confused kitty. This cat’s aggression was purely fear-based! And one day in the near future- this cat will feel totally secure- and be the sweet cat that drew her to Sarah. It was a joy to write this article.

  7. Good story. So glad she had the dedication and determination to keep working with Lovely. I believe Sarah is going to be rewarded with having a very loyal and loving companion.

  8. Sarah is to be commended for her patience. Like it has been stated previously she may have been abused in the past. Also I am assuming the Sarah and Lovely live alone with just the two of them. Putting those two things together is enough to scare Lovely. Tearing her claw out in panic to get away just tripled her fear. Bravo Sarah for showing what patience will do! I know you both will have a wonderful life together.

  9. Sarah is to be admired.

    Lovely’s nail being ripped off when snagged may have played a big part in some of her behavior, especially if Sarah attempted to help her get free.

    Some of the most vicious cat bites I’ve gotten happened when I was trying to help free a cat from something. It seems like they displace the source of their pain to the person trying to help. It really messes with the issue of trust and has to be rebuilt.

      • Yes, I know those articles.
        It’s so difficult to deal with, because it so messes with the trust in the cat’s mind. They think we’re the culprit.

    • I think what I’m trying to convey is that Lovely was a sweet, gentle cat until she was frightened by a stranger, experienced an injury that she probably felt was caused by Sarah (assuming that she came to the rescue), and lost trust.
      I don’t think it had anything to do with any past traumas at all.
      This is why Sarah’s patience and kindness is helping Lovely renew trust in her.

  10. A wonderful story, Jo — thanks for sharing it with us, as it is so inspirational and positive and illustrates how every adopter SHOULD be — patient, kind, loving, and faithful. Adoption should be a lifetime commitment ‘through thick and thin, in sickness and in health’ so to speak. Sarah seems to have either listened and watched Jackson Galaxy closely, or intuitively known what he teaches, namely, the above-listed traits. Family is for LIFE, after all — people wouldn’t kick a kid out if it threw temper tantrums, would they? and a cat is so much more innocent, blameless and vulnerable. Good on Sarah! and may she and Lovely live a long, happy life together.

  11. What a beautiful story. It is so nice that Sarah recognized Lovely’s true disposition and gave her the chance to prove her devotion. Love stories like this one.

  12. It takes a lot of patience and love to turn bad things around with a cat. This woman shows the love she has for Lovely and cats in general.
    We have worked for several years with a cat here. Midnight was happy in her home until the man tha had her ended up in jail. We rescued her and my son took her. My son’s wife hated the cat and abused her. Midnight had no problem biting and scratching and being miserable. When my son could no longer care for her, Midnight came here. She was once again uprooted and upset. It has taken several years but now Midnight loves nothing more than to lay on my lap or the arm of the chair and purr her heart out to me. No more biting or scratching. She is at home forever with us and she knows it. Thank goodness for people like Sarah.

  13. Would that all pet parents were as patient and willing to care for their animals as Sarah. Thank you for such an inspiring article.

  14. An FANTASTIC update about Lovely and Sarah.

    I just got an email from Sarah. She was able to trim Lovely’s nails this evening. She only could do one paw before Lovely became quite anxious and started growling and hissing at her- so she let her jump off her lap and go hide in her condo.

    Five minutes later she cut a piece of roast chicken for Lovely, and the kitty came running out and had a feast. She rubbed against her legs and purred her heart out.

    She will do the other paw next week. This is truly amazing… I am so thrilled and had to share it.

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