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