Thursday, April 16, 2015

"My friendly shelter cat isn't so very friendly anymore."

Troy the cat sitting on the couch

If you run a search for the phrase "My friendly shelter cat isn't so friendly anymore," you'll come up with dozens of complaints from people who brought home rescue cats that had serious personality changes when they came home. Months ago, I would have put the blame squarely on the new owners, assuming that these people had made some sort of mistake in introductions that made the cat mistrust the new home. But now, a lot has changed.

Troy changed all of that.

As long-time readers of the blog know, I volunteer at my local humane society. I do a little kennel cleaning, and I keep up a cat-related blog. (You can check it out here. Anything I've done has my name attached to it.) I first met Troy at the shelter, several months ago, and here's what I had to say about him.

You'll notice that I spent a lot of time talking about how very, very affectionate Troy was in the shelter. At at the time, that was totally true. This guy had a reputation at the shelter for being a complete love-bug. He was always hugging people he met, swarming all over them for affection. I thought he should go into a home in which he'd be doted upon.

But at home, Troy is totally different.

At first, he did leap up and into the arms of anyone who came to visit. But slowly, he seemed to grow distant. Instead of leaping into my arms, he'd just butt up against my hands. Instead of chirping a greeting every single time he saw me, he would chirp only in the mornings, when he hadn't seen me all night. Rather than rubbing his face all over me while I was trying to work, he'd sit quietly on my desk and just watch. 

Troy the cat sitting with his people on the couch

I'll admit it: I was a little hurt. What did I do wrong? Why didn't he love me as much as he once did?

But here's the thing: These personality changes are actually great healing signs.

Shelter cats can become so stressed and so isolated that they look for ways to binge on affection. Just as they'll eat every single scrap of food you put down, because they don't know when they'll get more, they'll hog up your affection like crazy when you're willing to give it, because they know you'll be leaving them soon.

At some point after coming home, they realize that you'll always be there to love them. They don't need to binge on that affection, because they're secure in the fact that you'll always give them just what they need.

So now, Troy is a mellow guy. He sits on the back of the couch like this in the evenings, hopping up for pets when he feels lonely, and he spends most of the day just supervising me as I work without interrupting me for attention.

And that means I'm doing everything right. This guy knows that he is in a forever home.

Anyone else have a rescue story to share? I'd love to hear it in the comments section.

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