Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Shy cats need love, too: How to see past shelter fear (and why)

Popoki is a former shelter cat
Popoki has been a formal member of this family for just a few days, and she's already been in this blog many times. I can't resist photographing her pretty face and gorgeous eyes, and it continues to amaze me that a pretty and purebred cat like her ended up in a shelter situation. I am determined to point out that really gorgeous cats end up in shelters all across the country. If I can influence even one person to choose a shelter cat over a purebred kitten, I will have done my job.

But, I'm not telling the full story of Popoki. And today, I thought I might explain just why this beautiful girl needed to be rescued from the shelter.

You see, even though Popoki is gorgeous, she didn't show well in the shelter. In fact, this is what she looked like when I met her.

Popoki the shelter cat hiding in her kennel

See how she's wedged in the back corner? She's even trying to cover up with the kennel covering, so she'll be harder to see.

Popoki was an incredibly shy, very withdrawn, very stressed kitty in the shelter. And there are a lot of cats just like this that don't put their sales techniques to the test when they hit the shelter floor. They cower and they hide and they tremble. And when they get home, they do this.

Popoki is so shy she hides in the closet

Yup, she's hiding in the closet. And when I took her in for her formal adoption, she looked like this.

Popoki the shy cat hiding in her kennel

She's terrified.

Shy cats like this have a very hard time winning over adopters in the shelter. And if they do get chosen, they often get returned to the shelter, because they don't come out of their shells very easily. They hide and they lurk and they resist attention. They just don't know how to integrate into a family.

Adopting a cat like this involves patience. These cats can't be forced to interact with their new families. They need to make the choice to do so, and families need to make the choice to interact very pleasant. I've managed to turn the corner with Popoki this week by using string cheese, a grooming brush and a laser toy. The combination of food, play and physical affection has allowed her to open up just a little bit, so the amount of time she spends hiding in the closet is going down every day. Her life is already getting better.

But there are many other cats out there just like her that need the same treatment. Cats like this guy: BJ.

Shy adoptable black cat

This pretty all-black cat is in the same shelter that housed Popoki. And he is also very shy. He tends to hide in the back of his kennel, and he isn't always receptive to petting sessions from people he hasn't met before. He lurks and lingers and needs time to check things out. But once he knows his people, he is one of the most affectionate and loving cats out there.

BJ is almost 12 years old, and right now, he comes with a waived adoption fee. He comes with about $100 in medical care already done (including a microchip and vaccines), and a family can take him home for free. I just hope someone sees past his shyness and chooses him, and then doubles down on that choice with a slow home introduction.

If Popoki deserves that, doesn't everyone?

Making that happen means walking slowly through the shelter. If you can, try to seek out the cats in the back of their cages. Look for the lurkers. If you spot them, take your introductions slowly. Let the cat do some sniffing, and then let the cat decide to come forward for affection. If that happens, take the cat to a private visitation room for a more focused introduction, away from the noise of the shelter floor. And then imagine what this cat just might be like, with your help and patience. It might take a little imagination, but you could be saving a life.

Why not give it a try?

To see more adoptable pets, check out the other posts in this Blog Paws hop!

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