Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Origin story: Why I believe in shy cat rescue

This pretty green-eyed girl isn't shy
If we sit down together for coffee, especially on Thursday, I'm likely to try to convince you to network a shy cat for me. I might share a few photos, send you a few links to videos or ask you to go to the page and read up on a specific cat's story. I consider myself part of a shy cat SWAT team. And I'm always looking for new members.

And a lot of people are confused about that. It's especially true of people who know me quite well. They tend to think of me as a dog person, and the vast majority of my cats (Popoki aside) are pretty bold.

So where does the shy thing come from?

It's my origin story, I suppose. And I thought I might share it with you.

When I was heading into 3rd grade, we moved from a neighborhood that I knew and loved into a much smaller neighborhood some 60 miles away. I really didn't want to move at all, but since I was a kid, I didn't have a lot of say in the matter. And, to make things a little worse, our new house wasn't quite ready for little kids on the day we had to vacate the old house for the new owners. The solution involved staying with my grandmother for a week or two.

So I was a little lost between two neighborhoods and two houses and two families.

I spent a lot of time those first few days on my grandmother's back porch, peering at a tortie cat that looks a lot like this cat at the top of the blog post. (Her name is Summer, and she was adopted. Yay!)

This tortie cat I spied crept along underneath the bushes, hoping no one would notice her. Brambles and leaves and thorns clung to her little furry body, and her eyes were very nearly closed with gunk and goo. I knew she was in trouble, but every time I tried to help, she dashed away.

The writer with her dog and her rabbit
Portrait of the author as a young geek.
I can't really blame her, as I really didn't have any cat skills. I probably moved too quickly or spoke too loudly or was just too much in general for her to handle. I had grown up with dogs and rabbits, not cats, so I didn't have any finesse. I really didn't know what I was doing.

But I had a lot of time on my hands. And I had a co-conspirator in my grandmother. We cooked up bacon, drizzled butter on kibble, threw bits of tuna fish and otherwise tried to win this cat over with food. We worked on her every day, and when our house was ready and I moved home, I came back on the weekends to do more work.

It wasn't easy. But we did win her over, and we named her Momma. When we were finally able to get her into a veterinarian's office for an exam, we discovered that she was underweight, filled with worms and tangled with mats. She had also been through some sort of head beating, as her jaw had been broken and healed at the wrong angle.

Clearly, she had reason to be shy.

Momma lived with my grandmother for another 10+ years. She drooled when she ate, startled when anyone moved too quickly and hid during fireworks and thunderstorms. She never really adjusted to an indoor-only life, and spent at least part of every day outside. And she really only let me and my grandmother pet her.

But we rescued her. And we loved her. It can happen.

When I walk into the shelter on Wednesdays, I often see shy and worried cats. They're the ones plastered in the back of their kennels, just hoping you'll ignore them. It's easy to do just that.
This shy cat is too worried to be photographed
But then I think about that Momma cat. What if we had ignored her? What if we didn't spend hours and hours with bacon grease and butter dripping from our fingers, just trying to gain her trust? She may have endured yet more abuse, and we wouldn't have known her and loved her. We would have missed out on our special bond. Everyone would lose here.

That's what keeps me going--the memory of this Momma cat's transformation. If I can make it happen for even one more cat, all of the work and hectoring and networking will be worthwhile.

Special thanks to The Daily Pip for this blog post, which inspired me to write today. If you haven't visited this site and read through the series about "The Specials," I encourage you to do so.

And if you have your own origin story, share it! Every voice added to the conversation has the potential to help rescue pets. Let's hear it!

And I'm adding this blog to the always awesome Pet Parade blog hop! Be sure to visit some of the other awesome sites hooked up this week!


  1. Well, first thanks for the shout out! I loved your origin story and I love shy cats, too.

    When I was in my twenties, I rescued a semi-feral alley cat and her seven kittens. Everyone told me that they would never come around, but they did. We socialized Daisy's kittens and they all found homes and we kept Daisy and over the years, she transformed into a sweet, almost lap cat.

    So, glad you found Momma and helped her learn to trust people and enjoy life with your grandmother.

  2. This is a wonderful story. So glad you helped Momma and well done for helping animals :)

    Purrs xx
    Athena and Marie