Not all the fosters we get are kittens. Sometimes adult cats don’t adapt well to the shelter environment. Think of all the cats you’ve known. Some are shy, some will come right up to you the first time they meet you. Well, in the shelter, the shy cats often either “shut down” (huddle in the corner) or they can exhibit odd behavior, like wanting to be petted because they’re lonely, but then biting because you’re a stranger.
Paige was dropped off by her owners at the shelter. She is a five year old spayed Ragdoll, lilac point. She had never known any other family. She desperately needed a dental cleaning, and having sore gums made her somewhat grumpy.
Imagine yourself in the same situation. You are happy, all is going well, no signs of anything changing… and within a matter of hours you are in a small cage. Everything smells odd and you can hear people screaming and crying all around you, but you can’t see them. You look for your family but they are nowhere to be found. A stranger opens your cage door and wants to touch you. What is your reaction? Most humans would shy back or even slap away the hand. We seem to expect ALL cats to want to be petted ALL the time, even in stressful situations.
Paige is such a sweetie that she would purr and want to be petted, but she also wanted her family back. So if you petted her she would purr a little but then hiss at you. That kind of behavior was not going to get her adopted, and she needed a dental cleaning, so she was sent into foster care with us.
The first day in the foster room, she had such sad eyes. She spent most of her time watching the door for her family. Occasionally she would come toward us and strop against us. She wanted attention so badly, but we were strangers. She snuggled beside me on the bed but after I stroked her a little she hissed and got up and left. She never bit or clawed us. She has incredibly good manners, but she wasn’t going to just throw herself at anyone she saw. She had too much self respect for that. I mean, what did we think she was, a DOG?
After a few days of visiting her in the bedroom, we let her out into the basement. She explored and would come to us and accept a bit of attention. I even picked her up, not an easy task since she weighs 15 pounds!
That’s when I realized that she really was mostly Ragdoll. When they are picked up, they don’t show the normal signs cats do of not wanting to be picked up. They just go limp. I’m not even sure they know what goes on during that time. So from her point of view, she was purring while standing on the floor. Suddenly she was purring, but on my lap. Then after a few seconds she realized where she was. She looked at me with wide eyes. I made sure to not restrain her. Then she gave a distressed “MEOW!” and jumped back to the floor. Point taken… although it’s handy for putting her in the carrier, picking her up makes her lose her ability to object.
Paige had her dental cleaning and we could tell she felt better afterwards. Two of her molars were completely encased in tartar, and her gums were very red. After the cleaning, Paige hasn’t hissed at us once and seems willing to accept almost any amount of belly rubs and attention.
We had company stay in the basement on the weekend. Paige was very happy and social and politely spent time with each visitor.
One of the visitors fell in love with her and will be adopting her.
There are a few things to learn from this experience.
If you need to rehome a pet, especially one who is shy with strangers, please try to find them another home yourself before dropping them at the shelter. Your pet is worth spending a few advertising dollars on, and a shy cat will show off far better at your home than in the shelter.
The Saskatoon SPCA is far from being a “death trap” for animals. The staff are caring people who are there because they love animals. They want to give every animal every chance they can. The Second Chance Fund (contributed to in large part by the SPCA Auxiliary) paid for Paige’s dental cleaning. That said, resources are always limited and so the more support you give, the more animals they can save!
A big thank you to the SPCA Auxiliary and to the Saskatoon SPCA for saving Paige’s life! She is such a sweet cat and now she can move on to a new home full of love.