These are some of my personal success stories.
I have been a cat foster for three years and have had over 35 cats in that time. Most of these cats were amazing and had no problems what so ever, but a few came with their own stories and experiences that we had to work through together. From feral-ish kittens to morbidly obese elderly cats, I have seen it all. Read through to hear about some of my past clients.
I take inspiration, especially in my earliest cases from people who do great work in the field such as Jackson Galaxy (aka Cat Daddy, My Cat from Hell), Hannah Shaw (Kitten Lady, Orphan Kitten Club, and Dr. Sophia Yin (animal trainer and activist, taught low stress and fear free handling). As I have grown I have created my own techniques and view points but still refer back to these wonderful people from time-to-time.
Cheeto and Batman
Cheeto and Batman were the first fosters I worked with. They were born under an elderly woman’s porch and were the only ones who liked coming inside the house. They had feral tendencies but we’re deemed tame-able. The homeowner was on oxygen and the kittens would chew on her tubes! She couldn’t move around or yell at them so she would throw books at them to get them to stop. This made them scared of humans and they were becoming more feral as time went on.
When they got to me they were very scared and wouldn’t let me touch them. I observed them and learned Cheeto loves food and Batman loves to hunt. I used those to my advantage. Cheeto was hand fed for weeks and Batman got hours of play time a day. Within a week I could pick Cheeto up! Batman was willing to eat from a bowl next to me but it took about a month until I could confidently handle him. Every cat is different and there are no quick fixes. It took two months before they were completely tamed and ready for adoption. They weren’t adopted quickly since they were 6 months and came from an undesirable background. Eventually they were adopted by a young couple as their first pets. They have been there for two years now and have never had any bad behavior.
I am so proud of these sweet boys and how far they have come. I am blessed to have been able to meet them and help them on their journey to a forever home. This is a great example of using low-stress and fear-free handling. At no point in their socialization did they feel fear. If they communicated through body language that they were overly scared or stressed my training session would end and I would leave them alone.
Mavis was a very special young lady. She came to us after being hit by a car. Her hip joint had to be completely taken out and scar tissue replaced it. She had months of physical therapy but as soon as she was able to walk on her own she was ready to go to a home and explore new spaces. I already had a rambunctious kitten around her age at home. We had a good introduction period before I realized Mavis was a lot weaker and couldn’t play like she wanted to. With continuing physical therapy and teaching the other kitty to be gentle we came to a place of relative harmony. I got a lot of help from resources that focus on special needs animals such as Kitten Lady (Hannah Shaw) and increasing Mavis’ confidence was all about “Catification”(a term coined by Jackson Galaxy) and high-quality play. Mavis worked very hard on being a confident player and as soon as she did, she was on equal footing with anyone else. She would let others know when they were too rough and would make sure they knew she would not tolerate being bullied any longer. She and her foster sister ended up adoring each other and were never apart for a second. They got adopted together by a family who had a dog that had had the same surgery as Mavis. They were familiar with monitoring for signs of discomfort and we’re a great fit for the special girl.
Once a cat gains confidence they will stop being complacent in other cats bad behavior and start moving up the food chain. Sometimes the best we can hope for is neutrality but in this case it ended in a wonderful friendship that will last them a life time.
Norm was one of the few cats that I almost adopted. He was a community cat but not feral. Community cats are simply cats that live outside, feral cats are wild cats that do not welcome human contact. Norm was definitely raised by a couple feral cats though. He was very scared and wanted to hide all the time. I used the same technique I used with Cheeto and Batman to lure him out of his shell. I used my experience in low-stress and fear-free techniques to take things at his own pace. Norm liked being petted and cuddled, so that was what I used to get him out from hiding. I confined him to an area that had no areas that I could not reach in, there were hiding places but they were more cocoons and not places like under a bed or couch. I never needed to reach into one of his hidey holes since I wanted him to feel safe there but it is important to have that option. I would sit in his room and watch some shows on my laptop until he came and sniffed me. That was enough for a couple days but then I started gently petting him and he loved it. He wasn’t much for food or play but cuddling was the most amazing thing to him. After about a week of building trust he was slowly introduced to the rest of the house. First the hallway, then the kitchen and so on and so forth. Once he had the whole house to explore he continued to pick me as the place to sleep and hang out on.
The next thing we worked on was playing. In the beginning he was terrified of toys. He would puff up, arch his back, and skitter sideways to get away without turning his back on this terrifying intruder. We worked with less scary things like lasers and small balls that made no sound and worked our way up from there to playing with small fishing pole toys with one lonely feather that flew in the air. He was never big on playing but he was a kitten so we had to get that kitten energy out in a productive way. Every cat likes to play differently and Norm mostly liked things he could control. He almost got the hang of playing fetch by the time he was adopted. He liked that the toy was moving away from him and then didn’t move until he moved it.
My Cat from Hell
Orphan Kitten Club
Dr. Sophia Yin