This is an update on our foster cat Wally (aka “Wally G”, “Supper G”, and “The Cannon Ball”).  Brief recap:  this boy is from a hoarder.  He is very much of two minds of people:  part of him is wary of people and part of him loves to be pet by people.  Other cats from this site became supper affectionate but Wally remains mixed.  Other cats from this site also had good litter box habits but Wally:  mixed.

While his buddies from the site were here we kept the whole group together downstairs over night.  Wally spent a lot of time by him self but he also spent some time snuggled with his buddies.

Wally liked to sleep with his site-mates.

Wally liked to sleep with his site-mates.

Since the two ladies have been adopted we integrated Wally entirely – he how comes upstairs with our two resident cats.

Wally has presented us with some challenges.  He is wary of being touched.  I (Tom) put him in carriers several times and lost all his petting privileges.  He can get restive and somewhat noisy, particularly before meal times.  But worst of all: occasionally he pees on furniture.  There can be weeks between incidents but then he goes and does it again.  We don’t know why and are not experts on dealing with inappropriate elimination.

On the other hand he is a darling boy deserving of a good life.  I love Wally.  What a dear, beautiful cat.  He has the energy of a somewhat nerdy, awkward boy who does not know how to interact and make friends but has a good heart.  He is a happy and gentle boy who’s biggest offense is not knowing what to do.  Where he grew up he never learned not to pee on the couch, never learned to fully trust people, and somehow never learned to skillfully greet other cats.  With other cats he has two modes.  He either does an enthusiastic head-butt and body rub or cautiously shies away.  He does not seem able to distinguish another cat soliciting play vs intimidating him.


He got adopted once and returned 2 days latter.  His main offense was peeing on the bed but he also complained loudly about being shut in his “sanctuary” room.

Since that time we have not posted him for adoption.  We don’t know what to do with him.  We think he wants to live with other cats – but they have to be gentle cats.  We would like to place him as a companion animal but know it will be difficult to find adopters who will take a cat who is known to pee on furniture and have patience to socialize him.  He might do well in a shop home…

On one hand he is making great progress.  He lets us pet him more often.  He is very playful and often seems quite relaxed.  In just the past couple nights he has joined us on the bed and cuddled with our resident cat Annabelle.  He loves this and has purred louder than I have ever heard him purr.

Annabelle and Wally snuggling

Annabelle and Wally snuggling

On the other hand he is an un-repentant pee-er.  I have video of him peeing in a cat bed which he was just sleeping in.  My best understanding of this is that he never learned to pee ONLY in litter boxes.  He will use them in general but if another soft surface presents then he will use that.

We are not sure what to do with this boy.

Since we started working with cats we have fostered quite a few kittens

Maxwell was the first. Marie went to the shelter and saw this frightened, hissy kitten. With in a couple of hours at home she had him purring in her lap.

To keep Max company we then got Blanka and Sabine, two out of several kittens languishing in the shelter. Within two weeks they were adopted together.

Max was with us for about a month more, became good buddies with our adult cats, before being adopted as a companion for an energetic girl cat.

In the fall we started fostering semi-feral kittens for Alley Cat Project, starting Biscuit and Ginger:

Brother and Sister. Biscuit was adopted fairly quickly as companion for another cat. We then got another little tabby. He was so very scared when he came to us. Within a month he was totally relaxed, bonded with Ginger, and one of the friendliest cats we ever met.

The two were adopted together.

About a day latter Deb brought us three semi-feral kittens. These were from a colony that produced very social cats.

This is soon after they arrived and they are looking wary. Greyling, a girl, was adopted as a solo kitten (something I’ll never do again) and the boys went together where they were reported to like laps.

Once they left we got Odel and Winnie. These were slightly older kittens and took a long time to socialize.

They were also very special cats with exceptional personalities. Odel got adopted to a couple in Everette where he has a great life and companion cat.

We briefly fostered this solo bottle baby until he could be moved to another foster with a solo cat. He was one of the cutest kits I’ve ever seen.

Winnie stayed with us a couple more months. I was just resigning myself to his not being adopted when he went to a home in West Seattle where he goes on walks on the beach.

In June 2011 ACP trapped a feral mom with kittens who we housed in our garage:

Pumpkin had an abcess and had to get antibiotics.

Deb had another mother with 4 kittens. We took that family when she went on vacation.

And they all got integrated.

A couple other kittens came through about this time.

Saami, a beautiful lynx point, got socialize and integrated into the clan.

It took us till September to a) raise them to an adoptable age then b) find homes for all of them.

While we were fostering them we had several kittens come through our garage facility.

Georgina was one of 3 grey kittens as playful and friendly as the summer days were long. They got adopted quickly.

The Burr brothers (there were three) were a wild bunch. They went to the Seattle Animal Shelter for socialization and adoption.

Huck and his two siblings went to PAWS. Sadly, they were euthanized a week later for Panleukopenia. (No other cat we housed concurrently got sick so we don’t think it came from us. None the less, we cleaned thoroughly.)

Sara was sweet but shy. Hard to get much sense of her personality in the garage. However, it did not take her long to get adopted and word back was that she became a playful, happy kitten.

In November, soon after finding a new home for our boy Nelson, we picked up two families from the Seattle Animal Shelter who were languishing there because the mothers were reported to be feral. Together they had 4 kittens. The kittens were adopted through the shelter but we continued to foster the mothers through adoption as there were shy and would show best in a foster home. Both were only about a year old.

That closed out the 2011 kittens. In March Alley Cat Project started to see pregnant females and on March 14th one gave birth to 4 kittens before we could get her to the clinic. A week ago we took them. The mother is feral with us but very attentive to her little kittens:

So it begins again…


Baby came from FCSNP clinic with a very bad upper respratory infection.  I set him up in the basement and began to explore how much handling he would tolerate.  If he was very feral there would not be much I could do.

He liked to hide in his carrier. I found that if I disconnect the top of the carrier from the bottom I can lift the top up just enough to reach in and can often handle semi-feral cats while they are in their safe place. I start cautiously with stick, then a golved hand, then my bare hands. Baby was a little squirrley but did let me handle him. Later he got wise to my taking the carrier apart and he would hide behind it. I would just move it then reach back and pull him forward a little.

I gave him:

  • Oral antibiotics by squirting some liquid down his throat
  • Eye antibiotics by squirting some ointment into his eyes
  • Subcutaneous fluids by sticking a needle under the skin on his back and letting fluids drain into him

That was a lot of handling and he was surprisingly calm – as if he knew that it would ultimately help him. I was most impressed that he let me administer ointment to his eyes. This can’t be comfortable. With one hand I scruff him and twist his head to one side. With the other I squeeze out a bit of ointment and then lay that across his eyeball. I then turn his head the other way and do the other eye. If I miss I try to massage it in a little.  Baby allowed all that handling and more.

I was always ready to pull my hands back, especially while giving fluids.  To help cats who are not eating stay hydrated we inject saline solution just under their skin with an IV drip.  As the amount of fluid builds they must feel discomfort or just strange and they start to resist little. Often, once I had the needle out, he would swat but he never got me.

After several days I could see that he was improving.

After several more days I began to rub Baby’s cheek after treatment. Soon after that he began to respond. Each day he was a little more open. Soon he would come out of his carrier and soon he was crawling into my arms. In the end Baby turned out to be just a big Baby.


Baby was promised to a student house in Ravenna as a garage cat to hunt rodents. Since that time his status changed and he clearly wanted to live inside with people. They were happy to have him and gave him plenty of loving. Never the less I stayed in contact to be sure it was right fit. They said that Baby never showed interest in going out side or hunting anything. Ultimately one of the students adopted Baby as his own.

St Francis House

In mid February Alley Cat Project got a call from Julie looking for two “barn cats” for St Francis House.  This is a day shelter that provides people with meals, clothing, and house hold supplies.  They are open 5 days a week and full of volunteers and clients during those times.  Evenings, nights, and weekends they are empty.  The building is full of supplies.  In recent years they have had a growing mouse problem and Julie convinced the board that some resident cats were the best way to control the mice.

We immediately thought of Sammy and Maggie.  This pair came from a feral colony in Shoreline and have been with us for about 5 months.  I felt particularly responsible for them as I made the call to not return Sammy to his colony.  Making decisions about the lives of cats is the most difficult part of this work.  I want all cats to have great lives.  Often we do find very good homes but I always agonized as we wait for the right adopter to show up.  We worked with Sammy and Maggie but they never reached fully adoptable status.  Sammy remained shy.  Maggie would always come to me for pets but was more interested in socializing with our other cats than with us humans.

I took them down to St Francis House on Tuesday.  There is an upstairs room with kitchen and back office that sees little human traffic most times of the day.  They get this as their sanctuary.  Once established there they will have full run of the building and get to choose how much they interact with people.  Though empty on the weekend, during weekdays the building is full of nurturing people.  Among the staff and volunteers there are several excited to have cats coming to live in the building.  Sammy and Maggie will have a large and interesting indoor space to live in, a job to do, and time to develop relationships with the people around them.

The upstairs room with back office at the far end.

It did not take Maggie very long to peek out from the office and start exploring

While Maggie was sitting in the door a mouse ran right in front of her! In the daylight! She got very interested.

Maggie looking for the mouse

Sammy is shyer and it will take him longer to settle into his new environment but ultimately he will be the real mouser of the two.

Sammy on the pedestal

This is a follow-up on my work to socialize Sammy.  During work days I isolated him upstairs with me for about a week.  Other cats could come and go but I made Sammy stay upstairs with me.  There was a pedestal in my office with a view outside and this became a favorite perch of his.  Every morning I would sit right next to this for over an hour to meditate.  He grew more comfortable with me near by and soon let me pet him.  Before long he was making a point of showing up on the pedestal before morning meditation so he could get pets.  Once he even followed me upstairs and jumped on the pedestal.

However, in other context he did not want to be approached by me.  He loved pets on the pedestal but not anywhere else.  I do believe that over time, perhaps a year, he would grow to accept pets in other places.  He is very affectionate with his buddy Maggie and I believe this would transfer to people, eventually.

After about a week I decided that Sammy was a long-term project.  He was not going to have a quick change of mind about comfort with people.  I wanted to prevent him from hiding from us and push his comfort level a little, but not too much.  And I wanted him to have fun.  Cat’s lives are fairly short.  I always want them to have as much enjoyment as possible.  I stopped closing the stairway door but continued to closed off our bedroom so that he could not hide out there away from people.  Sammy could be upstairs in my office or downstairs.  In both places he had to encounter people.  He was about 90% comfortable with this.  He and Maggie spent a lot of time running around our house with their tails up, looking for the next adventure.  And they spent a little time slinking under things to get away from us.

Sammy being pet the pedestal

A year ago we fostered two fierce orange tabby boys.  I worked to socialize Winnie and used that experience to write about how to burrito (snoggle) a cat.  We currently have a semi-feral cat, Sammy, and I’m going to some of the different techniques I use working with him.  I should say up-front that I’m no expert at this.  I have some advice from experienced people and am learning as I go.

It turned out that burritoing Winnie did not provide any benefit.  Initially he would start to purr as I wrapped him in the towel and seemed to relax after 20 minutes.  5-6 days later he would purr less and escape more.  I decided that I had mis-read the purring.  Cats purr when they are comfortable and happy but also when they WANT to be more comfortable and happy.  It is also called “stress purr”.  Winnie was purring because he was stressed by the contact.  As he got more comfortable with being burritoed he purred less and asserted his desire to be free more.

Forced contact, of which burritoing is one technique, may work well to overcome fear of humans in cats who have had little human contact.  If you can hold them long enough they will tire out, may realize they like human touch, and that conclusion may stick.  It did not work with Winnie because he had already come to the firm conclusion that he did not like human touch.  Repeating the process did nothing to change that conclusion.

So I changed tactics.  I let Winny run free in our house and made no attempt to touch him.  He turned out to be a great house mate and I really enjoyed him.  Eventually he allowed some touch.  Soon after that he got adopted.  His adopter continued the program.  Now he snuggles with her.

There was one time when I tried to pick him up.  He was eating out of a some one else’s food bowl.  We were at that point so comfortable around each other that I forgot about the no-touch policy.  I walked up behind him and picked him up.  He immediately turned into a ball of sharp claws and won his immediate release.  I apologized profusely and the incident was forgotten long before my scratches healed.

Sammy, who came to us as a young adult.  He purred when held so I assumed he was friendly.  We sent him to foster where he was reported to like pets.  He came to live with us in December and has slowly become more feral.  I now thinking that his purr is a stress purr and he really does not like human contact. That is not entirely true because he did like pets in the other foster and, at times here has shown enjoyment here.  He has  mixed feelings about human contact.

Helping him to overcome his discomfort with touch will make him more adoptable – make it more likely that we’ll find good home for him as a companion animal.  And, if we do place him as a companion animal he will be more comfortable in the company of people.  The alternative is to place him as a “barn cat” where is primary job is rodent control.

Letting him run free in the house may eventually work.  He will have constant presence of me and Marie, play time, treats, and meals to help him build positive association.  Given 6 months or a year he may decide that we humans are OK.  But I’m going to try to speed of the process by isolating him from the other cats in the house.  Sammy is very social and accustomed to a lot of contact with Maggie plus others.  If I deprive him of that he may be more willing to overcome his discomfort for the reward of my contact.

Sammy and Maggie love to be together but this reduces Sammy

There are problems with isolation.  He misses his buddies, calls out to them, and acts depressed.  I believe that on-balance the benefit is worth the short-term discomfort for him, but there is discomfort.

I work from home in an upstairs office.  It is easy to isolate him in two upstairs rooms: the landing and the office.  He has some choice.  He could stay out in the landing, in a completely separate room from me if he wants that much distance.  I’ve made the perches in my office more appealing.  If he wants to use those he has to share the same room.

At this point he has been with me one day.  Already I can now approach and pet him.  He will lean into my hand and show enjoyment.  I set up a pedestal in my office by the window.  It is such an appealing bed that he now will stay in the same room as me.

Sammy on the pedestal. This is far enough from me for him to stay.

I also set up a bed on my desk near where I work. He has already discovered that, but it is too close for him to remain while I work.

Sammy on the desk. This is too close for him to stay.

In a couple days I’ll take away the post and make the desk bed the most appealing place to be.

Meanwhile, I approach him as often as I can and offer some affection. If he stays and relaxes I pet him. If he shows discomfort I give him space.

At night I’ll let Maggie and some other cats upstairs so that Sammy gets some cat society time and they get to sleep in their accustomed places.  I believe this will lengthen the process but feel that the benefit to everyone is worth it.  If I find that Sammy reverts too much I’ll change that tactic.

One very effective technique would be to bring him into a small room with me to sleep at night.  Already he sleeps on the bed with me, often nestled against my legs.  I don’t think he realizes they are my legs though…

Sammy and Maggie

Maggie and Sammy are two ordinary looking cats with special inner qualities. They both came from the same site and look like brother and sister but are several months apart in age. None the less, they are good buddies and play mates.

Maggie when she first arrived snuggled when held

Sammy when he first arrived purred when held

Maggie arrived first as a known friendly.  She was paired with Lewis, a shy cat, in the hopes that she would teach him how to be friendly. Sammy came to us as a presumed feral and so got ear tipped. I discovered that he purred when held. He went to a foster house and was joined by Maggie a couple weeks later. They went through a couple transfers, including some time in an All the Best Pet Care store for adoption before we received them. In the store they were too shy of people to be readily adoptable so we took them for more socialization time.

They are teaching me how cats communicate with each other.  I am learning about chirps, trills, and body language from them.

Maggie comforting Annabelle who was ill.

Both love other cats. When Maggie meets another cat she, purrs, arches, and rubs up against things. Then she falls on her side, makes air-biscuits toward them, and rolls over a few times. This is cat greeting for: we are going to be the best friends! Annabelle, another foster and a story in her own right, feels the same about other cats.  She too will do the rolls and air biscuits.  I now often find some combination of Maggie, Sammy, and Annabelle curled up together.

They have such good cat social skills.  When a cat does not reciprocate their interest, such as our mid-aged lady Luna, they will respect that boundary. I’ve never seen them hiss at or swat at another cat. Neither have the hiss, swatted, or nipped at me. Maggie would nip playfully at my hand but I only needed to squeak at her a few times. Each time she would pull back and look sorry that she had hurt me. She has not nipped at me since.

Maggie investigating little Nansen, who is a little uncertain.

Both are playful but Sammy is the supper athletic one. He knows that before bedtime I’ll get Da-Bird out for a good round of play. He shows up near me, tail up, rolling around on the floor to say – ready to play now! He is like a panther – speed and lots of power. He makes great leaps and shakes the floor when he lands.

In previous foster, Sammy would allow himself to be approached and held but Maggie would not. Here I isolated Maggie first – she spent the first week with me in my office and got comfortable with contact. I’m doing a long at-home meditation retreat in January and thought it would be a good time to work with shy cats. However, when I isolated Sammy upstairs where I mediate he would complain and call to Maggie. Then Maggie figured out where her buddy was and they both scratched at the door from opposite sides. Needless to say, meditation was impossible in those conditions so I gave Sammy free run of the house. Even so, in the two days with me he allowed me to approach and pet him. After retreat, when I’m more able to tolerate interruption, I’ll isolate Sammy again and work on his human trust issues.

Maggie and Sammy in a love nets

Sammy and Maggie snuggle while I meditate

Sammy is content with Maggie.

I’ve developed so much appreciation for these guys loving, gentle, and smart attributes I am tempted to adopt them ourselves. They are so very good with other cats they would not be at all disturbed by the constant change in the cat population. But their addition would bring us to 4 resident, which is a lot.

The two spend a lot of time playing together.

These are two cats I’ll be sad to say good by to.  We are looking for a good home for them.  I think they would do best in a house with patient people and some other cats.  They will get along with and play with just about any cat.  The adopter will have to have patience with their shyness but will be richly rewarded.

Sammy and Maggie together

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Rehoming Nelson

Nov 28 Update: Thank you to L&D for adopting Nelson as a new member of their family. I am sure he will be very happy in his new home.

It is time for our sweet boy Nelson to find a new home. He was our very first foster and adoption but, after two years, we have to admit we are the wrong home for him.

We took the Seattle Animal Shelter foster parent class then went down to visit with the cats needing foster. Nelson reached out through the cage and latched onto Marie’s sweater so we took him home. Pretty soon he was sleeping on my desk while I worked, in bed with us, and chirping for attention. He purred loudly when we pet him and we soon fell in love with him.


Nelson waiting by the door for us.

Nelson sleeping on the chair in my office.

The sweet boy sleeping on my desk while I worked.

And so, we adopted him. A short while later we brought home a new foster cat, Luna. It took a while for Nelson and Luna to co-habitate peacefully. Nelson would follow and chase Luna. Even after months he would attack her now and then. But most of the time they seemed to like each other. There was some contention over beds, but we resolved that.

Luna was a sweetheart and we decided to adopt her too.

Nelson and Luna getting to know each other.

Looks like they could be friends.

Yes, they like each other.


Nelson would at times become quite manic and we thought he wanted a more playful buddy than Luna. We took Jojo as a foster transfer with the idea he may be a good buddy for Nelson. Soon the two were playing together and all three settled in together so we adopted Jojo.

Nelson and Jojo sleeping together.

All three cats together.

Not long after that, Nelson and Jojo started to fight. We tried many different things to get them back together but to no avail. We eventually re-homed Jojo. Along the way we introduced Nelson to several foster kittens and he generally got along with them.

Nelson and Maxwell

Nelson and Winnie

Nelson was sometimes a little rough but Winnie adored Nelson

Cleaning the Put-n-Take

As time passed, Nelson seemed less able to tolerate the presence of any other cats or kittens. We eventually moved all our cat rescue activity to the garage. We talked to several different vets to see if there was a medical issue that would cause his strange behavior and we even hired a cat psychologist. We tried Prozac and all kinds of behavior therapy but nothing seemed to truly help. Ultimately, he did not seem happy with us. To understand why, we took him to cat communicator Polly Klein. Through her, Nelson told us that other cats make him nervous and he does not want to live with other cats. We asked if he could be kind to Luna and tolerate other cats so we could help them like we helped him. Polly said his anxiety was too high.

Luna being friends with Nelson

Nelson loves his peeps

We love Nelson dearly. He is a great cat to live with. He is very interactive – hopping up on tables for pets and attention, sleeping with us, and seeking out lap time. But all the foster cats make him too nervous so it is time to re-home him. He is now at All The Best pet store on Queen Anne, where the amazing staff watch over him and will help him find the perfect home. Parting was more painful than we could imagine, but even at the strange pet store, with no other cats around, we could see him relax and start to settle into his new space. Our house is much more relaxed now and we’ve already taken on six additional foster cats and kittens to help with overcrowding at the shelter. We sense that Luna misses Nelson and we may eventually find her a much more cat-tolerant permanent companion. For now, we look forward to helping as many cats as we can without fear of upsetting our dear, dear Nelson.

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Summer Kittens

Over the summer we had two litters of kittens from feral mother cats.  We trapped Lilly, realized she was lactating, and the next day went back and found her kittens.  She lived and her kittens lived in our garage for several weeks.  When I visited the kittens would peep and come out to visit me while Lilly stayed hidden in her carrier.

The two brothers

Then Deb brought Emma and her 4 kittens who we also housed in the garage. Here are Ursa and Booboo.

After a while I moved Lilly and her kittens to my office so they could have more indoor time and socialization.  I also brought Emma’s kittens up for visits and when they were fully weaned moved them into my office.  We also trapped a beautiful little snowshoe kitten who I socialized and integrated.

Saami integrated:

 In the end we had a mess of kittens upstairs:


Here’s a video of them all playing together:

On Friday our group got word of a litter of kittens seperated from their mother.  She housed them on a boat in drydock.  The boat was then launched and moved.  The boat owners discovered the litter and did their best to care for them but were not told the kittens had to be fed every couple hours.  They were very young.

Our group is amazing.  By that evening the mother was caught and the kittens were re-united with her.  They were housed in our garage overnight.  But things did not look so good.  The kittens were cold and undernourished and the momma did not seem interested in caring for them.  In the morning we found one dead, two alone, and the momma sitting away from them.  She would not help them when we brought them to her.  Our attempt to introduce them to another mother we were housing also did not work and we didn’t have any kitten nursing supplies on hand.

Once the stores opened I ran out and got some KMR.  We bought them inside and fed them.  The black and white kitten had gotten too cold and dehydrated to take any more food.  He was gaunt around the head, cold, weak, and breathing through his mouth.

We called one of our group who came and got them.  She said that she has never seen a kitten showing the signs like the black and white baby who survived.

Death is all around us.  When it comes close I get stirred up about it.  It is important to try to save the kittens and cats that come under my care but I also try to hold a larger picture so as to not get too caught up into this particular instance of suffering but to remember there are many animals and people facing sickness, death, and suffering in different forms and they all need my care or at least my prayers.

Feisty girl CJ and her black and white brother

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