Seattle Animal Shelter

Seattle Animal Shelter

November of 2012 the Seattle Animal Shelter received a number of cats from a hoarder.  We got the 5 most likely candidates for socialization:  4 adults and a kitten.  We set the adults up in carrires in cages in the basement.  Initially they were too shy to come out of their carriers but 3 clearly loved to be pet.  All were undernourished, had URI, and needed time to recover and get healthy.  After a while we moved them to an upstairs room where they all hid under the bed.  Now they have full run of the house and are some of the sweetest, quirkiest cats we have fostered.

Lucy (left) and Lily were too shy to come out of their carrier at first

Lucy (left) and Lily were too shy to come out of their carrier at first


Lily relaxed by me on the couch.

Lily relaxed by me on the couch.

Lily shared a cage with Lucy and the two would sit at the door of their carrier with little tortious shell faces looking out.  I could reach in and they would both head butt and crowd up to my hand for pets but they were too shy to come out.  After a couple days they got bold enough to come out for their meals.  I would sit by and pet them while they were eating.  At first this was too much and they would scurry back into their carrier but then they could stay out to eat while being pet.  Lily was the first to come out to greet me and seemed interested in exploring outside of the cage.  We called her “Ms Adventure” because she was the boldest of the two ladies.

Now that she has run of the house she has shown a unique blend of shyness and boldness.  She hides inside a livingroom chair most of the day and is the hardest to approach.  But, in the evenings when we settle she is the first to jump into our laps for pets.

Lily has a very soft, down, medium length tortious shell fur – just a delight to pet.


Lucy always has a serious, shocked expression.

Lucy always has a serious, shocked expression.

Lucy is my particular favorate.  She supper loved head rubs but was more wary coming out than Lily was.  Now that she is upstairs she is the one who is most likely to approach me for pets and the one who will sleep on the bed with me.

Lucy has not one tooth in her head – we speculate an effect of in-breeding that happened in the hoarders.  She has a tendency to wheeze and snort – we think related to the structure of her mouth and nasal passage.  Her purr is a charming cooing snort.  Lack of teeth, however, does not much impair her abiltiy to eat.  We generally feed her pate which she gums down with gusto.  She is the thinnest of the honeys but slowly putting on weight.

Lucy’s coat is a little coarser than Lily’s but has a beautiful mahogany color and is a pleasure to pet.  She has a of a disheveled, serious look, but is always ready for a head rub.  If my attention lags she will tap our arm with her paw to pull our attention back to petting her.  (Lucy and Lily have since been adopted together.)


Wally at a cat adoption event.

Wally at a cat adoption event.

Wally is a black boy, shaped like a cannon ball.  He had a big appetite so got a cage by himself.  He would sit head out the door and hiss at us when approached.  If we just held our hand above him Wally would give it a moment consideration then headbutt us and purr.  He would come out for his food then notice that he was out and shoot back into his carrier.  He would then notice that there is food and come out to eat.

Once we gave them free run of the house he immediatly adopted the space under our dining room table as his safe spot.  He can watch the world go by but has protection of all the chair legs.

While all the honeys are playful, Wally is the most.  A toy pulled across the livingroom floor will always lure him out.  He must never have had a chance to chase a toy as his first attempts were clumbsy.


Charles cleaned up by Chip

Charles cleaned up by Chip

Charles is a beautiful long legged grey boy.  He was the most shutdown of the adults and got his own cage as he was reluctant to eat.  For the first several days he gave no response to any pets and I considered him the most at risk.  Then I made a point of spending some extra time with him, petting him regardless.  Some switch seemed to flip and soon he was head butting and rolling around with the pleasure of being pet.

Chip, who came over to spend time with the crew, took a particular liking to Charles and spent extra time with him.  Upstairs he was always the first to come out and would come right up to us for pets.  When Chip became a SAS foster parent we transferred Charles to her.  Charle’s now has his own web page to facilitate his adoption.  (And has since been adopted.)


Shadow soon after arriving

Shadow soon after arriving

We put the kitten in his own room.  Shadow clearly had no idea how to live inside and was scared and shutdown.  Marie spent a lot of time with him, showed him how to use the litter box and how to receive pets from people.  When we first let him roam the house he hid in and under things but always came out for play and meals.  Over several weeks he shifted dramatically and was soon out and confident all the time.  Shadow revealed a delightful, balanced personality.  He could play by himself, he could play with people, and he could play with other cats.  He could sleep by himself, he could snuggle with us on the bed, and he could snuggle with other cats.

Shadow became good playbudies with another foster, Bubbles. Bubbles was somewhat dominate toward the other cats but always very affectionate and tollerant of Shadow.

These two have been adopted together.

The knights came to us from a horader in seattle. Cats from this site trickled through our garage facility for months.

Our group, Alley Cat Project, is a small cat rescue – about 7 volunteers – working on trap-neuter-release in the city of Seattle for the purpose of reducing cat population and the number of unwanted cats. In the past when the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) got a feral cat – any cat who was sufficiently warry of or even hostle toward people that they were unadoptable – the cat was euthanized. The shelter is great but they must accept all cats surrendered to them and don’t have the resources to deal with them all, especially the difficult cases. Fortunately the shelter is willing to work with our group so feral cats get transferred to us.

It is always our preference to return a cat to the site it came from but sometimes that is just not an option. We won’t just drop them in the country, no matter how wild they are, because they are not likely to survive and the people who live there don’t want abandoned cats. The best options for cats who can not return home is a barn home – some place were they are wanted, perhaps to control rodents, and allowed to keep their distance from people. Fortunately, a good number of people want barn cats, will accept them as they are, and take good care of them. The most feral of cats have no desire to be even seen by humans. Others are somewhere alogn the spectrum from feral to companion animals.

Tinker came to us in early September. He is young, perhaps a year, very active and very curious. He is approachable, but wary of being touched. If I can slip my hand onto his neck just right he likes the touch – for about 5 seconds and then is off. He also startles easily and shies away. Tinker was also mouthy. He likes to lick and nip. He would sniff my hand, then lick my hand, then gently bite my fingers. Most of the time he was very gentle but once, when I was feeding from my hand, he broke my skin. There is no aggression in this but never the less it is a bad trait for companion cats.

Now this is not completely unadoptable but you have to understand that the shelter is already full (and I mean full) of cute little kittens and super friendly adults who come to the front of their cage, meow for attention, and then are super loving. It takes a special adopter to recognize and want a cat like Tinker and it takes a long time for these adopters to show up. Tinker could not compete with these cats. If he stayed at the shelter he would languish for a log time, likely get a URI. If the shelter got over crowded he would likely be euthanized. So Tinker got transferred to ACP and ended up in our garage.


R.H. Head Butts

We originally planned to pair him with a beautiful buff siamese who came from a different site by way of SAS. It was pretty clear why SAS found this guy unadoptable – for the first day with us he stayed in his carrier and growled when approached. But he then got very sick with a URI and pretty much stopped eating. While slipping food into his carrier I decided he did not look very menacing, checked, and found him touchable. Since I could handle him I could adminsiter sub-cutaneous fluids (to restore hydration to cats who are not eating). I named him R.H. which stood for “Radient Health” in the hopes he would be so restored. After 6 days he started to eat again and slowly returned to health. All the while I worked with him. He either decided to be friendly or, more likely, remembered his friendly nature and was soon front-of-the-cage friendly. We returned him to SAS where he has since been adopted. We have had a couple other turnarounds like this.

Soldier came to us in late September. We had him altered at the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project. As with other feral cats, one ear tip was removed to indicate they have been altered. (Tinker was altered at SAS and therefor not ear-tipped.) Soldier too came down with a bad URI and stopped eating. He was touchable so I was able to administer fluids and antibiotics. In fact he was so much like R.H. that I hopped he would come around to friendly and adoptable status.

Tinker also seemed close to being adoptable. Both were between the worlds of companion animals and feral cats. They had never lived outside enough to know how to do that safely but their previous “owner” never interacted with them enough to socialize them to live as companion animals. Because they lacked outdoor experience I did not want to see them sent to a barn home – too many unfamiliar dangers in the country. They needed some indoor time to give them an opportunity to find their friendly nature (and for us to assess them). I lobbied our group for someone to take them in. Unfortunatey everyone’s house was already full of other cats with equally urgent needs. (Marie and I could not take them in because of our resident Nelson who is very anxious around other cats.)

Snoggling Tinker

I worked with Tinker and Soldier as well as I could with limited time visiting them in our garage. Soldier showed some enjoyment of human touch by leaning his head into a cheak rub or raising his rear to a back rub but he never purred for it. As he got his energy back he showed more wariness and less enjoyment. With time Tinker became less willing to be picked up. I had to admit that neither met the criteria for companion animal adoption through a shelter.  (Video of Tinker).

It might have been possible for our little group to find a companion home for them – we have found homes for other difficult cats. The right adopter has always come along, but it can take time. I’ve decided it is important to not let effort helping one or two cats take energy away from TNR, which indirectly helps many cats.

Good buddies

Fortunately, about this time Monk responded to our ad for barn cats. Monk runs a rope factory in an old Seattle wearhouse where they make fine hemp rope for bondage. They and other tenants have a mouse problem. Monk grew up on a farm and knows that the green solution to rodents is cats. He, his wife, and all his employees are also cat lovers. Marie and I went down to visit and decided this was a very good fit for the boys. They will be indoors, the adopters want to interact with the boys but don’t expect perfect companion animal maners, other people in the community are on board with cats in the warehouse.

We dropped them off on an evening in late October.  That day I cleaned the garage.  Tinker and Solder were unsettled by all the activity:


Solder - uncertain about moving

Monk and his wife had screened in the small sleeping loft in the back of the factory and planned to spend several nights with Soldier and Tinker. This will be an excellent introduction.

Tinker and Soldier's new home

Because Monk’s name is “Monk” his factory is named “The Abbey” and the cats who are protecting The Abbey are named “The Nights Templar”. You can read about their life at The Abbey on their facebook page.

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Thursday night I trapped a cat. Back home I visited with her in the carrier and determined she was tame. She has a beautiful white coat with a hint of grey down her spine and a dusty grey tail. Her coat was dirty and she was very, very skinny.

Tame cats who get lost or abandoned don’t know how to take care of themselves. Lost tame cats are the underfed dirty looking cats. Feral cats, by contrast, do know how to take care of themselves and they can look pretty good, as long as they are healthy.

I set her up in our display cage. I’m building inserts for this so cats have several levels on which to perch and the messy litter can be kept on the bottom layer. With out these cats, litter, and food are all on the bottom and that is not how cats want to live.

When I opened the carrier door she jumped down to the floor and hunkered down. She was just slightly receptive to pets. Clearly socialized to people but in shock from her recent experience. To be so skinny she must have been out on the street for a month. To go from a pampered life as a companion to living on the stree must be scarry and confusing.

The White Lady at our house

With the comfort of some pets she went over and ate the food that she had previously just sniffed at. She did not seem inclined to climb back up to her carrier or the cubby so I put a snuggly wool cloth down on the floor for her, covered over the cage, and let her have a quite, warm, dry night.

In the morning I found that she had regurgitated her whole meal. I had encouraged her to eat too much food at one time. I cleaned everything up and gave her some more food. I pet her more and found her slightly more relaxed. She purred. I brushed out her coat.

Later that morning I said Medicine Buddha prayers, concentrating specially on her. When I came down again she had eaten all her food and climbed up to the cubby. I pet her in there and she purred then kept purring after I stopped. I gave her another small portion of food, which she ate. She was happy to be inside a relaxing a little.

Luna soon after she arrived

Early afternoon I bundled her into her carrier and took her down to the Seattle Animal Shelter. Within a couple minuts of sitting down with officer Corry she was vaccinated, given wormer, treated for fleas, and scanned for a microchip (none). He took her to the back where she’ll be fed and fussed over by volunteers. In a couple days I hope she’ll be transfered to a foster home for some indoor TLC.

Her way of snuggling into my hand reminded me of Luna. Luna came to us underweight, half her coat licked off, and somewhat is shock from some recent experience. Now she is pamperd daily. Hopefully the White Lady will soon have a happy, pampered existence.


The Seattle Animal Shelter said she was “ancient”, may be developing kidney disease, and not a candidate for adoption.  We gave some thought to adopting her ourselves.  Nelson and Luna were returning to a happy two cat society – we hated to risk upsetting that.  But if the alternative for her was euthanasia we might.  Fortunately, the woman feeding her where she was trapped volunteered to take her in.  At the shelter I saw that someone had written “sweet” on the cage card.

White Lady at the shelter

White Lady's cage card with volunteer notes

In addition to the vaccinations and flea treatment the shelter also did FIV/FeLV tests (negative) and microchipped her.  This is a great facility and the people at the shleter are working hard to help animals in their care.  Today the White Lady goes a good home.

White Lady in her new home.

While visiting Griz I checked out some of the other cats at the Shelter.  There are lots of great cats there right now.

Griz at the Shelter

Reaching out for more attention


From a horder. A little shy but friendly and soft fur.

I woke her from a nap



In late December we went back to the shelter, officially adopted Nelson, and then asked who else needs our help. This is a difficult question to answer. There are lots of cats who need our help – more than we can help. The shelter officers are not much help either, through no fault of their own. When we ask who needs help they often bounce the question back to us: who do you want to take. But it is not about who I want to take – it is about who needs help. Well, that and who I feel enough connection with to want to help. This question comes up every time we go to choose our next foster cat. Answering it has become a little easier as I rely more on the officers to tell me who they most want to see taken to foster.

On this day we saw several cute cats who had not been adopted for a while for one reason or another. Then we saw Lucky. She had licked the fur off her belly and flanks. There was a large bald patch on her left front leg. Her tail was strangely flat. And she would not come out of her cage. When removed she just jumped back in. She did not look appealing to me – I did not want to snuggle her or take her home – and these traits are exactly what made her a great foster candidate. But we knew we would have to change her name as she appeared to be anything but Lucky.

We sequestered her in the brown room and would spend time visiting with her. I built a barrier so that she and Nelson could see each other but not get into a fight. And we changed her name to Luna.

Marie and I are particularly sensitive to the suffering of loneliness. To ease her loneliness we would, at times sleep in the brown room with her. Mostly she would hide under the bed but at times she would come out, lay on my chest, accept very gentle pets, and purr. Then she lay in the chair next to me and fell asleep.

Luna behind the Introduction Barrier

Looking looking at me

Nelson and Luna Sniffing

Nelson and Luna Sleeping Near Each Other

Luna in Bed, Nelson Near

Nelson in Bed, Luna Kicked Out


Soon we could not imagine giving Luna to anyone else. She was a delicate flower and we did not want to trust her care to anyone else. By February, we had adopted her.

Being a two-time foster failure, the house was starting to feel full and we decided to get serious about the fostering part of being foster parents. Once again, we went back to the shelter and asked who needs help. This time we were sent home with Precious – a sweet young girl who had crawled into an engine compartment for warmth and was injured when someone started the engine. We cared for her for a couple weeks, keeping her well away from our other cats so she could heal from her injuries. She started to need company and our cats were too much for her state. At the same time, there were foster parents with a cat much too playful for their older kitties. An exchange was made and we said goodbye to Precious and hello to Jojo a playful boy cat who we thought might make a good playmate for Nelson.


Jojo and his toy mouse

Jojo is large and is intimidating when he’s scared. He growled at our other cats (through the closed door) and at us. We were both a little intimidated to go into his room. Introduction took a while but eventually he integrated with Nelson and Luna. And, Jojo and Nelson did become good play buddies. They spent several hours each morning – much to our sleep detriment – thundering around our bedroom. 90% of the play was mutual but perhaps 10% of the time Nelson would take it too far, would play too aggressively. Still, Jojo was big enough to handle Nelson and mostly they seemed to enjoy each other.

Our cat shelves

Maxwell, Sabine, and Blanca

Beginning of June we decided to adopt Jojo. At the same time Marie picked up a scared 7-week old semi-feral kitten, she named Maxwell, who had been found in an alley off Lake City Way. He was a darling ball of energy and quickly picked up the nickname “little peep”. Since he was semi-feral he needed socializing to humans and other cats. Marie slept on the floor of her office (where Max lived) for two weeks, and I made a point to spend time with him every day. After a couple of weeks, we picked up two more kittens, Sabine and Blanca, rescued from a hoarder and each around 6 weeks old, to socialize Maxwell to the company of other kittens. Their story is the topic for another post. In late June the girls got adopted to a nice family in our neighborhood.

Maxwell sprawled on Lap

Blanca and Sabine in cardboard cubby

In July we integrated Maxwell in with our residents and this caused a big upset.

Fractious Residents

Very playful Jojo soon realized that Maxwell was really, really fun and never got too aggressive. Soon Nelson was cut out of the play. Nelson became more aggressive toward Jojo. Jojo, in turn, became more aggressive toward Luna. Seemed like the only cat that could get along with every one was Maxwell. Soon we were separating Jojo and Max in one part of the house, Luna and Nelson in another.

By August, we redoubled our efforts to adopt out Maxwell and soon he went went to his new home on Capitol Hill to live with Dan and his resident cat Scraps.

(About this time the Seattle Animal Shelter sent out a desperate request for foster parents to take some cats from their overfull ISO unit so I picked up Whiskers and Kinka followed by Feather and Juliet. We housed them in the basement while their health improved and never integrated them with our residents, all a story for a later post.)

Present Day

This brings us to the present day. We have our resident cats, Nelson, Luna, and Jojo, who don’t quite get along. We have consulted with a behavior specialist and a natural veterinarian (and gotten good help from both). We are on a program of behavior modification to encourage the cats to re-integrate. Jojo has turned out to be a sweet heart, event spending some time in our laps. Luna is our darling girl. Nelson. Well Nelson, when he’s not pouting or playing king, is a real lover.

Luna has become subtly more confident. Confident enough to climb to the top of the scratching post.

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