Adoption

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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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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.

Tinker

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:

Tinker

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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Jojo was our third cat, and he surprised us.  To explain how I have to tell his story.

We got Jojo as a foster transfer.  Another Seattle Animal Shelter foster family was asking for someone to take Jojo as he was harassing their elder cat.  We were looking for a buddy for Nelson and thought that could be Jojo so we took him in as a foster.

Right off he intimidated us.  He growled at our other cats through the door and growled at us.  Physically he is a robust cat and we were wary of him.   We thought he might eat little Nelson for lunch.  Jojo does not weigh more than one pound more than Nelson, but he just looks bigger.

The introduction to Luna and Nelson was slow but eventually they were all together.  Soon Nelson and Jojo were play buddies.

Nelson and Jojo playing

All Three Together

We saw an edge of aggression in Nelson’s play with Jojo but we figured that Jojo could stand up to that and otherwise things looked good so we adopted Jojo.  We now had three cats.

Jojo and a toy

However, neither Marie or I felt a strong bond to Jojo.  He seemed primarily interested in play with toys and other cats.  He did not display much affection toward us.  But, he needed a home, he was difficult to adopt, and he fit in with our other cats.  We could give him a good home.

We continued fostering and took in kittens Maxwell, Sabine, and Blanca.  Sometime during this the relationship between our residents soured.  Nelson started attacking Jojo and became less happy in general.  Jojo, in turn, got more play aggressive with Luna.  Soon we were isolating Jojo from Luna and Nelson.  To keep Jojo company we kept Maxwell with them – they were good buddies.  But they would spend most of the day in Marie’s office.  Nights we gave them run of the downstairs.  Max, however, would usually slip past the side of our barrier to join us upstairs, leaving Jojo by himself.

We thought that Max could be the cause of Nelson’s aggression so in August we redoubled our efforts and soon found a good home.  It did not solve the problem. Worse, Jojo was by himself most of the time.  Out of sympathy, Marie or I would sleep in the downstairs bedroom to keep him company.  

This is when he surprised us:  he turned out to be great company.  Jojo is a really sweet cat.  He likes to be with us and is interested in what we are doing, loves head rubs and play time, and sometimes crawls into our laps.  He is not exceedingly affectionate but very interested, interactive, and self-reliant.  A great companion.

Helping us clean the bookshelf

Meditating with me

Snuggled into my lap for a nap

We both came to feel a much stronger connection with Jojo so we increased our efforts to re-introduce him and Nelson.  In September We hired a can behaviorist who offered a lot of good suggestions.  Her program was to give Nelson a reason to like Jojo through positive association with food, treats, and play time.  When that alone did not work we gave Nelson kitty prozac.  When that did not work in January 2011 we added another anti anxiety drug.

Jojo and a foster kitten

By the end of January we admitted that it was not going to work and it was time to find Jojo a new home.  I made a web page [link], a petfinder.com listing, and kept Craig’s list postings up to date.  After a week a nice couple from Everett contacted us.  They seemed cat savvy and willing to have patience with Jojo’s slow adaptation to new situations.  They didn’t have any cats but did have a little dog.  Jojo and dogs were a complete unknown.

We wanted to give Jojo a good home but could not. We could at least feed him the best food we knew and keep him company as best as we were able but once we adopt him out we would give up control of that. I would like to explain all this to Jojo – why his whole world is about to change – but can’t. This is a time of feeling my limits but still trying to do the best for Jojo.

When we met the couple we liked them.  They appreciated both cats and dogs and the different type of companionship each provides.  They liked who Jojo was.  Jojo seemed to like them.  The only question was would Jojo like the dog, Teddy.

Jojo’s standard response to a new cat is to hiss, growl, and run away or swat at them.  We have introduced him to a lot of kittens and this has been his initial reaction to all of them, even Button, Ambassador to Cats.  Jojo gets over it but it takes about 2 weeks.  I thought if we got a similar reaction to the dog that was a good sign.  Back up, tail fat, full attack mode would be a contra indication.  Well, Jojo walked right up and sniffed Teddy’s nose.  No growl, no hiss.  He did lift his paw as if he was thinking of batting Teddy but then set it back down.  He was interested and calm.  Somehow dogs are in a different category – somewhere between cats and people. We all thought it could be a good match.

So we got their carrier, said last good byes, and away Jojo went.

Jojo and the dog Teddy

Jojo about to got to his new home

I find myself wondering:  how is he doing?  Is he scared?  Is he interested?  What is he experiencing?  Why don’t he write?  That is just it.  I would love to hear from Jojo himself – but I never will.

After a couple days we got this report:

Jojo is fitting in well.  We kept him in the bedroom the first night so hecould get used to his surrounding and our smell without the dog botheringhim.  When we let him out he looked around a bit and came right back tothe bedroom.  He sits in the window during the days and lays in bed withus at night.
We are glad to have a new companion and teddy seems happy to have a new friend.

We may get one more update but likely won’t know how the rest of Jojo’s life goes.  As the Buddha said:

From meeting comes parting
From birth comes death

This is inevitable and we are ultimately unable to protect others or ourselves from these experiences.

4/28/11 Update: We got an update!

hello tom!

Sorry for the lack of email we have been out of internet for a while.
JoJo is doing great. He loves playing with teddy and loves sleeping in
bed with us. I have not managed to catch a picture of him and teddy
together yet, they always stop playing as soon as I grab the camera. JoJo
even get along well with the two year old up stairs.

He spends alot of free time looking out the slider door where there is
squirrels and I think some frogs. As well as plenty of time in our
bathroom keeping an eye on our guinue pigs and hamster.

Im not sure what time you fed him at night but we have been wanting to
feed him and teddy both when we eat at 5 . However he is insistent that we
feed him at 3. So of course the pets now all eat at 3.

He still seems wary of coming out of the bedroom, but he also seems
content in there so we do not push it.

Sincerely,
Ashen

Jojo's original adoption blurb (from the shelter)

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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

Friendly

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

I woke her from a nap

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Griz

Note If you are Griz’s adopter we would love to hear where he ended up.

Griz was picked up as a feral cat by the Seattle Animal Shelter, pass to us, neutered and ear-tipped at the Feral Cat Spay/Neuter Project. As he was recovering in our basement I noticed that he did not seem as scared of me as a fully feral cat would so I started working with him. Two days latter he would come to the front of the cage to greet me, rolled on the floor as I pet him, and complained when I left him. I soon moved him up to my office where he prefers to hang out near me, sometimes in my lap. He clearly has lived with people in the past and somehow got separated from human society for a while.

Griz in my lap

Griz by keyboard

I named him Griz because his head was about as big as a grizzly bear’s. That and he looked a little grizzled: hair rubbed off nose from when he was trapped, scar on head, missing tail, tipped ear. Good food, daily brushing, and lots of affection have cleaned him up considerably.

The Seattle Animal Shelter was reluctant to take him back since he was acting very feral the first time he passed through their care. I took some video of him acting very friendly:

Love Bug in my Office

He is super affectionate, loving head, ear, chin rubs, and good back scratches. He likes human company and would do well in a house where people are around. He is athletic and explorative. I didn’t expose him to other cats but think it likely he would get along with them. Good litter box habits.

If you are the lucky adopter of Griz we would love to hear where he ended up. Pleas write via our feed back form.

Update: I visited Griz at the shelter a week after he was checked in. He is doing well and likes head rubs as much as ever. I wrote on his cage card under “Special Needs” the text “Head rubs, lots of head rubs”.

Griz at the Seattle Animal Shelter

First Video

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A friend asked:

my mom is going to get 2 cats. She wants ones older than kittens. Any advice?

I thought this would make a good post. The short answer is to go to your local shelters and let them help you find the right pair. They will know the cat’s personalities and should be able to help you find the right pair. Here’s some of what the shelter people will be thinking.

In general, cats are social and it is kind to them to have feline companionship in the house. This is especially true for young cats who wan to play. But it is also true that cats are territorial and have a social hierarchy and that not all cats will get along so it is important to choose the right pair. If you choose a pair where there is a clearly dominate and clearly submissive cat this will help create peace. Two cats of similar social standing may end up constantly fighting for dominance. As a rule altered females are more dominate than altered males so:

  • A female and male is the best option
  • Two males is good
  • Two females could be trouble

(Unaltered cats are a different matter and not recommended for several reasons.)

Of course it really comes down to the individual cat’s personalities and there are plenty of exceptions to these guidelines

Often at PAWS we have bonded pairs and we really try to adopt them together. A strongly bonded pair would be truly unhappy if they were split up. Other pairs are just two cats that get along but would also do OK apart. Many of these pairs grew up together but there are examples of two adults who became fast friends on introduction. Pairs can be a little harder to adopt. Many potential adopters want one cat, either as a solo or as a companion for an existing cat. If you know you want two adult cats looking for a bonded pair is a good choice and a kindness to the pair.

If you can’t find a bonded pair you feel drawn to you can choose two cat-friendly cats you do like. There are plenty of stories of two cats becoming good house mates and even play buddies in their new home.

If you are going to adopt a kitten it is good to pair it with an older cat. The older cat will teach the kitten how to be a cat. It is just good for them to have mentors. All kittens want to be friends with other cats. As they go through the latter part of their first year they start to notice and then become engaged with social status. There is always the risk that a growing kitten will eventually challenge the older cat’s dominate position. Again, it is probably best that the older cat either be clearly dominate or the kitten be able to clearly take over that role.

One of the biggest uncertainties adopters face is finding a cat that will get along and even become friends with their current cat, dog, or both. The shelter often knows which cats are more likely to get along with a resident cat or dog. There may be history from the person to surrendered the cat, from foster parents, or from observation in the shelter. Still, there is no way to know until you bring the new cat home and introduce it to the resident, a process that can take weeks or months. That said, I believe there is a good chance to make a good addition if you let the shelter staff guide you in selecting the new cat and carefully introduce the cats.

On the topic of introductions there is a lot to say and it is worth it’s own posting. There is plenty of good information about it on the web, here’s one sample from PAWS.

One option for finding a good companion for a resident cat is to foster for a local shelter. You will have the opportunity to introduce cats to your resident with out the commitment of having adopted them. I only recommend this if you have some honest wish to help the shelter and it’s cats. There are some difficulties with this route. Many of the cats are sent to foster because they are ill, stressed by the shelter, or need work with some behavioral problems – they are not the most adoptable cats. If you are willing to work with these cats you will help them, the shelter, and may soon find yourself with a great new companion.

There are some cats who just don’t like other cats. These are somewhat harder to find homes for. If you know that you intend to only have one cat it is a kindness to choose one that wants to be an only cat. Ellen Leach, a Seattle cat behaviorist, suggests that singleton cat may be a result of increasing indoor-only cat policies. This limits their contact with other cats and opportunities to learn cat to cat social skills. Now, every time I adopt out a solo kitten from PAWS I wonder if they will be creating a cat-intolerant cat. PAWS always has several and they are a little harder to adopt. On the other hand, cats that started as feral have good cat to cat social skills and tend to like other cats.

More than two cats increase the chance of cat to cat trouble. Cori Gross, the behaviorist we are working with, said that most of her calls are to households of 3 or more cats. It can work out, it is just that with three you have created a cat society where conflict is more likely.

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