Adopting/Rescuing an Adult Cat
By Tammy R. Veysey
Before my younger brother was born, I had a lovely long-haired grey smoke boy, Smokey. But shortly after my brother's birth, he became sick with congestion and cough. This lasted for almost a year until the doctor asked if we had any animals and then suggested maybe my brother was allergic to Smokey. My mother sent Smokey for a visit with relatives to test the situation, and my brother cleared up completely. Smokey returned; my brother was sick again.
So Smokey went to his new permanent home with our relatives. Years later we tried another cat. A barn kitten. What a little terror he was! After 4 months of trying to live with this wild kitty, he went back to the barn with his friends and was a lot happier.
Almost 9 years ago on a very rainy, stormy night my brother came home with a little black kitten who was obviously too young to leave its mother. The kitten was inside his jacket and so very tiny. The kitten was being tortured and teased by the people who owned the mother cat. They often left the mother outside, and the kitten was on a diet of scraps and Kraft Dinner. The people then sold the mother with a little kitten still at home! So needless to say, there was no way we could allow this poor little girl to go back there. We kept her and called her Ace Marlena. My brother seemed to have outgrown his allergies and had no problems.
Last year I moved over 3000 km away, and it tore my heart in two to have to leave my girl. But I felt it was best to leave her with her grammy. It was the only home she had ever known, and I didn't feel right just uprooting her. I could take comfort in knowing that she would be well-cared for and loved and looked after.
At that time, I said those famous words "No more cats, it's too hard and work takes me traveling." I had seriously made up my mind on this. But as fellow animal lovers know, we often eat those words in time.
During a visit out of town last August, we stopped into visit relatives on my spouse's side who were moving that weekend to another part of the province. Boxes were packed everywhere, the chaos of moving was clearly evident. As the lady of the house was showing me a fireplace, I noticed a cat. Not just any cat. A matted, sad looking cat. I looked at the cat and asked why she was up on a shelf. The owner informed me that she always had to stay up there or hide because of the dog. SCREECH! Then came a tan-colored flash and up jumped the cat on a higher shelf! Enter the little, yappy Pug dog who started jumping and barking trying to get the cat. The cat jumped and took off, and the dog started the chase after this poor cat.
I could not believe this! I asked the lady if this was normal behavior, and she confirmed it was. She told me that Chia had been with them first. She had been given to them by a family who was not from the country. They had decided to move back to their country but could not take the cat with them so they gave her to these people. She was the one and only pet for about a year, and then they bought the dog. Before the dog came along, she said that Chia had been lovable and sociable. But now she was reclusive and really not much fun. I asked her how she thought Chia would adapt in her new home, and she informed me that Chia was not going with them as there were no pets allowed. They planned to keep the dog hidden, while Chia would be dropped off at the local shelter - a shelter in a city in which the animals are so often sold to research companies.
Chia had jumped onto a nearby table and laid there looking at me. The look of pain and pleading in her eyes is one I will never forget, ever. I looked at her and walked over to her slowly. She sniffed my hand and rubbed her head on my arm. I tried to pat her but couldn't very well because of the deep mats and tangles in her fur, which was dull, lifeless and dry. Tears came into my eyes and I bent down and looked into her eyes and asked her if she wanted to come home with me. She looked at me and let out a small whisper of a meow.
I went into the living room area and said to the lady, "Please get all of Chia's things, her toys, post, food etc." She looked at me rather oddly, and my spouse looked at me even more oddly. He asked me what I meant, and I bluntly told all of them Chia was coming home to live with us and not going to a shelter and that was final. We didn't have a carrier, we still had over a 2-hour drive home. My spouse suggested we at least go and buy a carrier and then come back for Chia. No way! I told him I would hold her close, and if she really started to freak out and became too scared, we would stop on the way out of the city and get one. I know he thought I was completely nuts, but how could I leave her there in that home with a dog biting and chasing her?
Her belongings consisted of: no-name generic dry cat food, a dog brush, an old sheet in a box, and her scratching post. The lady said she loved canned food, but it was too expensive. Yet the dog had baby-peeled carrots as treats? Amazingly, I was informed that Chia was matted "a bit" because she hated to be combed. I bit my tongue but wanted to ask her how she would like to be combed with a wiry dog brush!
In about 5 minutes, I gathered a scared Chia into my arms. I could feel her quiver so I talked to her gently and promised her I would try my very best to give her a better home. I rubbed my chin on her head and then I took her to the vehicle and held her. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Chia was a bit nervous with the traffic in the city but as soon as we made it to the highway she settled down into the back seat. I had put her sheet on the seat for her. We drove the whole way home and she only ventured around a couple of times checking out the vehicle.
When we made it to the house, I brought her inside and let her down. She looked around and immediately started to investigate. I decided just to let her roam around and let her get used to her new home. At the time our new carpet had not yet been laid, so I was not worried about any messes. (If she made a mistake, I figured it could be cleaned up.) Thankfully, there were litter boxes here and food dishes from the former kitty who lived his 18-year life here. We decided to let Chia be and went in town to get her some decent food and litter. Her grammy was here, so she would be fine.
I would normally never just take a cat from a home especially an adult without not knowing what the cat was like personality-wise and health-wise. However, I would never have been able to live with myself not knowing where she would have ended up otherwise.
Chia would not drink water so I was told so her only source of liquid was from a dripping tap when she felt like it. I made up her litterbox and showed her where it was. She stepped in and fixed the litter to her satisfaction. I then began talking more to her telling her that this was her new home and we would try to make her happier. Now was the challenge to see if she would eat her new food. I called her over and told her this food would make her feel better, she wouldn't itch as much, and her fur would be nicer... her poor fur. She dove into the wet food like a raven! I then introduced her to the cat-formula milk, and she also lapped that up.
I went to sit in the chair, and she followed me but would not jump up onto the chair. At this point, I knew she did not yet trust me, and she was very nervous. I understood this completely. I had just uprooted her from her home to a new home, new food, and other things. She had been withdrawn for so long.
For the next 2 or 3 days, Chia roamed around. I talked to her from a distance and let her roam. She tried to scratch the chair, and I said in a low voice "No, Chia. Come to your post." And she followed me to her scratching post and began to claw. She also jumped up onto the cupboard, and I again told her she wasn't allowed on the cupboard. At night, she slept in her box with her sheet. I wondered if she would ever come to trust the family.
On the 4th day, I was sitting in the recliner, and she came over and sat in front of me and meowed. I tapped my knee gently and told her to jump up. She jumped into my lap! I was ecstatic! As soon as I tried to pat her, she jumped down and ran and hid. I left her alone and when she came out, I again talked to her from a distance. I wanted so badly to hold her, cuddle her, and comb her fur. Patience is not a virtue of mine, but I remained stubborn with myself. Throughout the next couple of days, she would jump up on the arm of the chair, and I would talk to her but not touch her. She began to stay for longer periods of time. Finally, she allowed me to pat her head and didn't take off scared.
By the end of the first week, she allowed me to hold her, and it felt so good to hear her purr. I then started the heartbreaking task of trying to comb her. Some of her mats were so deep and thick, that they were into her skin and pulling, and the areas were red and scabby. I cried as my spouse and I held her and cut her mats out. Poor girl, she looked like some kind of weird alien with all skin patches in her fur, which was very short for Persian standards. Her skin was so dry and scaly.
It took me about 2 weeks to cut out all of her mats and comb her properly. Her skin was much better now with her new diet, and her fur wasn't as dull looking. She also followed me around now wherever I went, meowing and flopping over for a belly rub. She became very vocal, maybe because I talked to her so much! The moment I finally knew that she had accepted me was when she ventured upstairs one night during the third week and jumped into bed with me. I was not in a comfortable position, but she was, so I remained in my awkward position stroking her fur while she slept and purred.
I can honestly say that Chia has had a complete turnaround of her personality and life. She is now very much my girl, she still does not like anyone else to hold her or pick her up. She also opts to sleep with me or sit with me and likes to be wherever I am. She also trusts me to clean her ears or wash her butt when she makes a little mess. I don't know if she will ever fully trust all people. She has many toys now and beds all over the house and big patio doors so she can watch the birds. She loves her proper food and cat milk and has truly become a wonderful, loving, affectionate girl. She still doesn't like to be combed with a real cat comb, but I am slow and gentle and only do one area at a time to give her a break. Now I can proudly say her fur has grown out nicely and is shiny and healthy. Her vet complimented me on such a wonderful job. I don't think her fur will ever be of show quality because of her lack of care in her early years. Her tatoo is foreign, and we have no idea where she came from or even of her birthday. We have decided to give her a birthday of July 22nd in memory of my late father's birthday.
This past year she had her first real Christmas, with presents, reindeer antlers and bells! She also had her own Christmas stocking filled with new fur mice and catnip.
In summary, when you adopt either an adult or kitten, follow these basic tips:
- Take something with you that has their smells on it.
- Don't rush into trying to get the cat to love you. Let the cat come to you. Remember, they think we are their people - time and patience proves beneficial.
- Talk to your animals to make them feel the more comfortable. Chia still does things that she shouldn't on a rare occasion but we just tell her "No." She understands.
I am so happy that my situation worked out with a wonderful outcome. This will be Chia's final home now because nobody will ever get my precious girl! And I'm proud to say I ate those words "I won't own another cat; it's too hard."