We have over a dozen beautiful but shy, kittens and teenagers at the Colville Valley Animal Sanctuary. All of them came to us at about 3 months old, totally unsocialized and stunningly beautiful. We put more time and effort into kitties like this than most large shelters are able to. Most are coming around really well! But….we have a few that are made of tougher stuff!
Meet Samantha aka Sammie…
Our tougher kitties, like Sammie, have a tendency to lunge and swat at us as we are trying to work with them. A fingerful of chicken-flavored baby food (what we think of as ‘kitty cocaine’) works with most shy kitties. No matter how much baby food we offer, however, our swatters are reluctant to give up their bad habit. We have two of them right now. Samantha and Bree. Bree is a beautiful tortoiseshell with the softest coat imaginable that we have had about a month. Her sibling, Mitzey is posted for adoption. She came around quickly. Samantha is soft beautiful black velvet, a triangular face and huge beautiful eyes. She came in with four beautiful Siamese mix siblings on August 13. All stunning but shy. Two of her siblings have been adopted and the other two are still shy but ready for the right home. Black kitties are difficult to adopt anyway though – but a shy swatting black kitty has no chance of finding any home but a barn.
I decided to try an experiment starting with Samantha since she has been with us longer than Bree. I’m going to start bringing our extremely shy kitties home one at a time for a couple weeks of intense foster therapy. I’m hoping for good results and thought I would share our day to day progress and setbacks with our Facebook and blog followers. Maybe someone will even help us to find her a home by sharing her information with family and friends. I’m hoping there is lots of heart out there for these shy kitties.
Samantha loved cuddling with her friends and siblings! (above is a picture of Sammie on top of a pile of her sisters, Shanna and Shyla, and friends.) Occasionally when they were purring, she would chime in. We could just never get past that initial swat. Then, as things got more crowded at the shelter, we had to move Sammie to a new area. She did not take the move well, regressed and the swatting increased. Usually after her initial swat she would accept baby food from me and allow me to pet her. Now all she did was swat.
I have seven cats of my own who let me know how unhappy they are in lots of different ways when I foster in my house. Bedrooms don’t always work because a shy kitty will just hide under the bed and I would spend all my time sliding under it trying to get her out so I could work with her. So, I decided to take everything out of a walk-in closet and work with Sammie in there. My own kitties, hopefully, will not even know she is in the house. The area is not so large that Sammie will feel exposed and “unsafe” but large enough for me to work with her comfortably and for her to play as we make some progress. She has never played with us or in front of us in all the time we have had her.
On Monday I worked all day at the shelter and brought Sammie home at 6:00 that evening. I fixed up her closet room but thought I could leave a dresser in there. I stuffed towels under it where she might be able to crawl under it and hide. That did not work. The next time I checked on her she was under the dresser. I had to kennel her while I got my husband to help me move the dresser out. That was no fun! But now she is secure in the closet with a couple of beds, her litter box, toys and food and water dishes. My spare bedroom, however, is a total disaster with an extra dresser and all the closet stuff piled everywhere. it is a big closet and holds a lot!
Monday evening she was pretty upset. There was a lot of swatting as I tried to approach her with the obligatory finger of baby food. She was having nothing to do with it and I got some good scratches. After a half hour or so though she was eating the baby food. I also kind of leaned over her bed and encircled her with one arm and petted her with the other hand and she purred a bit. She always enjoyed it when I kind of cuddled her like that at the shelter. I think enveloping her like that makes her feel safe.
Tuesday morning we were back to square one. She got a couple of good swats in before she settled down to eating baby food. She even drew a little blood. I noticed that she had not eaten any of her wet food or used the litter box. She had even urinated on the towel in her little bed. Poor thing was too scared to even move around. She has never had an accident before. When she had eaten about 1/2 a jar of baby food, I pulled her over onto my lap and just continued stroking her. She relaxed and enjoyed it and even, a first!, began to knead just a tiny bit on my soft robe. Yea, a step forward!!!!
Tuesday evening we were back to a greeting swat but she settled down pretty quickly to her baby food treat. Again I pulled her into my lap and stroked her all over – her ears, under her chin, along the sides of her face – and she leaned into her loves! When I rubbed the base of her tail she started to lift her hind end – a sure sign of pleasure and a new sign of progress for her! I’ve been reading a new mystery series by Louise Penny. They are light but interesting and I took book number four A Rule Against Murder into the closet with me and read for three hours loving on Sammie the whole time. I think we both had a good time. I also got her to play just a little with a string on the camera. Nothing to threatening that might scare her. It’s a start!
Wednesday morning, today, in spite of the progress made on Tuesday, I got my usual swat. She had used her litter box and eaten all her wet food and some of her dry food though so she’s feeling safer. I only spent about 15 minutes with her and am hoping for another long session tonight. I’ve spent most of the day sending pictures and bios of some of our kitties to Teresa, our webmistress. My pictures are never very good but I do the best that I can. Kitties don’t like to sit still and pose! It’s about 7:00pm and I’m ready to take my book and spend a couple of hours with Sammie. I will write about how it goes on my next report. My goal is to have her stop swapping at the beginning of each encounter, maybe even come out to greet me and play with toys and me. Then I hope to introduce her slowly to other people and enlarge her circle of trust. We’ll see how it goes.