Often we see that the shy cats who are at our shelter are the ones who get repeatedly passed by. We created a club for the dogs and cats who end up here far too long that we call the Lonely Hearts Club. This is the tale of one feline club member, Moe, who no one wanted because of his extreme shyness. It is written by my guest blogger, Julia Willette, who wants everyone to know that with a little patience and love you can bring a shy or difficult animal around to be a wonderful pet.
Please come visit us and pick out your own shy cat. We've got plenty who are longing to be loved.
I've always been an "adopter." Growing up, we lived on a farm with plenty of cats (all adopted from strays or neighboring farms) and a dog (adopted from a nearby kennel run by a woman who cared for strays until families could be found), so it was always part of my makeup to get animals from families or shelters. Over the years, I've encouraged my friends and acquaintances to do the same.
When my husband and I moved in together, we adopted several rats and one cat from the Dane County Humane Society in south-central Wisconsin. The rats grew old, as rats tend to do, and we eventually only had Ichiban, a sweet and talkative orange tabby. The humane society had found him as a stray, so we didn't have any background information for him, but the signs pointed to his really wanting a playmate. So when we moved to Maryland, we immediately set off on a hunt through Baltimore County's numerous shelters to find the perfect match for our "only child."
First off, it was a bit of a shock to discover just how many abandoned animals there are. So many shelters, all with dozens of cats and dogs, some of which have been residents for months or even years! Each visit tugged at our hearts, and it was so difficult to leave empty-handed, but we were determined to find the cat that would complete our family.
Finally, we visited the Baltimore Humane Society. We'd checked their website beforehand, and had a whole list of animals we wanted to meet. Despite getting there late in the day, the volunteers were friendly and accommodating, and worked with us to determine which of the animals would be a good fit. We met several cats, talking all the while with the woman showing us around, and then she mentioned Moe.
We'd seen Moe's picture on the website, and he looked quite cute and dignified, but his description had listed him as exceptionally shy, which made us concerned that he wouldn't get along with Ichiban, who could be very rambunctious. We learned that he'd been a long-time resident at the shelter, and was in the "group room" getting on well with two other cats, so we decided to give him a shot.
We walked into the room, and there he was, curled in a wall-mounted bed and being aloof; the woman suggested that one of us sit in a chair in the room, as that was usually Moe's signal to be sociable. I sat down, and right away he was out of his bed and prowling around my legs, demanding head scratches! He was so beautiful, a miniature panther with lots of personality, that we couldn't understand why he'd been in the shelter for a year. The volunteer explained that his shyness was a key factor, as most people prefer cats that they don't have to "win over" when they bring them home. As if shyness is a bad thing! Every cat is different, just like every person, and the shy ones deserve just as much love as the cuddle-bugs.
It didn't take very long at all for us to decide that we wanted to make Moe part of the family. He was obviously good at cohabiting, and seemed perfectly friendly when he was in his element, and doggone it, he deserved a forever home! So we filed the paperwork, got our approval, and brought him home a few days later.
He was such a scared cat; he didn't want to be held, or go in his carrier, and he made small miserable meows the whole way home. We understood; we'd just taken him away from the only home he'd known for a year, after all! But we talked to him, told him how happy we were that he was coming home with us, and pet him as best we could through the door of the carrier.
Moe was every bit as shy as expected once we got home; we'd set him up in his own room so he'd have the chance to acclimate while Ichiban prowled outside the door, afire with curiosity, and spent several hours in the room every day, slowly coaxing Moe out from under the spare couch for pats. He would come out when we were in the room, but ran and hid anytime we got up to move around; eventually, he got used to that, and we realized he was just going to live under the couch in the spare room forever if we didn't give him a reason not to! So after about a week, we opened the door and coaxed him out to explore the rest of the house.
Well, black cats are natural ninjas. For the next few weeks, we never knew where he'd be hiding: on the top shelf of the linen closet in the master bathroom, under the couch in the living room, beneath our headboard in the bedroom, sometimes even curled up under a spare blanket! We'd occasionally hear the jingling of his collar when he snuck from hiding spot to hiding spot, but most of the time, it was as though we had one cat and a poltergeist. Sometimes, if we were relaxing on the couch, he would come out from his hiding place and demand pats, but for the most part, we let Ichiban play ambassador and show Moe that he accepted him as his new brother (which he usually accomplished by finding Moe and bopping his head, and then attempting to convince Moe to chase him).
Slowly but surely, Moe started emerging more often. First, just us moving would send him scurrying back to a hiding place, then it was just loud noises, and then it was just when strangers were present, or we scolded him for clawing a forbidden piece of furniture or stealing Ichiban's food.
It's been about a month and a half since we brought Moe home, and he now spends most of his days either curled up on the top platform of the 7' cat tree, or sitting in the living room window, watching birds. When he wants pats, he makes very sure he gets them. When that happens, we must be prepared to use both hands, because he won't accept just one! His purr is like a little engine, and he absolutely LOVES head-scratches and tummy rubs (he'll get so ecstatic about tummy rubs that he actually drools). His astounding feats in the litter box have earned him the loving moniker "Poo Beast," and he and Ichiban entertain each other by playing tag around the house, galumphing up and down the stairs, and taking breaks to assist each other in losing whole clumps of winter hair (until we scold them and tell them to play nice).
It was a very sudden thing, Moe's decision to become comfortable, but we couldn't be happier. We have two adorable, wonderful cats, and the best part is knowing that we've given lost animals a home. We still don't understand why people passed Moe by. Six weeks is a very short time to earn the endless love of an animal, and it's worth every minute.