KITTEN WIRE: THINKING OF ADOPTING? 4 TIPS FOR SUCCESS

OAKLAND — They may hide. They may hiss. They may take longer to snuggle up than you were expecting. But they bring so much joy. And with time and the right techniques, they will purr. And paw at your socks. And surprise you with the different facets of their personality.

Members of our Forgotten Kitten Project — cats under 1 year of age who came town Cat Town because they had no other option — often require a special guardian. Someone who understands that these older kittens are still learning to trust humans after a rough start to life in a shelter cage.

If you are thinking of adopting one of our formerly forgotten kittens, check out these four tips for success. 

Trust the Matchmaking Process

When you adopt from Cat Town, adoption counselors work to help pair you with your new best friend. These specially trained staff and volunteers consider the temperament of any given cat, their age and any health issues. They use that information to help make suggestions about which cat might fit your lifestyle and experience level.

While it’s an art not a science, you can trust that the adoption counselor you work with has the interests of you and our feline friends at heart. 

  Oahu and Cleopatra, now called Miso and Maki, were not originally a bonded pair. Now they are best friends. Oahu came to Cat Town as part of a litter of five. Cleopatra was rescued alone. When Oahu's siblings left in pairs for their new homes, staff made sure to find a good companion for him, as researchers consistently say young cats thrive in pairs — or more. Photo Contributed

Oahu and Cleopatra, now called Miso and Maki, were not originally a bonded pair. Now they are best friends. Oahu came to Cat Town as part of a litter of five. Cleopatra was rescued alone. When Oahu's siblings left in pairs for their new homes, staff made sure to find a good companion for him, as researchers consistently say young cats thrive in pairs — or more. Photo Contributed

Be Patient

  Marvin (left), adopted in 2015, was recently joined at home by Mel, a graduate of our Forgotten Kitten Project. Photo Contributed

Marvin (left), adopted in 2015, was recently joined at home by Mel, a graduate of our Forgotten Kitten Project. Photo Contributed

If you do find your match in a member of our Forgotten Kitten Project, it’s likely you'll be taking home a shy cat. It's common for any cat to be skittish in the early days in a new home. But it can be an especially delicate time for our FKPs (our shorthand for the Forgotten Kitten Project members), given their disadvantaged beginning. The reason we rescued them in the first place is because no one else would — they needed extra time and attention that traditional shelters aren't able to provide. So they may still be learning to trust humans.

Every hiss is a confused ‘I love you.’
— Marie C.

"My best advice when adopting an FKP would be to give the cat time," said Dawn Pieper, Cat Town’s deputy director and foster coordinator. "Ideally, an FKP goes to a home with another (confident) cat and that helps with getting the cat acclimated, but there is no set timeline that cats are on."

Not convinced? We asked Cat Care Coordinator Marie Carney about the biggest mistakes she sees.

“The biggest mistake is to think we are exaggerating how slow the process can be and think that once they get home they'll just come around without any work,” she said.

Have Faith

It’s easy to get discouraged when a new pet we love so much doesn’t immediately return the affection. Maybe she hides when you walk into a room, pulls away when you want to give pets or jumps off a chair when you dare to move too quickly. Sometimes cats can find deep, dark hiding place so you can barely even see them. 

Don’t despair. Their natural instincts are just kicking in, and we just have to draw on tried-and-true techniques to help them feel safe.

“The most important thing is to not take any negative behaviors personally,” Marie added. “Every hiss is a confused ‘I love you.’"

She added: “It's best if you can understand that they are scared and require a lot of patience and empathy."

  Thammy, formerly known as Kona, was the most skittish of her five siblings during her time at Cat Town. Her adopter created the right conditions to help her and her littermate relax and unwind in their new home. Photo Contributed

Thammy, formerly known as Kona, was the most skittish of her five siblings during her time at Cat Town. Her adopter created the right conditions to help her and her littermate relax and unwind in their new home. Photo Contributed

Seek Support

Cat Town has a variety of ways of offering support both before and after the adoption process. We offer case managers who can help demystify feline behaviors and provide guidance. The core staff members, who have brokered hundreds of adoptions, are always available to share tips — and an ear to listen. What seems entirely new to you, even as a longtime cat guardian, may be something staff has encountered before. And should you run into any really complicated issues, we can refer you to a behaviorist and other specialists. 

Getting off on the right foot is essential. One of the most important tips Dawn, our deputy director, offers is to start the cat in a small space. 

Cats are incredibly sensitive to smells and can feel exposed and insecure when out in a big room. Help them transition into their new environment by providing a small, quiet space where they can get used to their new environments.

“People always ask ‘how long before I can let the cat out of the space?’” Dawn says, “And I respond by saying, ‘If the cat is walking around that space confidently when you're with them, then they are ready for more.’”

That can take discipline. But it pays off in the end when your feline friend knows she is safe and builds an unbreakable bond.

  Joy (gray tabby) went to a home with confident cat Kena, who was previously adopted from Cat Town and is now proving to be a snuggle buddy on these chilly winter days. Joy, formerly known as Oak, arrived at Cat Town with two siblings who were adopted by another family. The goal was to find Oak a home with a companion, so she would continue to build confidence and have a playmate. Photo Contributed

Joy (gray tabby) went to a home with confident cat Kena, who was previously adopted from Cat Town and is now proving to be a snuggle buddy on these chilly winter days. Joy, formerly known as Oak, arrived at Cat Town with two siblings who were adopted by another family. The goal was to find Oak a home with a companion, so she would continue to build confidence and have a playmate. Photo Contributed

The Forgotten Kitten Project is an innovative concept pioneered by Cat Town, whose founders believed that cats shouldn't be euthanized just because they didn't get enough positive human interaction in those first few formative weeks. Years of experience have proven that the right techniques, plus time, can help a young cat — formerly forgotten — blossom into a loving companion. You can meet several who are available for adoption during your visit to Cat Town.

Learn more about our Forgotten Kitten Project in our weekly Kitten Wire dispatch. Be sure to check out our full series

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