KITTEN WIRE: TAKING A CHANCE ON NATALIE

OAKLAND — When a father-son pair began their search for a new feline companion, they scrolled through the faces on Cat Town's adoption gallery, and found themselves drawn in by a brown tabby. 

"Her eyes in the photo of her that was uploaded immediately caught our attention," said 18-year-old Blue. "They were gentle and inviting, almost hopeful, begging to find a home."

  Natalie's favorite Cat Zone hangout. Photo by Andrew Dorman.

Natalie's favorite Cat Zone hangout. Photo by Andrew Dorman.

Blue and his dad, Jack, decided to meet the cat they saw online. It wasn't exactly a Kodak moment. Natalie was a member of our Forgotten Kitten Project, an initiative to rescue under-socialized cats around 4 to 9 months old. Having missed out on positive interactions in their early formative months, they often fear humans and therefore are at risk of euthanasia at traditional shelters. 

For Natalie, receiving a stranger's pet was out of the question. But that didn't deter Jack and Blue.

"Although she wasn't exactly friendly when we visited, we could relate to her unwillingness to trust strangers," Blue said. "Being familiar with trauma ourselves, we thought it would be fitting to rehabilitate a traumatized cat, as many adopters don't have the emotional resources to do so." 

Cat Town established a process to identify these at-risk cats, trained a small army of volunteers, and built a cage-free space designed to help these, and other vulnerable cats, thrive. That's how Natalie went from a shelter cage to Cat Town's adoption center. 

"We knew that with a little love she would reveal herself," Blue said, "and she has!" 

  Toward the end of her time at Cat Town Natalie started relaxing and accepting pets, a good sign for her adopters. Photo by Cathy Niland.

Toward the end of her time at Cat Town Natalie started relaxing and accepting pets, a good sign for her adopters. Photo by Cathy Niland.

Natalie's transition went like so many do: At first, she hid. "For a few weeks I called her a cryptid because glimpses of her were so rare and exciting, she'd only come out when we were sleeping," Jack said. 

But they knew the right approach: Create a calm, safe-feeling environment, with plenty of predictability — and treats. 

How long did it take? At least a month before they were able to pet her.

And now?

"Now she can't get enough," Jack said. "In the last weeks she's just begun cuddling up to my legs when I sleep and climbing on our laps for attention, so the warming up process is still ongoing."

"An absolute sweetheart," Blue added. "She's always rubbing against us, looking for affection, and has an insatiable desire to play."

Life is sweet with their newest family member.  

"Natalie slept on the empty pillow next to my pillow for a long time when she was first warming up to us and she started putting her paw on my face at night," Jack explained. "Marie from Cat Town told me she had begun socializing Natalie by holding her paw, so that night when I settled down in bed I held her paw. It had an immediate effect on her emotionally, she moved to my legs and cuddled up behind my knees, and that's where she sleeps every night now." 

Blue has some expert advice for anyone considering opening up their home to one of our undersocialized rescues. "You'll have to prove to them that you won't hurt them by consistently being safe and nonthreatening."

Jack offers three pieces of advice for anyone considering adopting a cat still on the shy side:

  1. You can't take stuff personally with a cat like this. By which I mean if weeks have gone by and very little has changed, don't give in to the worry that you or the cat are doing something wrong.
  2. Cats like Natalie (and some people, too) need a lot of time to know they're safe, not just in their environment, but emotionally, safe from abandonment as well.
  3. Pay attention. They can't talk with words but they have so much to say. If they feel heard, you make a friend for life. 

Well said! 

If you are inspired by Natalie's adoption story, consider donating to Cat Town, so we can continue rescuing forgotten kittens like Natalie.

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

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