Cat Town Helps a Cat With a Bad Case of the Mondays
Sunday arrived at Oakland Animal Services (OAS), the city’s municipal shelter, in a trap. Estimated to be one-year-old, and with a clipped ear, staff at Cat Town knew she had likely lived her young life outdoors. Nothing about her behavior in the shelter suggested that she was accustomed to being around people, and, in truth, we were a little afraid to interact with her, as she would hiss and growl at anyone who came close.
Cat Town works in close collaboration with OAS, with some volunteers working with both organizations, so they typically know the cats well before taking them. While at the shelter, most staff and volunteers thought Sunday was feral, and that she should return to a life outdoors. But one volunteer, Andrew, saw past her hissing from the corner of her cage, and saw glimmers of a cat who might enjoy human companionship. With Andrew’s patient approach, Sunday was leaning into his hand for pets. With no other options for placement, he knew Cat Town had to take a chance on her.
Sunday’s first stop out of the shelter was to a Cat Town foster home. Her foster worked hard to help build a positive relationship, especially by trying to engage her in play, but after a couple of months, Sunday showed no interest.
At a crossroads, Cat Town was faced with a challenging decision. They don’t want to force a feral cat to live indoors, but they also don’t want to give up on a cat who may just need the right environment to thrive.
They decided to bring Sunday to Cat Zone 2, a quiet, private transition space adjacent to the Cat Town Cafe. She was in a small room getting regular attention from volunteers trained to work with under socialized cats. Still, she remained in hiding, so they brought in two teenage kittens who were confident, and headed to the Cat Zone, the public adoption area of the Cat Town Cafe. After a few days of keeping the cats separated, they let the kittens explore. One headed right into Sunday’s hiding spot, and everyone held their breath in case she responded aggressively. Instead, when the kitten emerged from Sunday’s hiding spot, Sunday followed, clearly thrilled to be near another cat. This was the first time staff and volunteers had seen her move.
In the Cat Zone adoption space, there are typically 15 free-roaming cats who receive up to 10 visitors per hour, including lots of young kids, for the nine hours Cat Town is open five days a week. The Cat Zone offers the cats many accessible hiding places, but still can be a bit overwhelming for a cat who isn’t tremendously confident, especially in the beginning. So, it might seem a little counter-intuitive that Sunday’s next stop was there. But cats learn from one another, and the Cat Zone gives fearful, under socialized cats exposure to confident ones who can help them learn to trust, with tremendous results.
Over the few months that Sunday was in the Cat Zone, staff and volunteers saw what has become a familiar transformation. She first hunkered down in hiding, watching the other cats play and socialize, and was given the space to settle in at her own pace. They watched as she started engaging in play and finally started leaning into pets. By the end of her stay, Sunday could be found in the center of the room, unfazed by kids and visitors. The biggest challenge became Sunday’s fondness for curling up in people’s laps, making visitors feel guilty when they’d have to leave.
After her long road from the streets of Oakland to becoming a Cat Town volunteer favorite, Sunday was adopted last month. Now she’s home, learning her new surroundings and enjoying time with a family of her own. While our foster program gives the cats the one-on-one attention they so often crave, Sunday’s stay at the Cat Town Cafe was just what she needed, changing the trajectory of her life.
Last month was the two-year anniversary of the Cat Town Cafe, where they’ve seen Sunday’s story happen time and time again – a shy cat enters the unique adoption space and is utterly transformed there.
Helping the shy, fearful and under socialized cats who seem unadoptable in a stressful shelter environment is Cat Town’s reason for being. As Sunday’s story confirms, once a cat feels safe and loved, anything is possible!
To help more cats like Sunday, please contribute to Cat Town’s Gift That Gives More Campaign! Or purchase a copy of Catification, AUTOGRAPHED by Jackson Galaxy, and $5.00 of every sale will go to Cat Town. Use coupon code “CATTOWN” at check out.