Let me tell you about Lola. We have just said our goodbyes to her after she was successfully adopted. We had the privilege of loving Lola for the last month and it was a real wrench letting her go. Foolish woman that I am, thought it would be easier this time, after all I’d gone through it once and knew what to expect. If anything it was harder, but more about this later let me introduce her to you first.
We had been told that she could be aggressive and had already scratched and bitten (quite badly may I add) the first fosterers. She needed to be socialized had the tendency to hide, would go for your legs and ankles when you tried to get through the door, was an escapologist and a very picky eater who did not like to play.
Uuuummm this is going to be a challenge we thought! but loving cats the way we do we were up for it. She arrived a few days after Big Cat had gone to his new home and what a pretty little lady she was, and not at all what we were expecting.
(I appologise here for the photo’s I’m sharing, they are just our snapshots taken using my daughters phone and I must be the worst photographer in the world. Hopefully though they will give you an insight into her beautiful nature.)
Inquisitive is an understatement. As soon as the cat carrier was opened she was off.
Under the sofa, on top of the kitchen units, behind the printer, into my art supplies, nibbling the plants etc, you get the picture.
Where was the cat that needed socialising? I must admit I thought they had brought us the wrong cat.
O.k it took her a couple of hours to approach me and let me pet her but that’s not unusual, everything was new and she needed to get used to her surroundings, but after that she was fine. I picked her up to move her out of the fridge after I had opened the door and she obviously thought it was too good an opportunity for exploration to miss. I went in and out of the door numerous times and yes she did try to escape every time, but no signs of aggression, it was weird!
Finding out what made her tick
Of course this always takes a few days and some times much longer, but Lola made it so easy for us. Just as long as you take your queues from the cat and try not to force the situation, the majority of the time, or so I’ve found, they let you know what makes them happy and what gets them annoyed. Pretty much like us really.
So we found out almost immediately she was no lap cat, getting fussed was strictly on her terms and when she had had enough there was absolutely no coaxing her to stay. She just left and that was the end of it! There was NO lap sitting and she had to be in total control. On the other hand when she wanted fuss, especially in the mornings she REALLY wanted it and was vocal in making it known, following you from room to room, showing you how much she had missed you through the night and how happy she was to see you.
It was about this time we found out one of the reasons she was such an escape artist. She just didn’t like being on her own. She loved company. If I went to make coffee Lola joined me, if I went to shower she needed to come into the bathroom, if I was cleaning the windows she sat on the window sill and when I was painting she loved nothing more than lying on the paper (purring loudly which made me feel so guilty when I moved her off). Leaving the room and shutting the door behind you, actually upset her.
One night Charlotte, Hannah and myself we scattered around the house doing our own thing, it was tantamount for torture for her. She prowled from one room to the next meowing loudly, she couldn’t settle. Fussing her made no difference, there was no interest in playing and she was not hungry. It was not until we all sat down together later she finally settled and sat on the back of the sofa with a look of “well that took you long enough to get the message and now I’m exhausted!”. She loved us all being together, with her there.
She also loved to play. In fact it was an essential part of the day. If we didn’t play at least 2-3 times daily she became restless and edgy, prowling around and obviously bored. We had plenty of toys but there was only two which she loved. A mouse filled with catnip and home adapted stick with string on the end. These gave endless hours of fun. It just goes to show you do not have to spend a fortune, some of the simplest toys give the greatest pleasure.
Don’t expect me to drink from that bowl!
By day three I had become a little worried about her. Excuse me here because I’m going do talk toileting. Yep, the dreaded cat litter tray.
I had noticed that after she had used litter box she would shoot out of it like a bullet and run full speed across the living room sliding across the laminate floor and crashing into anything in the way. The first time it happened it took me by complete surprise, it’s not every day I have a flying cat in the house. I didn’t have a clue what had happened to her. There was nothing she could have hurt herself with and there were no loud noises which could have frightened her. It was only when I changed the litter later I realised her stools were way too hard making going to the toilet painful. She wasn’t drinking enough! I was initially baffled as I made sure she always had fresh clean water available. This apparently wasn’t good enough! She happily drank from the tap every time I turned it on ( a little inconvenient when you just want to get on with the washing up ) and we learned quickly never to put a glass of water down (in the end we gave her, her own glass ) but drinking out of a bowl, this was not acceptable to her!
Here I shout hallelujah for cat fountains. In an attempt to encourage her to drink enough (and from something other than a glass) we got her a Cat Mate water fountain. It worked like a dream. In a couple of days she was drinking enough and toileting normally. The filter in it makes sure the water is clean and fresh and the Cat Mate fountain mimics a stream, which is were a cat would naturally choose to drink from in the wild. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you have a cat that just will not use a water bowl. If you want to find out more about the one that worked for us I have written a full review. You can read the full article by clicking here.
Curiosity May Well Kill this Cat.
With a true cats nature Lola was in to everything. Trying to control this and stop their inquisitive behavior is a sure way to create an unhappy and unfulfilled cat. There was nothing which didn’t have to be explored. Each morning the house was inspected, sniffed and explored as if for the first time before she settled down for a well-earned nap. If I opened a draw she was in it. If I opened it 5 minutes later, you’ve guessed it she was in there again, just making sure of course nothing had changed and everything was still in order. Every time I opened my bag it was examined, which naturally could not be fully achieved unless she was inside the bag.
There is a great temptation to try to curb this behavior, but I truly believe this will not make for a happy cat. Trying to subdue their natural instincts leaves them frustrated and unsatisfied. If anything giving them opportunity to be curious and finding ways they can explore new things each day leads to a calm cat without destructive tendencies.
The only time I would deviate from this is when their behavior is harmful to them. With Lola this meant moving all plants out of the rooms she went in (which was most of them). You’ve heard the saying that animals know best, and, they won’t eat it if it will hurt them. Let me categorically now state this in not true. In fact Lola went for all of the plants that were toxic to her first! It was like she had some sort of death wish! Some cats are not interested in eating plants but Lola was not one of them. She seemed to head straight for the plants which could potentially KILL HER.
From now on I am checking thoroughly before I buy any new plants and making sure they are all cat friendly, just in case I get another plant addicted foster cat.
Our Biggest Surprise with Lola.
So from everything I’ve told you, you may well have jumped to the same conclusion that I did. Lola was a well-adjusted confident, affectionate, playful, happy cat. Which was true ….. until……. a visitor arrived! Suddenly it was a whole different cat living with us.
She dropped her haunches, a ridge of hair stood proud long her spine, ears dropped back, pupils dilated and the growling started. There was no messing with her at this point …..she meant business! What just happened! The transformation was massive.
I quickly opened the door to the next room and she was gone. This proved to me she was not in fact an aggressive cat. If she had wanted to fight she could have attacked there and then, she didn’t, instead given the opportunity she fled. I now understood why I had been given the initial description of her. The problem was she was nervous and highly suspicious of new people. She went into protection mode, her natural instincts took over and I have no doubt if backed into a corner in this state she would have lashed out through fear.
Why hadn’t she reacted this way when I (and then Hannah and Charlotte) first met her? I don’t know. Maybe it was because we let her decide to come to us first and did not even try to approach her. Maybe it was because she was in a new place and her inquisitive nature over rode her fear. The fact is I will never know, but what I did know now was that I needed to introduce her to new people her so that she could be confident, relaxed and learn to enjoy the company of more than just the three of us.
As with all things cat there is no quick fix and you need to go at the pace your cat is happy and can cope with. So every few days I invited friends to come round.
I was confident she would not become aggressive as long as she was not cornered. She had proven this already. At the same time I needed her to not run and hide completely. I gave her plenty of places to hide in the room we were going to be in. Boxes, the enclosed basket in her cat tree etc, places in which she already felt safe and had her scent quite strongly, but shut the door out of the room so that she could not disappear completely.
I must point out here we already knew Lola well. She had been with us a couple of weeks and we had formed a bond with her and had gained her trust. I knew that I would not be putting her under too much stress. She had already claimed her space in the living room and owned it when we were with her. She just needed help to do the same when new people came into the environment.
My plan was to just sit and talk to friends for half an hour or so with her in the room then see if I could coax her out with her favourite treats or toys.
The first time she did totally as I had predicted and went into hiding immediately. She was not in the least interested in coming out, so I just let her be. Then as soon as they left out she popped as if nothing had happened, eager to play and happy as Larry.
The second time, she hid, but after about 15 minutes came out while we were still talking. She was obviously nervous but we paid no attention to her letting her go at her own pace. It did not take long for her to approach us and was happy to receive fuss from my friend. In fact about hour later she wouldn’t leave us alone (yep me and my friends can chat for way longer than an hour without even taking a breath) .
By the third time I no longer shut the door to the living room giving her the opportunity to escape completely, which she initially did. Then of her own free will she came back into the living room and gradually introduced herself to everyone in there.
She honestly progressed so much quicker than I had expected, each time growing in confidence, and never once showed aggression.
With a little time and patience and most importantly without any force she was able to begin overcoming the fear which had previously driven her.
As with people each cat has their own personality, their own fears, their own strengths and their own individuality. Recognising these and working with them to be the most confident and happy they can be is different every time. Lola was nervous but once she had gained confidence in the situation her beautiful personality shone through. It sounds stupid but I was so proud of her. She will probably always need space when meeting people for the first time. That’s fine though, I like a bit of space myself to make my mind up too.
Finding her Forever Home
I knew at this stage she was ready to find her forever home and I would be lying if I didn’t tell you my gut twisted when I thought about it. She had become such a loving part of our family we knew we would all miss her and her quirky little ways. The strange thing is she had been up for adoption the whole time we had had her with not a hint of interest from anyone. Then as soon as she turned the corner and was ready to accept a wider human social group, boom, someone immediately inquired about her. A few days later he came to visit and see if they were a match.
As with Lola her initial reaction was hide. We went through the same procedure of chatting and letting her get accustomed to the new voice and smell. It also gave me a chance to explain al her likes, dislikes and everything she had taught us about herself.
When she finally came out it didn’t take her long (hesitantly at first) to familiarise herself with everyone. She allowed petting and even purred a little, a great sign. It was clear after about another 20 minutes she would definitely be able to bond with her prospective adopter. The decision was now up to him and within 15 minutes of him leaving I had the call. Yes he liked Lola….well who wouldn’t, she was a little gem…..and he would be very happy to adopt her.
This time it would be me taking her to her new home and so a week later I settled her into her carrier, gathered her toys and blanket and took her to the car. She made it perfectly clear that the carrier was not her favourite experience and loudly vocalised this for, the luckily short, 10 minute drive.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we arrived. Would she run and hide? Stick to me like glue? or explore and make herself at home?
To my absolute joy she reacted exactly as she had when she arrived at our house. Jumping out of the carrier and immediately into everything. She greeted her adopter as if she had known him for an age and he did the same. She had found her forever home and was making herself comfortable from the very first second.
O.K I still wanted to pick her up, pop her straight back into the carrier and drive her home without looking back. It’s selfish I know, but hey I’m only human.
Thankfully, I’m pretty sure I didn’t show this to either her adopter (who I have to say here, was a lovely man who had a really gentle way with Lola) or Lola.
I left knowing this was her right place and her new life was going to be awesome and exactly what she needed.