Over a month ago I received a call from a local vet’s office. They were seeking information about the possibility of placing a cat that had been brought to them to be euthanized. Since she was perfectly healthy they wanted to see if other options could be found. She was surrendered to the vet by the family that adopted her as a stray that turned up in their yard at about 6-8 months of age. They had her spayed, declawed on all four feet (poor dear, declawing is a cruel procedure as it removes the toe on each foot to the first joint, otherwise the nail grows back). Keiko is now three years old, and up-to-date on her vaccinations.
The reason for Keiko’s surrender is that she began to hide and to not always use the litter box. Keiko was checked and there was no evidence of a physical issue. My experience with cat clients has definitely taught me that they will develop these behavioral responses when something happens that causes them to feel unsafe in their environment. When threatened they will begin to display territorial marking behavior.
The vet was concerned that they were still going to have to euthanize her because she was extremely aggressive in her cage and would hiss and swat at them and try to bite (declawed cats feel very vulnerable and when really scared will use the last weapon left them, their teeth). I felt I needed to go visit her to better be able to assess the situation and to see how I might best offer advice. As I was very busy I asked a student to take a look at her photo and see what she might learn through animal communication. The picture emerged of a very sweet cat that needed someone who understood her need to be able to trust in her own fashion, and who was very afraid of where she was. She did not want to die.
When I first laid eyes on Keiko she was hiding behind a comfort barrier that the kind vet people had put in her cage, and was growling and hissing. I immediately knew what the solution was going to be. Unfortunately it involved my taking her home as a foster cat. It was very clear that she was never going to be able to settle in a vet clinic environment, there was too much noise and distress from other animals that came in for appointments. No one was ever going to be able to see who Keiko really was in that environment, she needed a quiet place to recover and for me to observe how she really interacted.
Keiko was informed of the plan, and when I went to pick her up the vet tech placed heavy gloves on her hands to try to grab Keiko and put her in the carrier. I could see Keiko’s response to that, and suggested that perhaps we open the carrier and place it in the cage and see if she would go in voluntarily. And she did, with a little guidance and encouragement, and she sat quietly as I picked her up and took her back to my house and a cage in the cellar.
When I first foster a cat I almost always cage them so that we have a secure environment in which to interact and so that I can build trust quickly. Keiko emerged from her carrier with ease, and immediately took up residence in the cat bed teepee that I had gotten for her to feel safe. Not once did she hiss at me, although she was clearly scared. I made no attempt to touch her for the next few days, simply giving her time. When I finally did reach out to her she tipped her head with relief and gladly accepted some loving touches. From that point on she was eager for contact — when I bring her food she would rather have me pet her than eat!
My schedule does not allow me to spend much time with her, but I make a point every evening to sit down in front of the cage and do some Reiki with her. Keiko knows the routine and rushes to her mat, eager for her session. I place both arms in the cage and Keiko piles in between them, curling around inside, rubbing her face in my hand, flipping her body, and purring like mad the entire time (and she has a lovely, loud, rumbling purr). If she really gets going she drools, just a little bit. By the end of 15 minutes of Reiki she is curled into a ball within my arms, head usually tucked into one hand, purr trailing off as she falls asleep. I still cannot believe that this is the same terrified cat that I saw at the vet, but, when I bring someone else to visit her, Keiko gets scared and tries to hide. She is getting better, accepting my reassurance that it is okay, trusting me, but it will evidently take her time to bond with someone else. In my opinion Keiko is a semi-feral. She will make someone a lovely companion so long as they allow her to build the relationship at her comfort level, and she will probably not be seen when company visits (unless they are doing Reiki, in which case I think she will be front and center!).
Keiko has now been with me for a month. Events with my eldest cat, Shaman, kind of put the focus of getting her adopted on hold, but she is getting tired of being in the cage, and I don’t blame her. It is time for her to find her forever home, I have given her great food and supplements, her coat is really glossy, she uses the litter box without fail, and she has had more than enough energy work!
So, do you know someone who would love this very sweet lady? I believe she needs a quiet home, one without small children or cats, although I think a calm, laid-back dog or kitten would be fine. And the person definitely needs to be someone who is comfortable with letting Keiko be who she is rather than having specific requirements.
It would be nice if Keiko’s person was already a Reiki practitioner but I am willing to consider a discount on Reiki training if the person is willing!
Keiko is waiting. Do you know where her forever home is?
Postscript: After nine months with me, Keiko finally found her forever home with the assistance of Kindred Souls Foundation and Petfinder. I am pleased to report that she is very happy.
If you would like to read another article regarding building trust with ferals see Building An Interspecies Bridge.