Ophelia has been adopted! I never thought she’d find someone who understood her fears, or even how she’d meet anyone since she vaporized when strangers were anywhere near. But she is so affectionate I knew all they had to do was get past her fears, and the perfect couple arrived.
Cindy and Don had adopted Obi and Suki about two months ago. Obi socialized fine and was friendly and outgoing, but his sister Suki was still fearful of people she didn’t know and elusive to affection. They had been interested in Obi alone, but decided at the last minute that even though Suki wasn’t interested in them, they would adopt both the brother and sister. After a few days in their new home, Suki came out from hiding and though she’s still to be admired but not touched, both cats have integrated just fine.
Cindy happened to be looking at Pittsburgh C.A.T.’s Petfinder page and admiring Ophelia’s perfect beauty when Don came along and asked who that kitty was, because she looked just like Roxanne, a kitty who had been very special to him. So they inquired about Ophelia on Saturday, and wanted to meet her that day if possible. Tarra and Mary Kay both messaged me, Tarra to confirm Ophelia’s availability and health records status and Mary Kay because she was so excited the wonderful people who had adopted Obi and Suki were interested in Little O. Mary Kay had met Ophelia while visiting here, and took care of the household while I was away at Savannah last year. Hamlet and Ophelia were still in the bathroom at that time, and Mary Kay and O became good friends with O settling on her lap and purring, one of the things that gave me confidence that Ophelia only had to meet the right people in the right circumstances who understood her fears and sensitivities.
I called to make arrangements and we decided to wait for the next day, and I pondered the best way to introduce Ophelia and two humans she didn’t know. Most people who know me are probably aware that at some point I’m going to pitch one of my fosters to them, it’s just the way it’s always been around here. Typically fosters are out with the household and most of my visitors, whether here for commercial or fine art business or just visiting, are cat people, and who can resist a bunch of cats milling around asking for attention? The holidays are busier than usual with people stopping for portraits and merchandise. But Ophelia was always swept off into some other world where strangers didn’t visit, much the same as Moses always was, and I’ve never found that place they went in this tiny house. Perhaps she wasn’t ready yet for her first meet and greet last fall, but the woman was gentle and quiet and handled O very well, but Ophelia still went behind the toilet and would not come out. I knew I’d have to confine Ophelia in the bathroom so they’d be able to at least see her, and hope she’d come out from behind the toilet or adjust to some handling.
Ophelia and I had become best of friends. No running from me when I reached to pet her, and in fact she reached for my hand sometimes to encourage me to pet her. I’d been trying to video the way she raced me around the house and greeted me in her safe places. When I’d walk up the stairs I’d hear a little pitter-pat at the top and my little Girly-pie would appear, running sideways across the landing so she could watch me come up the steps, tail straight up and quivering in excitement, her purr echoing down the steps to me, and the performance would continue as I approached and she flopped down, rolled around and offered her belly, grabbing my hand with her velvety paws to lick it. She would race to the cat tree at the bottom of the stairs as I headed toward it, give the sisal post a really good scratch, roll over and peer at me from behind the post and beg for play with one of the pieces of sisal I’d dangle for her to catch. My favorite was when she would turn from a window toward me, look me right in the eye and do a deep downward cat then arch her back and stretch forward with her left paw stretched even farther toward me, and if I was close enough, she would press her paw against me. And more antics, all day long. No one got to see it but me. Honestly, I couldn’t get enough of her.
But for all of her love for me, she had less love for living with so many cats. That’s one of the issues in living in any space with this many cats, especially a small house like this one. Everywhere she turned she met another cat who was not her brother. One at a time was fine, but my cats don’t usually travel in singles, they are usually in pairs or threes, and that was intimidating to her as she interpreted their outgoing natures as threatening. Mealtimes had become especially distressing. I’ve always known that feeding this many cats together in a small space is not natural for them but only a few cats have been upset by it. I tried feeding Ophelia in other places, like the bathroom or the basement or even up on the cabinet by the window, which she loved. But unless I could close a door, the rest of the household followed the food and she was frightened off, and Ophelia didn’t like being behind a closed door either, and would not eat. I used a combination of flower essences, pheromone wipes and feeding order to accommodate her two special spots in the kitchen at mealtimes. I knew that a good bit of her residual fearfulness was kept alive by this stress of living with so many cats. It’s a sad feeling knowing that the environment you can provide for a cat just isn’t a good environment for this cat, and despite all the love and affection it would take its toll on her. I began asking around for a possible foster who didn’t have as many cats to see if she could just find some open space and be able to socialize more fully toward humans.
Two people who understood Suki’s fearfulness and a big house with two humans and only two cats would work for O.
I decided that I would confine her to the bathroom with the baby gate to slow the other cats down, and stand in the doorway holding her. Depending on how she reacted we could try for more interaction, and there was also the chance she would end up rearranging my face trying to get away. I dosed her with flower essences and a little more pheromones on the nearby surfaces. Ophelia did so well I was completely surprised that she let me hold her for that long, and let them pet her. She was frightened, not making eye contact with them, but relaxed with no tension in her body and her paws draped over my arm. She made no attempts to escape. After a few minutes I handed her to Cindy and she was still relaxed with no struggling.
She was a little too frightened to let Don hold her but he could easily pet her when Cindy held her.
This went on for at least a half hour, way longer than I thought we’d get—I really thought she’d only give us a few minutes. She looked at me for a little reassurance.
I think she understood.
We ended up leaving her in the bathroom while we did paperwork and talked about the room they’d prepared for her.
I swiped the inside of her carrier with pheromones and gave her another dose of flower essences and put her into her carrier without a struggle. Hamlet had come up the stairs to see what was happening but left with two other humans there. I showed her to him so they could sniff before I carried her out to the car. She was quiet all the way home and they petted her briefly when they set her up in her room.
I was more than a little sad to see Hamlet quietly looking everywhere for her, though.
He went from room to room upstairs looking and sniffing, kept going back to her usual napping spots hoping to find her there and sniffing the cubby in the bathroom which was the last place where she had been in the house.
I talked him and petted him and got him to play, and Hamlet’s buddies Basil and Bella and Bean just showed up in the bedroom. Typically the afternoon nap on the bed was only Hamlet and Ophelia, but they stayed with him. Bean is wrestling with Basil and Bella had just nose-tapped Hamlet as they try to distract him.
Dinnertime was quiet, missing one member, but remembering Ophelia’s stress at mealtimes it was apparent how difficult this had been for her. Hamlet slept at my feet with the boys, and at breakfast he was mingling more instead of going directly to the spot he shared with Ophelia, and took his treat directly from my hand. Where he would always startle and run a few steps whenever I moved toward him, he’s been napping in the bathroom with Basil and Bella and I stepped over him three times and he only looked up at me. Where he always ducked at first when I reached to pet him, he sat up into my hand and looked up at me for a series of eye blinks, then went back to his bath.
Giuseppe has been taking care of him, and aside from all that he’s been playing ALL DAY, chasing around by himself where it used to be a chase with Ophelia, and playing with every toy he can get his paws on. I never used to see this much of him.
Now Hamlet has his chance to socialize as fully as he can without his sister’s influence. I had debated about breaking them up, but watching them for all these months I felt they’d be better apart. They have been here for 17 months, since September 2016; prior to that they had been trapped as part of a TNR, held for socialization, then sent to a barn home when they didn’t seem to want to be socializing. They were frightened there, so I was asked if I could help them socialize and they came to me. From the very first day Ophelia was actually Hamlet’s protector, and all this time, though he’s interacted more with other people, he’s followed her lead with trusting people, though he became friends with all the other cats in the house. I can’t wait to see how he turns out.
My little fluffy
I have only black cats now. I’ll miss my little gray fluffy, my dust bunny, my powderpuff! She was so beautiful, and tempting, all that silvery fur, the amber eyes, the plushy paws, and her wild affection. It’s a strange thing, this fostering, especially with unsocialized cats, and with cats who’ve lived with you for more than a year. You work hard to make them understand love, and then you give them away to a stranger. They always take a little piece of your heart, just like any loss. But the ending is joy because Ophelia could not stay here, and I could never, would never even want to, keep all the cats I’ve rescued and fostered. Finding a perfect home is a joy in itself, but most important is introducing the animals and humans and witnessing the first few moments of a forever bond of love, as strong as the ones you have with your own household. Someday they’ll look at each other and realize they can’t imagine life without each other. That is a gift that’s far better than trying to keep them all.
I had an idea for a painting of her that I’d intended to do for the January painting challenge and I’d wanted to use it to help promote her adoption, but it was one of the ones I didn’t get to. I can do that now, at my leisure.
For anyone who has watched these two grow and change, remember that when socializing cats, time and patience are your most important tools. The rewards will change you.
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
Can’t adopt? Foster! Can’t foster? Donate or volunteer.
There are so many ways you can help cats who need homes and care. You may not have room to adopt another cat, but can foster a cat or kitten for a few weeks. If not that, you can volunteer at a shelter or with a rescue, or donate. You do this because you love your cat, and by doing so you help all cats. No matter which of these actions you take, you help to save a life, and make life better for all cats.
- Adopt one of the cats I’ve posted here, or from any shelter or rescue near you, or from Petfinder, to open up a space for another cat to be rescued and fostered.
- Offer to foster cats or kittens for a shelter or rescue near you.
- Volunteer at a shelter or rescue.
- Find a group of volunteers who work with homeless cats and help them with their efforts.
- Donate to a shelter or rescue near you.
If you can foster kittens or adults cats to help prepare them for a forever home, please run to your nearest shelter and find a cat who needs you! Anyone can help with this effort at any level, even if all you do is donate to a shelter or rescue so they can help to pay for the food or medications needed for their foster, or the spay/neuter/veterinary care during a clinic.
Need to know more? Read Fostering for Your Shelter and Fostering Saves Lives.
Art and Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
Feline Photos from Portraits of Animals!
In celebration of Ophelia’s adoption! Did you know that many of the favorite photos you see here each day are available as prints and note cards on Portraits of Animals? I add to the gallery all the time too, as images gain popularity. If you see one here that you think would make a good photo print or greeting card, please let me know! In the meantime browse the gallery of Feline Photos.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
© 2017 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!