About 5 months after Stormy died, my Niece and Sister in law decided to volunteer at a local animal shelter to help ease the pain of their loss. The shelter housed 17 cats and the cats were mostly older ones who would never be adopted. My Niece's and Sister in law's duties included feeding the cats, cleaning the litter boxes, and cleaning the front office.
The people at the shelter kept asking them if they would consider adopting or fostering a cat, but my Niece and Sister in law were not sure, because the pain from the loss of Stormy was still raw, and they just weren't ready. Volunteering at the shelter was helping to ease their sadness on Stormy's tragic passing.
Three months passed, and one day the shelter was called because a cat was left in a crate in front of a New Jersey PETCO store. True to their calling, the animal shelter graciously agreed to accept this abandoned male cat and to take care of him until he could hopefully be adopted. One woman volunteer agreed to take on the abandoned cat, but she soon found out this particular big cat would hide out and only come out to be aggressive and attack her other pet cats.
My Niece was volunteering the next day, and the Shelter operator asked her, "Can you please take this cat because you are the only volunteer with no pets at home." My Niece asked her parents, and they apprehensively agreed. So they picked up the cat and brought him home and set up food and litter box in the basement of their home.
They described their new family member as "paralyzed with fear" and his pupils were always dilated---he was a true "scaredy cat." He hid in the corner behind some screens under the steps of the basement. And although the door to the basement was always open, he would not come up stairs. He stayed in the basement for 2 months straight. Every time they would bring his food, he would hiss and attack their hands. He earned the nickname as the "Beast in the Basement."
After a few months, they began to realize the cat was sneaking up the stairs in the middle of the night when the house was quiet and everyone was sleeping--thus how he earned his named "Sneaky". They could hear his footsteps at night, but Sneaky would always return to his basement safe zone. One particular night, my Brother was laying in bed and he heard the cat and he looked over, and their eyes met. Sneaky was scared to death and made a quick exit---but at least the family knew the cat was starting to be somewhat more comfortable in its new home.
My Niece said they made the decision to put Sneaky's food at the top of the steps to see if he would come up more often and during the day. He eventually came up, but he would stay near the stairs. There was no petting Sneaky, but they didn't pressure Sneaky. They literally let him have his own space and time to become comfortable.
Then out of no where, on one random day, he came over and rubbed his head on my Sister-in law's leg. That was the break through, and he has now become used to them to the point he wants to be with the family constantly and he is a very affectionate cat, and wants to lay on them! Wouldn't the cat whisperer be impressed?
I think this story has a lesson for us a humans in dealing not only with animals but with one another. Sometimes others are angry, insecure, abused, scared, isolated---and we need to show patience and empathy, kindness and tolerance and take time to get to know an individual who may have gone through a significant life event or trauma. A little love and patience will go a long way.....always remember that.
Here's to Much Happiness and Good Health,
Your Friend, Dr. Younger You:)