Alberta recently returned to us from a trial adoption in which she caused the adopter a certain amount of frustration.
Alberta is a four year old girl who was trapped as an unsocialised six month old from a street colony. She made progress with one on one attention and was able to be nursed during that time. Unfortunately, the pressure to rescue other cats in danger resulted in her being released to the courtyard enclosure with other rescues after a short period, which was great for her and the next incoming rescue but it did not increase her sociability to humans.
When an adoption inquiry came in earlier this year (2019) I was less than enthusiastic and tried to talk said person out of it. I explained there were easier cats than her but it seemed that a challenge was what she wanted so we went ahead.
I was not happy that Alberta's new parent would be working from early morning until late at night but she was due to retire in a very short time and as adult adoptions of cats like this are not easy to come by, we went ahead and hoped for the best.
Things came unstuck almost immediately. Most of this was a case of misunderstandings, both mine and hers. Alberta, being a very anxious cat, would better have been contained in a small room or crate for a length of time while they got to know each other. Instead she was released from the bathroom only hours after arriving and proceeded to live a very independent life for the next three months. Still, we had seen situations like this turn around by themselves before so both parties waited patiently to see how it would go.
Included was a lovely unit facing the North Winter sunlight, large glass doors and windows to observe the birdlife in the courtyard, her owners' bed to lie on all day, including her pillow! enough toys and food to live a wonderfully independent life! her own private toilet,
Alberta was given to 'staring' at her new host throughout the whole period but declined to allow her to approach. During the evening Alberta would sit nearby to wait for her evening meal When her person wanted to retire for the night, Alberta retired under the same bed.
She was renamed Daisy, a name that caused me much mirth being applied to such a difficult girl! One would think that the hope that Alberta would turn into Daisy, an uncomplicated girl with some old fashioned friendly cat responses was uppermost and I was beginning to feel concerned for both parties.
Another complexity rearing it's face was that a move had been on the agenda, which meant that Alberta would need to be caught! and she was totally untrappable and uncatchable! We had been through that little exercise just getting her out of the courtyard! Even at that time Alberta would approach me, take food from my fingers, enjoy a pat, play games with da bird and me but anything more than that was taboo in her opinion. No picking up!
By this stage Alberta had been adopted by her new parent who said through gritted teeth that she would never give up on her! although I admired this stance, it being somewhat akin to my own bull headedness, it was hard to see a successful future. Alberta had been booked in to boarding for a ten day stint while the move progressed, only problem being she was not going to be caught. Anxious dreams and sleepless nights evolved of the vision of a cat squatter being left behind for the new tenant.
On a mutually designated day we attended with all our 'gear' to persuade Alberta that she needed to be confined in a carrier. Part of the 'gear' we took was a little nine month old boy called Phoenix in the hope it would reassure her to have the company of another cat.. Phoenix disappeared in the unit and was found cuddled up to her under the bed. I produced my trusty wand, lay on the floor and proceeded to talk softly to her while reaching in and using it on her. It was clear that she enjoyed it but would retreat further from time to time. Eye blinks, slow talk, wand work and no panicky behavior were reassuring. I had to move around the bed to the window side and move the bed on wheels, move some containers, return to the other side, continue as I could. I used the wand and I gravitated to patting her. At one stage I was able to scruff her but I could not drag her out because her claws were firmly embedded in the carpet. Going outside to request more troops, resulted in John coming in to assist the capture of our recalcitrant girl. The bed was moved again. Sensing that things were ramping up and that she had gotten herself surrounded caused her to leap out and on to the windowsill, backing away to the end behind the blinds where I continued to use the wand on her while crooning reassurance. John was able to get hold of her now. She was squealing with her paws wrapped around the blind. 'Get her claws off, get her claws from around the blind! his urgent command.
'I can't!' 'I can't!' I said as I tried.
Somehow he managed to free her paws AND her claws and she was dropped into the large dog size netted carrier which was on end so she dropped to the bottom and was zipped up with one final meowl!!
I was able to convince Alberta's adoptor that this girl might be best coming back to us.. This resulted in tears, not surprisingly and reassurance from ourselves that Alberta would stay with us as a sanctuary cat if she failed to make progress.
The above video was recorded two weeks after returning. I still maintain that Alberta is an adoptable cat, given the right circumstances. I am however, going to try some anti anxiety drugs for cats. First cab off the rank will be Prozac. I have not used drugs before on anxious cats but Alberta has been through an upheaval. To begin with I honestly felt she missed her independent and comfortably insular existence! The thing is, even if she stays with us as an unadoptable sanctuary cat, she still needs us to be able to have a certain amount of interaction with her and to be accessible for any required vet needs. So watch this space!
The above video was the second session recorded after a ten minute break and the third, below, after another short break. In each of these she shows more trust. Prior to these sessions Alberta had not been touched for three months, excepting during the 'capture.'