Adopting a shy cat is not the same as adopting your typical smoochy moggy. Impound Feline Rescue sometimes takes on cats who have not had much (or any) human contact prior to rescue, and in many cases these cats can take a very long time to let a human get anywhere near them, even after their vet work has been completed.
As foster carers who have experience living with and caring for undomesticated cats, we commonly wait weeks or months for even the smallest sign of progress. You can see an example of this in the story of Billie Vanilli (a current foster cat who has been in care since April 11th, 2018). Read Billie’s story (so far) here: Stories | Billie Vanilli
One highlight, about a year after coming into foster care, was as follows:
"April 18: Sniffing fingers! (Yaaas!) Tiny event, huge progress."
And in very recent days (August 13-15, 2019), she has started to brush against her foster carer’s side (carer being crouched down to dole out biccies) at dinner time, initiating contact for the first time! It has taken us 16 months to get to this point!
When on rare occasions one of our shy cats gets adoption interest, we have all of that previous foster caring knowledge in our minds when providing advice. We know from experience that sometimes potential adopters don’t take our advice seriously, and this usually results in adoptions not working out and the cats being returned to us. So when we meet with potential families of our shy cats, we try our very best to prepare them for what they might expect during the trial adoption period. We want our shy kitties to have the best chance possible of having their own adoption success story to tell.
We have had people adopt shy cats from us expecting them to become lap cats within days or even weeks. Whenever we talk to families prior to adoptions, we offer advice about how to settle the cat in (check out our Guide: Getting a new cat for tips), and what we know about the cat’s likes/dislikes from their time in foster care. It is important that potential families take our advice seriously, because at this stage we know the cats best, and want to make their transitions to a new home as easy and stress-free as possible.
Remember: when adopting a shy cat, you may never end up with a lap cat, but you will have a companion who is special and delightful in his or her own way.
For our shy cats, we generally offer an extended trial period. For the least domesticated amongst our foster kitty numbers, we would request that potential families commit to at least a couple of months with the shy cat, to see how things go. It is often unlikely that you will see much progress even in that time, but giving one of our shy cats a few days or a couple of weeks at most is almost a guarantee that the adoption will not succeed.
Sadly we have had numerous failed shy cat adoptions where the adopters did not heed our advice. It is important that you commit to doing everything in your power to make the transition for your shy kitty as easy and stress-free as it can possibly be. It is highly disruptive for our kitties to be moved from their safe foster environments to a scary new place, only to be returned days or a week or two later because things didn’t work out.
Please also heed our advice about keeping shy kitties confined for a certain time period - for these cats, a move to a new home can be traumatic, and they are likely to hide away for quite some time. It’s best to keep them to a room or section of the house so that an eye can be kept on them - as well as on their litter trays and food bowls, to ensure they’re toileting and eating well (on that note, it’s normal for a cat to not use the litter tray for up to three days after a house move, so don’t panic if it takes yours a little while!). Letting a shy cat roam a large house upon their arrival in that house can be very overwhelming, and can hinder the settling-in process.
It is rare for our shy cats to be adopted, since at meets & greets potential families generally will not see much of them at all - and if they’re lucky enough to be able to get a pat, it is probably because the shy cat is frozen with fear! Still, we have had a few success stories. You can read one of these stories (the Cindy story) on our Stories page: Stories | Cindy. You will see that in Cindy’s case, it took about eight months of patience from her forever family before they had a breakthrough:
"Cindy came to us about 8 months ago. Every day, we all spend some time patting her. Recently we’ve had our biggest break through; the cat whisperer in our family, our son, has managed to get her to play with cat toys! She is so timid we never thought she would relax enough to play like a normal kitty. Today I had the best surprise - I heard a tapping noise and discovered she was playing with a cat ball by herself!"
If you are interested in knowing more about one of IFR’s adorable shy cats, please check out our Adopt page and follow the link to the Expression of Interest form in the "Available Cats" section: Available Cats | Adopt