Mimi was in the shelter a really long time

Jerseymeow

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I have always had cats, and they were always adopted as kittens. Our beloved guy "Pigpen" (after the Charlie Brown character) died February 2020. I missed him so very much.
So, I approached the local shelter to offer to foster to adopt. Because we have a quiet home and are retired, they suggested Grace. Grace was at the shelter since Sept 2019 in a crate, and sometimes let into the cat playroom. Before that intake she was at another "overcrowded shelter". She may have been at that shelter for months. Before that, we don't know? I would assume that just having a safe room for her is a huge change from the crate at the shelter. The shelter does not know her age, maybe 3 or 4. I cannot bring her to my vet until I have adopted her. We were waiting to make sure she would not become sick in our care, e.g. stop eating.

We took Mimi (was Grace) home Monday, Jan 25th. She has a guest bedroom all to herself with all "unders" blocked. My husband made a hiding place for her out of a large box that has a top and just one entry hole. She can also hide behind some boxes by sitting on the baseboard heater that is warm. She did not really start eating until Thursday night. The magic food item that turned the corner was - sardines in water. I had tried several different brands of cat food and tuna. Now that she is eating we are past the first hurdle.

She looks just like a British shorthair. Not that I need to have a pure bred cat, but it helps understand personality. If she is, then she would tend to be quiet and not very active and fiesty.

The issue is...She is still hiding all the time, in the box or on the baseboard. She barely moves. She does not want to play. I go in the room about 5 times a day. Sometimes I just talk "meows" to her, or talk and let her see me. I always get on the floor to make myself small. Sometimes I scratch the top or side of her head. She lets me do this without moving an inch. She eats at night when the house is quiet and I have her food on the other side of the room so she has to go get it.

Any thoughts on a cat that was at a shelter for a long time? Thanks!
 

catapault

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Good for you! And fortunate for Mimi. If I'm following your report correctly it has not even been a week that Mimi has joined your household. Give it time. Play soft music when you are not in the room with her. Bring a treat and toss it along the floor to her - not through the air which might be scary / startling.

Other members with more experience than I have will soon be along to offer suggestions.

You did something very good, bringing Mimi to her home with you. Now, both of you just need some time to relax and settle in.
 

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Hi. I think you are doing all the right things! And, given what you do know about her background, this process could take months and months before Mimi opens up more. When you go into her room and sit on the floor, you can take something to read with you and do so out loud (but softly) - which will likely mean you will spend a bit more time with her on those particular visits. You can try to set some treats in between you and her, while you read, with the hope she will eventually come out to eat them. After she does, you can place your hand on the floor, palm up, and place treats at the tip of your fingers to see if over time she will also come to eat those.

Playing music is a good idea, but at first do it when you are in the room, so that she becomes accustomed to it in your presence, then you can leave it on for her at times when you are not there.

She is not moving when you pet her due to fear. So, keep the pettings brief until you see her becoming more relaxed around you. The playing part is likely to be the last hurdle. For one, she is probably not familiar with what playing is and will need to be much more comfortable with you before you have a chance to peak her interest with toys. Doesn't mean you can't try, but don't be surprised if it is a long while before you get a reaction.

If you have a window in that room, you could set up a way for her to access the windowsill - or get a cat tree or perch - something so she can see out the window. It might not happen for quite a while, but she may decide to check it out when you are not in the room if she realizes she can look outside.

Patience and time! Keep us posted!
 
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susanm9006

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My girl was surrendered as a one year old, adopted, returned and then spent another month at a crowded shelter before I adopted her. And your poor girl has been through even worse. If she is eating and using her litterbox then for now she Is doing great. She just needs time to figure out she is in a safe place.

I would start by not attempting to pet her for now but if she enjoys food, offer her some delicious wet food on a long handled spoon. Hopefully she isn’t too frightened to eat it but if so set the spoon down and she May eat it later. The idea is to get her to associate you with good things. And continue to talk to her when You are in the room but don’t make eye contact.

Willow would have none of it, or me. So after some weeks, not having other household pets, I left her door open and, as I hoped, she began to explore at night and then started coming out during the day. And after that she would come near me but not let me touch her and then finally allowed petting but no purr, no response that showed me she enjoyed it. I think purring in her case took at least a year.

Your girl may respond faster or slower, but she will come around with time and patience.
 

MonaLyssa33

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My girl, Maisie, was at the shelter for 2 years before I adopted her. She was often overlooked by potential adopters because she is very aloof (aka skittish). It took me about 8 months before she felt okay with me petting her. I've had her for 3 years now and she still doesn't like to be touched, but sometimes she is willing.

I'd recommend adding a different feeding technique of having the food closer to her hiding space but still out in the open while you are sitting across the room just ignoring her. Make her feel like your presence doesn't always mean that she is going to be touched, which it sounds like is something she is uncertain about right now. After a few days, start talking to her and see how she responds. You can start moving a chair closer to her feeding spot, still ignoring her, see how she responds, then start talking to her when she seems to be okay with you ignoring her. Eventually, the goal would be that she wouldn't see you as a threat, but associate your presence with good things like food.
 
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Jerseymeow

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Thanks everyone for your encouragement and ideas. I will read in the room, the bed is not near her two spots, but I am sure she will know I am there. I will not touch her all the time. (Maybe once a day! I only give her head scratches for about 1 minute.). I did feed her some sardines offered by my fingers and she waited for me to drop it on the floor and then she ate it. I agree it is going to be a long time before she is able to just walk around the room when I am there. We did get a really nice cat tree (Catry) and it is in the window. She never had a window before, so she will eventually find it interesting.
 
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Jerseymeow

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Mimi's behaviour has not changed much since she started eating. She spends her day in her hiding spot by the baseboard heater. She eats at night. She does use the litter box. There is no sign of illness, e.g. vomiting.

I go in her room about 5 times a day. Sometimes I just stay for a few minutes and talk to her. If I try to touch her, she has started hissing at me. It's just a little quiet hiss, not the agressive, wide mouth hiss. I have never tried to grab her, but she does not know that I mean no harm. So she has become more assertive and is over the "frozen" stage. Since we are in the "hissing" stage, I talk to her and leave treats a few inches from where she sits.

Sometimes I stay in the room longer and read a book. Sometimes I leave the radio on. She does not use the cat tree that we got (I put treats on it so I can tell if she uses it). I think the next hurdle will be for her to stop hissing at me and let me scratch her head.

According to Jackson Galaxy I must continue to interact with her, even if she does not like it. So, I will continue talking and leaving treats.

If you have any ideas, let me know.
 

FeebysOwner

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Talking to her, reading a book, leaving treats - all good things to continue. Just forgo the 'touching' right now. If she doesn't feel comfortable being touched and you do it anyway, there is no way to build up trust with her in order to move forward. You don't force things on a cat and expect them to 'warm up' to it - if anything it could have the opposite affect.

She will get there eventually on her own. It still has been a very short time period and her behavior is no surprise - even without her shelter background and age. I think things are not that bad at all at this point!
 
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Jerseymeow

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I have been thinking about Mimi, a lot. I do think she has made progress since she arrived. I realize now that she let me scratch her head for a few seconds when she arrived because she was in frozen stage. So, the soft hissing means that she is becoming more assertive and it's her way of interracting with me. Yesterday, I just laid on the floor near her and talked to her. She closed her eyes and relaxed, no wide eyed stare. I hope the closed eyes is progress!
I have also been thinking about my relationship with her. It is hard for me to be patient, because I have never seen her whole body. She went from the carrier to "unders" like a flash. Whoosh! Now the unders are closed she is always curled up. I have never seen her walk across the room. What does her tail look like? What do her paws look like? How long is she? Is her coat okay? Will she ever use the scratchy pad, or sit on the cat tree?
Time will tell.
 

di and bob

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All those things will come in time.....You EARN a cat's love and when you get it (and you will) it is one of life's greatest treasures. It is not unusual at all for a cat that has been in crowded, noisy situations for a long time to act like this. She is starting to soften. You might close off a few rooms and cat-proof the rest and leave the door open and see what she does. Definitely have another litter box somewhere. Or you can wait another week before doing so and see if she comes around a little more. She is used to be handled and around others, so she is not like a feral, she is just scared mindless and has to gain confidence and know you are not going to hurt her. Bless your heart for taking her on, most people would not even notice a shy cat. Closing her eyes at you is a great step forward, she is getting used to you! if she still doesn't come out in a month, make sure to come back and we will try to help you further, I really think all she needs is time and patience. Please keep us informed!
 

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Try not to look at her. If you see her looking at you, keep blinking slowly - don't stare. If you look away she may come up to you to rub against your feet and, one day, you'll wish you had longer arms, as she will rub against your fingers, with your arm outstretched but she'll not come any closer. It will take time, but it's worth the effort. I had to move a similar cat into a warmer room, after she'd been spayed, and the whole process started again from scratch. But, she is now my most affectionate little cat.
 
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Jerseymeow

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A brief update. I am really being patient. I reached out to the shelter to understand her contact with people while there. There was None. She was in the free roam cat room. No one was able to interract with her because she would run away and hide. So she could see, hear and smell people, but that is all.
 

di and bob

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It's a tragedy she wasn't interacted with more. your job will be harder, but now that she is in a calm, stable environment, she WILL come around. You have already made progress, just the fact you can touch her at all is great! It just will take a little longer. you'll have to start out like she is totally feral and go from there. I bet in a year she won't be that scared, shy, cat! Try not to look at it as hopeless at all, but as a challenge and the fact that you more than likely are giving her the only chance she will have of being tamed, loving someone, and having someone to love her back.
 

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It's so nice to see how devoted you are to her! It will be exciting to see her true self come out over the months.

I would also read out loud, play a radio when not in the room and watch some movies in there to help her get use to human voices, and especially your voice.
 
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Jerseymeow

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Mimi has relaxed living in her room. She has our daughter's bedroom all to herself. (I know there is a debate about blocking unders, but we agree with Jackson Galaxy, no unders.) She has two or more nice places to "hide" with fluffy throws. I go to see her and remain in the room often. I always say the same thing, her name, when I enter the room. I always sing the same song to her, and sometimes I talk. I get close so she can see me, but I don't touch her. When I sing to her, she closes her eyes. Today I was in the room reading and she came out from her cozy corner and sat on the cat tree in the window for a minute. She knew I was nearby, but she is not so afraid of me anymore. Then she got down and went back into the corner (which is by the baseboard heater, ha!)
Small steps.
 

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She's been frightened and unloved for so long, she doesn't know just quite how good she has it yet- but she will learn how good affection truly is!

And you're doing the best job, letting her come around in her own time. Soon enough, I'm sure she'll open up more and more. Just coming out when you're around is fantastic, much better than a frozen cat just trying to survive and tolerating scratches.

Thanks for caring for her, you have a good heart :heartshape:
 

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I want to share a story. My friend is the manager at a no kill, cageless shelter. One day, a cat was abandoned on their doorstep. They had a small room / large closet for the cat to start out in. He cowered in his litter box every day. He had other places, but that was his "safe space."

My friend would go in and read to him after her shift every day. She just sat in there and read aloud. She didn't look at him. She didn't acknowledge him. She just shared the space, physically and vocally.

I don't know how long it took, but he came around and loved her unconditionally. I recommend something similar. It can take months. Mimi will move at her pace.
 
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Jerseymeow

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We adopted Mimi. She is ours now. The shelter had said she was 3 or 4. When I got her folder...she is 5. Her life history is...intact stray somehow ended up at overcorwded NJ shelter and spayed Feb 2019 (age 3). Transferred to our local shelter Sept 2019. Passed over for adoption, too timid. Then pandemic hits and shelter was closed to visitors for months. The shelter is now open for adoption but you need an appointment.
Therefore she was in shelter care for 2 years.
We took her to our vet yesterday and the vet said she appears healthy, and we are waiting for blood tests.
Our last cat, Pigpen (after Charlie Brown character) was the best buddy in the whole world. We had a strong bond. He died Feb. 2020. No cat will ever replace him. But Mimi will have a good life with us and over time she will gain trust and confidence. We look forward to giving Mimi a home where she can feel safe and get the care she needs. Maybe someday soon, I will see her walk across the room. :)
 
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