Don’t give up on your anxious rescue cat (a love story with tips + insights)

Link

Trisha’s rescue kitty, Link, was skittish ever since she adopted him

Guest post by Trisha Miller

A couple of years ago my co-worker told me that he just had a baby girl and she had been having some respiratory issues. They took her to the doctor and found out that their baby was allergic to their two cats. He mentioned this in passing to me since I have a cat and most people know how much I simply adore kitties.

About a week later, he realized the severity of the situation and informed me that they would have to immediately get rid of their cats. Their cats were both adopted from the Humane Society and as such would have to be taken back a second time.

My co-worker showed me a picture of his kitties and I instantly fell in love. He said that he had found a home for one of them, but not for the other.

Where I live, it’s common practice at many shelters to euthanize animals that have been brought back to the shelter more than once; my heart was broken at the notion that this might be the fate of his cat.

Just a couple of days later I picked up my new family member, Link.

Getting to know Link

My rescue cat, Link, has always been the most gentle and loving cat I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He greets every person with a chirp and promptly jumps on their lap for pets. He will even gently grab your hand to let you know he really likes the pets you are giving him.

However, he has always been quite skittish since I adopted him. Loud noises and too much activity are just too much for him to handle. Needless to say, this type of behavior is usually due to stress and trauma, such as the two home changes he was forced to go through.

The other thing you should know about Link is that he is polydactyl. This means that he has an extra “toe” on each paw. This does not affect his ability to walk, jump, or climb just like any other cat. In fact, I actually think this improves it. However, because link doesn’t completely look like a “normal” cat, he is much less likely to be adopted.

Unfortunately, many polydactyl cats are also mistreated by people because of their differences, but there is no way for us to know exactly what Link has had to endure over the span of his life.

Fast-forward to early this year

Since I rescued him, over 2 years ago, he has had what we call “a goopy eye.” It was never very noticeable until one day he started acting out (i.e., using the floor as the restroom).

So, of course, we immediately took him to the vet and she explained that some cats have certain nutrient deficiencies that cause this type of watery-eye symptom. The eye was never inflamed or irritated in any way, so we were very confused as to why this sudden change in physical behavior had happened.

The vet made the decision to prescribe Link some Lysine gel to ingest orally twice per day for his droopy eye. This treatment is specifically for the feline herpes virus that can spread through the air. Although not usually fatal in cats, this illness can spread into the upper respiratory system and become a much larger problem if not taken care of quickly. Most cats can actually overcome this sickness on their own, just like a common human cold.

Feline herpes virus symptoms usually occur when you first adopt a new cat due to the stress of an entirely new situation. In addition, getting used to the dander and smell of a new feline friend can be challenging for cats as well.

We gave him the lysine gel until it ran out and then proceeded, as recommended by our vet, to address Link’s anxiety. She said his anxiety was most likely stress-induced anxiety caused by several small traumas he has experienced over his lifetime (moving from family to family as well as living in the Humane Society).

Many cats that have extreme anxiety can become quite upset even with small changes such as: the behavior of other cats in the house, an unfavorable litter box situation, change in diet, and/or a change in living quarters. Studies have shown that dogs and cats alike can have PTSD symptoms. Some professionals are careful to confirm that the likeness is exactly the same as PTSD in humans, but after traumatic events there is no doubt that animals can and will show signs of stress, withdrawal, confusion, and even aggression for an extended period of time.

The vet believed that Link would most likely live with his anxiety for the rest of his life and the best possible course of action was to use a calming diffuser. She sent us home with a one-month supply to test it out. This is a non-invasive alternative to anti-anxiety shots or pills. The diffuser is filled with 2% pheromones, which calm a stressed cat similarly to the pheromones produced by a mother cat in order to soothe her kittens.

It should be noted that there are a variety of anxiety treatments. The one we were provided by the vet is just one version we decided to try. The diffuser we use is called Sentry, but our vet also suggested Comfort Zone Diffuser as well. They are both pheromone-based and designed to have the same effect. Do your consumer research and talk to a trusted vet to discover a method that works for you and your cat.

[Editor’s note from Liz: Some people also have good luck with flower essences like Bach Rescue Remedy. These are very gentle homeopathic-type substances with NO essential oils, which are toxic to cats. Discover more about flower essences and how to use them with cats here. One brand, Spirit Essences, is even used and sold by the world’s most famous cat behaviorist, Jackson Galaxy.]

Knowing your adopted cat may have been through a great deal of stress will allow you to properly give him the love and care that he needs in his life. Before making the decision to rescue an animal that may have been through some trauma, make sure that you understand the lifelong commitment that comes with caring for an adopted pet. Some cats may adapt to a different home quite easily, while others may need special care and extra gentleness for their entire lives.

As for our Link, he’s always been worth the extra gentleness and understanding, and I am happy to say that the pheromone diffuser method has been working beautifully for him over the last six months or so. He has never been more calm or happy.

 

Trisha is a writer from Boise, Idaho. She is a dedicated vegan, cruelty-free activist, and mother to two beautiful cats and a new Boston Terrier. She blogs at ThatDangVegan.com and you can follow her on Twitter @thatdangvegan

13 Responses to Don’t give up on your anxious rescue cat (a love story with tips + insights)

  1. Charlie July 31, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    Good story. I adopted a sweet boy cat from a shelter, Jamee, who starting biting himself. No allergies, etc. stymied I spoke with a very good animal communicator. She spoke with him and said he had been thrown away twice and, although he loved bein with me, was waiting for it to happen again. He did not know what he did to make people get rid of him. So he started biting himself out of anxiety – a bit like self-harming behaviours in people. He told the communicator that I had a home office and had certificates on the walls which I seemed proud of. He thought that I would take them whereever I went amd thought that if I made a “certificate” with his photo on it, it would mean I would always take him with me! I made a special certificate with picture on it and the words “certifying that this was his forever home and that he was truly loved amd with his family”. I hung it up om the wall, the next day he was sitting underneath it and he stopped biting himself. I know this sounds really odd but it happened. I had never spoken with the communicator before, we were on the phone not person to person. Jamee was loved from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail until he passed. Best – Charlie, Belle, Moe and The Enduring Spirit of Jamee xoxo

    • Liz August 2, 2016 at 10:38 am #

      Charlie, what an extraordinary and wonderful story, thank you for sharing this!

  2. Laverne McGee (@firstcoyote) July 31, 2016 at 7:02 pm #

    I’m glad Link found a home with you. He’s very lucky to have found you. Three years ago I adopted a senior female from a no-kill shelter. Her name was Cherub, which I changed to Samirah (Arabic for “Entertaining Companion.”) She’s definitely lived up to her name. A week after I adopted her she pulled out a claw while she was underneath my bed. I took her to the vet and that enraged her. The vet said it was probably because she had never been handled that much in her life. Samirah was 13 years old at the time.

    She hissed and spat at me, she attacked and stalked me. I slept with my bedroom door closed at night. She didn’t want me to sit in the living room watching tv. She tried to run me out every time. My vet and I tried everything: Prozac (she wouldn’t eat it), calming sprays, calming collars, Feliway. Nothing worked. Three months later I’d had enough. She was miserable and so was I. I made the decision to take her back to the shelter that weekend.

    When I came back home that evening Samirah was friendly. I was not fooled. I’d seen that Jekyll and Hyde act before and it never lasted. That night I still slept with my door closed. When I woke up the next day she was friendly. She purred and rubbed against me when I left for work and when I returned home. That Saturday, the day I was going to take her back she pulled out all the stops. She purred, she slow blinked. She followed me around from room to room. Two hours later I called the shelter and told them that I wasn’t going to bring her back after all. That was three years ago, and to this day I don’t know why she changed like that.

  3. VeggieNut-Viv July 31, 2016 at 7:46 pm #

    Very inspiring! I’m so glad that you were able to take this kitty in and give him a good home.
    I was recently adopted by a kitten who found me! He was a little stray who came to me on July 20th, 2016 which is the one year anniversary date of when I lost my 17 year old kitty Mandi who had mouth cancer. This was the best way ever that Mandi’s life could be commemorated. She also had come to me as a stray.
    I named my little fellow Tooey, after one one the kids on the Leave it to Beaver TV series. This name just popped into my mind and we both liked it so Tooey it was.

  4. Loretta Schwartz August 1, 2016 at 7:27 am #

    Thank you so much for the article. I adopted an old cat, she was diagnosed as eight years old and we are going into our fourth year together in September. I cried reading this article and have no idea how i will survive without her. She was a very abused cat and with all the potions that worked she is no longer afraid. She is my heart. Thank you again. Sincerely, Loretta

  5. Trisha Miller (@thatdangvegan) August 2, 2016 at 9:21 am #

    Thank you all for your lovely comments 🙂 I’m so happy we can bond over our rescue kitties. We all know better than anyone that rescue kitties deserve a safe and loving home!

  6. Lori Klassen August 5, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

    This has been encouraging reading. 3 months ago I adopted Archie from my local shelter. The first 2 weeks were miserable and I very nearly took him back more than once. After using a number of techniques, Feliway (a pheromone diffuser) and Rescue Remedy, I’m pleased to report that he seems happy and at home. I think he even loves me. He still has some anxiety that I’ve learned to manage and I’m hoping that eventually he will not be anxious at all. I found the story about the cat communicator most interesting. Archie is 3 years old and so I don’t know what happened to him before he came to me. I don’t need to know his whole story, but I’d love to know what I can do to assure him that I’m committed to him to the end.

  7. Loretta August 31, 2016 at 7:44 am #

    Four years ago I adopted a senior cat, Bella. I found out the first day that Bella was a much abused cat. I would walk by her and she would run away. Things like remote, phone, handbag would scare her. The first week I purchased feliway, and renew each month.
    and a flower essence called release the past since she would wake up crying. Flower essences work. And with much love, attention and patience she is my heart.

  8. Pam May 14, 2017 at 12:15 pm #

    I live in South Florida and here polydactyl kitties are highly desirable. They are often referred to as Hemingways since the deformity was bred quite extensively in Key West at Ernest Hemingway’s home. If you visit his home, there are polydactyl kitties lounging around everywhere. I was surprised to learn that polydactyl kitties are not highly adoptable everywhere. I volunteer for a local rescue group and when we have a polydactyl kitty, it finds a home very quickly.

  9. Mike May 27, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

    What a great article, we have two rescue cats ourself and it was an adjustment for them at first. But after lots of love and play time, they finally became part of the family.

  10. Ywain Williams June 29, 2017 at 4:36 am #

    Glad to know that Link found a home. Sad that he had to go through so much, but lucky that he found a pet parent like you. Your story is really very inspirational. Thanks for sharing this.

  11. Alex July 31, 2017 at 4:20 am #

    This is such an encouraging story. Great to know the little kitty found a home and is doing fine now. I hope there are people like you who can save such poor cats and give them a better life.

  12. Merry Pinbender October 2, 2017 at 9:33 pm #

    What a nice and informative article. We currently have 2 rescue kitties but ours are not from shelters. Many years ago we discovered a cat we’d seen limping around the neighborhood had made a bed in the top of a stack of wooden fruit boxes we had on our patio picnic table. It was late fall by this time and my husband said we had better start feeding him or he wouldn’t make it though the winter. We fed “Limpy” dry food during the day and canned food at night. When the weather got colder I put some rag cloth inside the fruit box for warmth and we found a larger cardboard box we turned on it’s side that his “bed” fit into. That kept the wind off him (the patio roof kept things dry) and his outer box made a viewing platform. It took almost a year before he would allow a small amount of chin scratching.
    In early spring of his second summer he brought home 3 cats, 2 young ones and a mature female.(all unrelated) We hoped they would go home so we didn’t feed or try to make friends with them. The next day we did put out extra dry food and we walked the neighborhood to try and locate where they had come from. On day three when I bought Limpy his can food meal, I stood guard as usual (having put out dry food further down the patio for the “Guests”) Limpy ate several bites of his dinner and then looked me in the eye. He turned his head and meowed to the smallest cat, looked back into my eyes, meowed , glanced down at his dish and back at me and stepped back from his dinner so the youngster could get to his food. He looked at the kitten and back at me; “I want you to feed her, got it?”
    Yes it really did happen that way. He had picked his family. We kept all of them. Every afternoon when he would come home from touring the hood he would do a nosecount. After they were present and accounted for he would retire to his platform looking very content. If any of them started to leave the yard he hollered an alarm to us so we could help him herd them back to safety. The kicker to this story is Limpy was a whole male.
    Every vet that ever met him and heard the story always said males are territorial they don’t do that! Limpy did.
    He helped with two more rescues many years later but that was after he had gone missing for three and a half years! He came home so starved I could see tail joints and he was walking on almost half inch scabs on all four paws! He was so happy to be home he let me pick him up and carry him to his old bed (we never had the heart to break it down). I was afraid he wouldn’t make it, but he recovered.
    He was a changed cat. He was so happy to be home that as soon as he heard us he would call out for us to come greet him. He made friends with my husband, and really enjoyed being brushed. He even learned how to be a lap lover. He even would enjoy being wet down on super hot summer days. We enclosed the patio to protect him and built him a permanent bed box, heated in winter. He was very content. He had many other feline friends that would come and hangout with him in the yard. He never had a single mark from fighting (his limp disapeared with proper nutrition) and he remained an “old Tomcat” passing on when he was at least seventeen. I only meant to share one story about Limpy but that is impossible. He would point out that cats don’t give up easily and if you give them the chance there’s no telling what surprises might happen because we really don’t know as much as they do.
    🙂

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