When I first started socializing Shadow, I had very loft goals. The first winter he was with me I actually thought I could have him living full time in the house by spring! Boy was I naive. I was amazed how quickly he came inside the house, but then everything stalled. I could not get the door closed, I could not pet him and some days he would run and hide from me. After it took me 7 months to pet him, I decided it was best to have one goal at a time and it was best to start small.
During the first summer with Shadow, I continued to progress slowly with his socialization. He did come around all of the time. In fact after spending the winter under my neighbors screened porch, he decided to make the deck his home. We had a canopy covering a portion of the deck so it was perfect for getting out of the daytime sun as well as keeping him dry and comfortable at night. I was now able to pet him and he also loved to be brushed. I next felt I should try to pick him up. On occasion, he would jump up onto the outdoor love seat to sit next to me. At first I tried just to lift him gently off the ground a few inches. He did well with this. Picking him up was another story. After working with him all summer, I finally was able to lift him onto the love seat as long as I was sitting there too. If I tried to pull him close to my body, he would stiffen and squirm. I continued daily trying to lift him up to sit with me. He tolerated it, but I could tell he didn’t like it. I kept working, but realized it just may never happen. This is a goal I am still working on almost 4 years later.
Shadow continued coming inside the house during the spring and summer. One evening he came inside and out of no where it began to storm. I had the sliding door cracked, but instead of running outside, Shadow ran and hid near by basement door. I quickly closed the sliding door. Shadow began to yowl and howl. It was awful. He was so scared. I sat with him and told him it was fine. The more I talked, the more he calmed. So I just kept talking! Fortunately the storm only lasted about 20 minutes and I was able to get him outside. I thought for sure this would ruin his wanting to come inside. Yet it did the opposite. He realized he could come inside and be safe. Each time he came inside, I would let him know that I was going to close the door, but that when he wanted out, I would reopen it for him. It took a few attempts, but it did work.
As spring turned into summer, Shadow was often wanting to come inside for longer periods of time. I decided he should try to use a litter box. I purchased a brand new litter box just for him with the regular litter I was using with my indoor only cat. Shadow had no idea what to do. I then read about Dr. Elsey’s Litter Attract. I bought a bag and tried again. He went right into the box! After a few months, he was using 2 of the litter boxes I had on the first floor each time he came inside. This was a big step as I really felt that maybe he could begin to transition to an indoor/outdoor cat. Of course he and my indoor cat did not get along and he was petrified of our dog Misty. I had a lot of obstacles in the way.
During the late spring and summer, we had many violent rain storms. He happened to be in the house one night when one of them struck. I watched the radar and saw it was going to be an all night event so I decided to just try and keep him inside for the night. I made a bed for myself on the floor and decided to sleep there with him. When it wasn’t storming, he did fairly well. He paced a lot, but did not yowl very often. When the storms hit, he had a harder time. He didn’t stay the entire night, but once I felt it was safe, he went back outside. This happened 5-7 times during the summer. Each time he became more comfortable. Yet also after each sleep over, he was reluctant to come inside for a few days. He was making it very clear that visits were fine, but anything permanent was not fine. He did however continue to come inside for sleep overs during some thunderstorms as well as when the temperatures were sub zero during the winter. Yet he usually did not last all night.
I felt that Shadow had a huge lull in his socialization for about 2 years. Once Patches arrived and then all of the other cats, I had less time to spend one- on one time with him. He now had to share me. All of the cats seemed to benefit from watching and learning from each other. So even though he didn’t get as much one on one time with me, he still benefited from interacting with me and the other cats. He also began to socialize with my son and husband.
Around the time Orange Kitty showed up, Patches was also around so Shadow was now competing with two cats for my attention. On cold nights, Shadow and Patches would both come just inside the sliding door. I could not close the door with Patches inside. Some nights Patches would want all of the petting and brushing and Shadow was just beside himself. For a very long time I had wanted Shadow to sit in my lap. I would sit on the ground with my legs crossed and place a blanket in my lap. I would try to lift Shadow into my lap. Every single time, he would jump out and run. Well, that night he must have known he needed to do something extra special to get my attention. He kept rubbing up against my knee. I decided to gently lift him onto the blanket. This time he didn’t run or bolt. He stood there and and I just kept petting him. Whenever we were outside on the love seat and he was next to me, I would rub his belly while he was standing and that would get him to lay down. I did the same thing while he was on my lap. He settled right down and seemed so proud of himself. Another very big moment for me! Actually this was about as big as petting him for the first time. Shadow had been with me now for over 2 years. This was one goal that almost happened just magically. Today he still sits in my lap and will even climb in himself!
Once Orange Kitty appeared and Patches had disappeared, Shadow’s life had many changes. He really missed Patches. He tried making friends with Orange Kitty, but Orange Kitty was not ready. As winter led into spring, Orange Kitty decided he wanted to spend time on the deck instead of under it. He was very scared at first, but he started spending some nights sleeping on a chair pad out in the cold. Orange Kitty would watch the interactions between Shadow and I and after watching for weeks, he decided he wanted to trust me. He quickly decided that he wanted me all to himself. He also decided he did not want Shadow in the picture. Whenever Orange Kitty would appear, he would chase Shadow off the deck or not allow Shadow onto the deck. He even ambushed Shadow in his shelter one night. I was heartbroken and so worried about Shadow. I always called Shadow “Baby” mostly because he acted so young and timid. I would do anything to ensure his safety. I decided to start feeding Shadow on my front porch. I also added a shelter for him there. He felt safe and for the most part Orange Kitty left him alone. Yet, what little confidence Shadow had, it was shattered. I did my best to boost his confidence with play therapy, treat rewards and flower essences. It did seem to help. After almost a month of him living on the front porch, I decided it was time to do something about Orange Kitty. I exhausted all of my options and I decided to give it a try and move Orange Kitty into the house. This allowed Shadow the freedom to move back to the deck. It was a very stressful time for Shadow, Orange Kitty and my family.
It was less than a week after Shadow moved back to the deck that another cat appeared. Yet I could tell immediately that this cat was friendly and not a threat to Shadow. The new kitty was Stellar. He turned out to be one of the most important things in Shadow’s life. Stellar was young and timid and needed guidance. My husband always said that Stellar was Shadow’s padawan (a Star War’s movie reference where an adolescent begins one-on-one instruction with a Jedi Knight or Master outside of the Jedi academy). The two were always seen together and Shadow was never too timid to bop Stellar in the head when he was not listening to him! Shadow finally got to be top kitty. It was truly something special to witness. It took Stellar a full year under Shadow’s wing to feel comfortable with his surroundings and his new home. It is ironic how moving Orange Kitty into the house, opened the door for Stellar thus allowing Shadow to blossom even more.
My goals for Shadow still continue today. I have large goals such as him deciding to live inside the house and smaller goals such as working on his confidence as well as still trying to hold him. We have come so far together, but I am hopeful we can move even further. He will never be a fully domesticated indoor kitty, but he is a far cry from the small feral cat who showed up in my yard in July of 2010.