by Jenny Abrahamian
Angie first arrived at C.A.R.E. six years ago. She ran into an Evanston resident's house, was brought to us, and we named her Claudette. She had a microchip from the Anti-Cruelty Society, so this was at least the second shelter she had passed through. We adopted her out to a family who unfortunately had to return her to C.A.R.E. over four years later.
Back with us in August of 2011, we re-named her Angie. She has a typical Tortie personality, loud and bossy, and did not sell herself very well upon her return. She became stressed, which was clear by her weight gain, dandruff and occasional litter box accidents. When an adoption counselor would show her to a potential family, her reaction to meeting new people in the small adoption room was to lash out aggressively. So she remained with us.
As time went on, we cat volunteers developed a tradition of bringing her into the office during our shifts, where her personality began to shine. She was known for being a great assistant with paperwork (sitting on it) and having an affinity for chomping on clear tape from the dispenser on the desk. She liked to play with toys a little bit and receive some pets, but mostly enjoyed keeping us company and doing an occasional hilarious cat thing while we worked. But nobody was adopting her.
One Friday night in June during my volunteer shift, I was reading through Angie's paperwork and came to realize that she had been at C.A.R.E. for almost two years. It struck me that a cage had been her home for a large portion of her life. I thought it would be nice for her to have a vacation from the confines of the shelter, and I offered to foster her for a couple weeks. I planned to give her attention, exercise and sunlight, which might make her happier and more attractive to adopters. I set up an area for her in the back of my home that has stairs, lots of windows and was separate from my other two cats.
Once I brought her home I found that Angie has a huge personality. I opened her carrier in what was to be her room, and she ran out to every corner and gave a loud meow as if to show me how excited she was for her new space. She was instantly content. She loves being in the sun and moved her sleeping spot every hour of the day to always be inside the sunbeam. She is a sucker for belly rubs and would stretch out her arms to give you extra tummy area to work with. This was surprising since she wouldn't let people touch her belly when she was at the shelter. She created a new sport I call under-couch climbing, where she latched herself upside-down onto the underside of my couch and scaled her way across to the other side. She jumped into the bathtub and cried when she couldn't figure out how to get past the curtain to get back out, three times in one night. A friend was able to use Angie as a pillow without complaint throughout an entire episode of Breaking Bad. When my brother came over and was about to sit down, she dashed onto the chair to be just underneath him as he was descending. Then she ran off just in time as if nothing happened.
As fun as it was to have Angie around, I didn't think I could adopt her because she aggressively went after my shy, senior cat when I introduced them. Not wanting to cause stress to my other kitty, I brought Angie back to the shelter after fostering her for a month. I was really hoping that someone would quickly adopt her now that we knew a little more about her personality.
Once back, Angie became more depressed and withdrawn than before. I had thought I was helping her by taking her home, but she seemed to be doing even worse. When I found out she bit a volunteer and was put on a 10-day hold, I started to think more seriously about whether I could keep her. The room that was hers at my house is infinitely larger than her cage at the shelter. I could bring her back home and keep her completely separated from my other cat, and she would have plenty of space to live. I could try a very slow re-introduction, over months or even a year. I could follow all the rules written for making cat introductions. I decided to give it a shot.
I officially adopted Angie on September 20th. I am so happy to have her back! There is something about her that brightens my day and makes me smile. She has the loudest purr, which starts from the time she lets me bear hug her every morning. I thought I would have trouble dividing my attentions between cats in a separated house, but they seem to understand the situation and don't mind it. I have no intention of making her live in a shelter again.
I believe our shelter has seen many cats with strong personalities like Angie, but I can't remember another cat who has stayed with us longer in the 13 years I've been with C.A.R.E. Just like humans, some wonderful cats do not take well to being confined and to being transitioned between various shelters and homes for most of their lives. We volunteers got to know and love Angie over time for the amazing kitty that she is, and I received an outpouring of support from people I never even met when they found out I took Angie home. Unfortunately for cats like Angie, many potential adopters expect an instant connection with the cat they see in the adoption room. Sometimes it takes time to develop a relationship that will become much more fulfilling than we could have imagined.