THE FIRST SAVE OF CHRISTMAS: TURTLE
His name, Turtle, tells his story: a creature, threatened, retreats into his shell until the danger passes. He was a breeder’s stud, and when she died, he showed up in a shelter. The shelter could not handle him at all, much less adopt him out, because he was totally terrified–eyes like saucers, ears back and flat, body crouched down, paw raised ready to fight. Clearly, if rescue hadn’t taken him, he would have been lost. We will never know why he was so fearful or traumatized. Often male studs do not have a great time in breeder’s catteries. They are seldom needed, and their hormones do not smell all that good, so they are frequently secluded and under socialized. Maybe the answer to Turtle’s behavior is as simple as that.
The photo of Turtle with his ears flat and back shows what he was like with us for the first month or more. We could not touch him at all. He spent his daytime hours underneath his cat bed, which you can see in another picture lying on its side next to him (we had just taken it off him). So we named him Turtle. Knowing nothing of his history, we worried. Would he turn around? Ever? What would we do if he didn’t? Fortunately, he could take care of the basics without our touching him. He ate well and used his litterbox. Who knows what he did in the privacy of his room at night, but by day we sent him love and talked to him.
Slowly, over time, Turtle’s eyes softened. Sometimes now he was on the window ledge. He would rush to get under his bed when we came near, but this was improvement. We celebrated each step of his progress.
One day, we left his door open and let a wonderful happy little calico kitten, Olivia, in to see him. She did a great a job of enticing him into the world of enjoying being a cat. Soon they slept side by side and played together. He was in his fourth month with us now and progressing more quickly when a wonderful cat cuddler managed to pet him a little! Soon we all could pet him, and he liked it as long as we moved slowly. We let other cats be around him and let him explore a wider area.
Before long, Turtle showed himself to be a gentle, sweet boy. Also gorgeous. Used to seeing him all hunkered down, we had no idea he would be so beautiful when he stood or sat up. He is like a sleek, lithe piece of sculpture. We were all utterly smitten with him and so relieved at his progress.. “Wow, look at him!” we said “How utterly satisfying for us!”
Turtle already had adopters waiting until he was ready to go to their home. They had a little Burmese girl of about his age who wanted a companion. We worried about his making another transition. After all the progress we had seen him make, would he regress? Ultimately, we knew we had to let him go to his new life. Reluctantly, we invited the adopters to come visit, and home he went.
While usually we know little or nothing about a cat’s life before rescue, many adopters keep us up to date with stories and even photographs of life after rescue. Thanks to email, we can report that after only a few weeks, Turtle is settling nicely into his new home, where he enjoys sitting on the bed, batting his toy mouse across the floor, investigating folded laundry or other articles of interest in dead of night, and (especially) playing for long sessions with a feather on a stick that his mom waves around for him. His dad, an artist, cannot stop remarking on how beautiful Turtle is as he walks through a room, stretches his neck, or extends a paw. As for relations with the other four-legged family member, after an initial phase of footsies under the door, careful introductions are in progress under watchful eyes.
Sometimes frightened, scared, or traumatized kitties just need some time to heal, and shelters clearly cannot be set up to provide that. Offering that safe space is part of the job of rescues. It is also the job of rescues to make that leap of faith that if you offer a very troubled kitty a chance, all will ultimately be well. Turtle’s story is a perfect illustration of the happy ending we can often bring about for a wonderful kitty. What could be more satisfying then seeing a beautiful cat like Turtle trust again?