This is a case study of Poe and his journey to recovery from being a ferocious feline to a manja cat. Poe came to LKP for cage rest after surgery to fix his broken leg. One year on, his temperament has improved and he now greets everyone in the cattery by giving head rubs.
Poe came to LKP for cage rest after surgery to fix his broken leg. He was extremely feral and had a fearful and defensive temperament, especially towards humans. He would spit and try to bite anyone getting close to him. Despite his small size, he was quite intimidating! Transporting him between the vet and cattery was challenging as he resisted our every move with all his might and pointy bits.
Typically, wound care is well within the LKP volunteers’ caretaking abilities, however due to his particularly defensive behaviour, his wound care had to be done while sedated at the vet. Cleaning his suite was also a task not for the faint of heart, as he would perceive the encroachment as a threat.
Poe adapted to his surroundings, albeit slowly. After an adjustment period, he was still extremely skittish; sudden sounds would startle him and he swiped at every perceived threat. He had the nervous habit of biting the cardboard boxes/trays we gave him until there were only flat pieces left.
He tolerated very tentative, careful pets for short periods from volunteers if approached from his side. But even then, he seemed torn between being terrified and enjoying it, often retreating to the furthest corner of his suite. It was like he had never known tenderness and affection was totally foreign to him.
As he grew more comfortable, his other personality started to show. He has shown to be a very playful cat. Volunteers spied him playing with toys in his suite and that was probably a good indicator that he was getting more relaxed in the cattery.
About the same time, we were fostering Pi and Po; two black kittens that had become old enough to get into all sorts of trouble. They brought more of the playfulness out of Poe by wandering into and around his suite at every opportune moment and playing. Perhaps Poe may also have picked up signs that the humans are not so bad after all through interactions with the kittens, who undoubtedly get lots of cuddles.
Poe would have been returned to his community if not for reports of other cats going missing. In the meantime, volunteers stepped up socialization efforts and pushed his boundaries a little more.
He was still unsure about people touching him and would bat unpredictably at the person petting, startle at sudden noises or movements, so volunteers started petting him with toys or a brush to keep their hands safe from his claws.
Poe gradually became curious enough to leave his suite, although he was very bewildered by his surroundings. He always bolted from people approaching him and preferred to sneak around unnoticed. He established a few safe hangouts around the cattery but would reliably return to his suite when it was time for dinner.
He soon lost his appetite for wet food in favour of the dry kibble left outside, so the foster care team decided it was time he graduated from his suite. With the door of his suite left open all day, he had access to the rest of the cattery at his will.
Volunteers progressively shifted his litter box from within his suite to the outside, until he used the one that was in the toilet exclusively. Finally in April, he officially vacated the suite for our needier guests and became our roaming cat.
At the same time, Poe was growing in confidence. He would lay around in the middle of open areas, rubbing up on people and furniture, playing with toys and with other kittens.
He still would be wary of approaches from his front and would swipe at any time despite showing signs that he was enjoying the attention just moments ago. Continued efforts improved his nervousness around petting and he now seeks out affection very readily without volunteers having to be extremely cautious.
He has also made steady progress in his socialization with humans that he can be picked up without much stress for him despite becoming heavier! The efforts at trying to pick Poe up were also coupled with being relocated so that he was sitting on a lap.
Poe now enjoys lap time after overcoming the initial awkwardness of receiving affection so close to a human. He shows his contentment by kneading his paws, laying his head down and napping in the lucky volunteer’s lap. On a couple of occasions, he even stepped in voluntarily without having to be picked up!
The next step to his socialization efforts is to introduce cuddles and also trying to get him used to getting his paws touched in an effort to trim his claws without too much fuss. That may be asking a lot from him, but he has come a long way and he has shown that he can change with time, so we try and we see how far we can push his boundaries gradually. His future is currently undetermined, but Poe has shown that he is ready for a life as an indoor cat.
Currently, Poe rules the roost at LKP and is responsible for inter-cat socialization with the kittens currently at the cattery. They have grown much bigger and so Poe has, perhaps reluctantly, become one of their older playmates. He is very much still a young cat who likes to play and chase the other kittens!
Poe has been a revelation at LKP; that a fierce and feral cat no one could touch could turn out this way shows that every cat deserves our compassion.
No cat is a lost cause and while not every cat will be receptive in the same way, they can surprise us if we give them a chance. A cat’s temperament is informed by personality and environment.
By caring for cats that have been moulded by uncertain living conditions for survival, we allow them to take the time to learn about human kindness and how to live alongside us without fear. It has paid off beyond our expectations in this case and Poe is now a happy and less fearful cat.
Poe lives in our cattery now as we cannot release him back to the estate he came from where it is dangerous. He is available for adoption for anybody who would be able to care for his sensitive needs and anybody who is patient enough for this dapper tuxie.