Marlin, a Shadow Cat, on his way home from the SPCA!

Shadow Cats Can Now Be Adopted at the SPCA!
(And in case you didn’t hear –

By Melanie Rushforth, Vice President of Veterinary Services

The SPCA Serving Erie County is proud to expand upon our new initiative that shines the spotlight on a unique population of animals in our care.  An initiative of 2022 has been the SPCA’s Shadow Cat effort, which works to meet shy or fearful cats where they are behaviorally to assist them in navigating the journey to becoming adoptable pets living out the rest of their lives in long-term homes. We are seeing a positive response regarding the acceptance of these shy cats just the way they are, so we are expanding the adoption opportunities and housing of these cats to colony settings within the SPCA’s physical shelter as well. And the adoption fee for Shadow Cats is waived!

Fear is common and a perfectly normal, innate, and adaptive behavior in all animals. However, if fear isn’t addressed appropriately, it can develop into serious behavioral and health problems and result in deterioration. Our goal with Shadow Cats is to be proactive in managing a cat’s fearfulness or shyness should a cat surrendered to the SPCA present those behaviors while being assessed in the shelter. We strive to accurately and appropriately describe these animals to potential adopters to allow interested parties to make an informed choice when adding to their family.

Transitions and big changes are hard for many cats, even ones who are not identified as fearful. In preparing to introduce a cat into the home regardless of their confidence level, it is very important to set the cat up for a successful experience by making some small, but important adjustments. The intent of Shadow Cats is to offer a comfortable  environment, be that a foster home or a familiar colony setting within the shelter with previous housemates to allow the cat to gain confidence, relax, become familiar with human interaction, and build trust.

Introduction to a new home can be very challenging for a fearful cat. Fearful cats usually do best in relatively quiet homes or quiet areas of the home. Many fearful cats slowly become more confident as they get used to their living space and daily routine. The foster, behavior and veterinary departments of the SPCA Serving Erie County will assist new and experienced pet parents with whatever information and tactics they may need to help a Shadow Cat acclimate to their home. Time, patience, love, and food are some of the ingredients that will help a Shadow Cat step into the light a little bit at a time.

It is a special experience to build a relationship and bond with a fearful cat, and it is deeply rewarding. The journey may be long, but patience is a true gift to a nervous cat in need. Just like people, cats can have vastly different personalities. Some of these Shadow Cats may blossom into lap cats, while others may remain the quiet roommate that is grateful for love, attention (from a distance) and a safe place to call home. Whatever the end result, we are grateful to have the opportunity to showcase these special cats in an effort to save more lives.

Do you have room in your life for a Shadow Cat?