The SPCA’s New SHADOW CAT Initiative
February 10, 2022
By: Vice President of Veterinary Services Melanie Rushforth
UPDATE 4/21/22: The adoption fee for all Shadow Cats, regardless of age, has been waived! This includes the adoption of Shadow Cats from either the SPCA shelter or a foster home! Wondering if an adoptable kitty has been designated as a Shadow Cat? Check out adoptable animal photos here >> and click on individual listings of our cute cats to read their descriptions and find out if they are Shadow Cats!
The SPCA Serving Erie County is proud to roll out a new initiative that shines the spotlight on a unique population of animals in our care. Effective immediately, the SPCA’s Shadow Cat effort will work 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.
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 in the shelter.
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 home environment, in the form of a foster home setting, to allow the cat to gain confidence, relax, and build trust. These cats may wind up being the best friend that was missing in that particular home, and we always consider that a foster “win” rather than the traditional term “foster fail.” Even if the stay is temporary, the effects of a loving and welcoming home environment will be permanent.
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 Department of the SPCA Serving Erie County will assist new and experienced foster parents with whatever they may need to help Shadow Cats acclimate to their homes. 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.