In 2009, shortly after my husband, Steven, and I started volunteering at the Oakland shelter, we realized that a mom with kittens had taken up residence in our backyard. Knowing very little about the world of cat rescue then, we brought the kittens to the shelter when they were about 10 weeks old. We assumed they would quickly get socialized and adopted, but a couple of weeks later, a fellow volunteer let me know that one of the kittens couldn’t be touched and was going to be euthanized.
Brave little Felt helped Orbea learn to trust us.
I still remember the panicked call I made to Steven when we agreed we had to bring the kittens home. We named them Felt and Orbea.
Orbea, before we earned her lifelong love.
Where Felt wanted nothing more than to be held, I was as afraid of Orbea as she was of me. Thankfully, we found someone to teach us how to safely interact with her, and after many weeks, we slowly earned Orbea’s trust. Orbea and Felt became beloved members of our family, and taught me about a need in our community I didn’t even know existed.
I have since learned that kittens are biologically open to being socialized at 5-7 weeks old. Even if you’re not particularly skilled, you can socialize a 7-week-old kitten in hours. Socializing that same kitten just a few weeks later can take weeks, and once they get 3 or 4 months old, it can take months. For this reason, kittens as young as 10 weeks old are euthanized in significant numbers in shelters across the country. But because of my experience with Felt and Orbea, helping older kittens has been an integral part of Cat Town’s mission.
I am thrilled to say that, through our Forgotten Kitten Project, Cat Town now helps every older kitten who comes into the Oakland shelter. And, Cat Town’s work is now a national model for saving these kittens and showing others how to do the same. We are committed to giving these youngsters a chance no one else will — but can’t always step in as soon as we’d like.
Often, these forgotten kittens must wait more than a month for us to have the resources to take them from the shelter. Each day they spend terrified in a cage, it becomes more challenging to fulfill our promise to help them.
This summer, we want to get to those kittens sooner to help more kittens in need of our intervention. To do so, we have to expand our foster program. If we can get unsocialized kittens out of the shelter as soon as they arrive, it will be easier to earn their trust and get them adopted, and will change the trajectory of their entire lives by helping them become more confident and resilient.
With your support, we can get these kittens out of the shelter this summer. Please consider a donation today to help us support these overlooked youngsters!
Last month had every kind of Cat Town cat adopted: from A (Abby) to Z (Zeus). We celebrated the adoptions of long-timers like Buffy, who spent 553 days in our care, and instant classics like Rudy, who spent less than 2 hours in the Cat Zone. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we were able to help a few “In It for Life” seniors like 10-year-old Harrison, as well as sick kittens like Monkey and Maru, who received care through our Emergency Medical Fund.
Seeing so many cats find great homes, we have every kind of gratitude for YOU. Thank you for making these adoptions possible by supporting our mission. We’re excited to see what April holds for our cats, so if you’re looking for your own cat companion, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
MEET OUR ADOPTABLE CATS
If you’ve ever adopted from Cat Town before, you’ve had the pleasure of working with one of our adoption counselors. They help guide adopters through the entire adoption process, from determining which cat (or pair of cats!) would be a great fit to finalizing the necessary paperwork, and are a vital part of Cat Town.
This month we’re turning the spotlight on Nicole G., one such counselor who helps our cats find loving homes. Not only does she volunteer each week in the Cat Zone, but she is also a case manager; following-up and working with adopters of some of our special cats who might need a little time to adjust to a new home.
Nicole on her volunteer shift at Cat Town with Nova.
I talked with Nicole about the magic of seeing cats transform during their time at Cat Town, and why volunteering is such a rewarding experience.
Larissa C.: How did you get involved with Cat Town?
Nicole G.: I heard about Cat Town when the café first opened; I was living on the peninsula at the time and came up to visit with some friends. In June of 2015 I ended up moving to Oakland, and I immediately signed up to volunteer! When I visited for the first time and learned about what Cat Town was doing to help save cats, I was instantly hooked. I had never volunteered with any kind of animal rescue before, and finding Cat Town was an incredible blessing.
Nicole gained Ember’s trust through love and patience, and now she helps other adopters do the same with their own Forgotten Kittens.
LC: Have you been a cat person your whole life?
NG: I grew up as a child with two magnificent cats, Wallis and Winifred, and my parents got their current cat, Audrey, as a kitten when I was in high school. I was always resistant to having a pet of my own when I was younger because I didn’t think of myself as an “animal person.” During college, I would go on long walks along the same route and I befriended a stray cat who I brought treats to and played with, which got me thinking. When I finished college, I got my older cat, Dez, when she was still a small kitten from some friends who couldn’t keep her anymore. I didn’t know quite as much about cat behavior at the time, and I memorably traded my mini fridge for the privilege of being her guardian!
LC: Do you have cats at home?
NG: Do I! I have two—Dez, who is an eight-year-old calico tabby, and Ember, a four-year-old dilute calico tabby I adopted about three years ago from Cat Town when she was part of the Forgotten Kitten project. Together they are DezEmber or, if you’re feeling frisky, EmbEzzler!
LC: What do you love most about volunteering as an adoption counselor for Cat Town?
NG: I think the best part is making a match and seeing how open people can be to helping these animals who really need our love and support. It’s incredibly rewarding to see a cat go from being scared and untouchable to finding a loving home where they can open up and be someone’s companion.
LC: What is something you’ve learned about under-socialized cats and kittens that people might not expect to be true?
When you invest in building their trust, amazing things can happen!
— Nicole G.
NG: It seems really obvious, but I would say that their behavior isn’t an essential feature of their “personalities.” Since the average person knows so much less about cat behavior than, for example, dog behavior, I think a lot of people are hesitant to believe you can behaviorally retrain cats at all. I like to think of it as a trust-building process! Once your under-socialized cat or kitten trusts you, they really do show a whole new side of themselves.
LC: What is your favorite thing about working with vulnerable shelter cats?
NG: I love seeing the transformations — when you first meet a cat and they’re so stressed or shut-down that they can’t interact with you, it can be scary. But when you invest in building their trust, amazing things can happen!
LC: Why would you encourage people to adopt an under-socialized cat or kitten?
NG: They are so loving! I know this from experience with my cat Ember. When I first brought her home, she lived in a large closet for the first couple of months while I continued to socialize her every day (reading aloud, playing, sometimes just sitting quietly next to her). Everyone in my life thought I was delusional and that I would never be able to pet her, let alone keep her as a pet! But she has turned out to be one of the most affectionate and beautifully quirky cats I’ve ever known. She loves to head-butt me while I pet her head to the rhythm she’s got going, and she is an elevator-butt queen!
Dez and Ember, aka “Embezzler.”
LC: Can you share one of your favorite memories of volunteering at Cat Town?
NG: The once-in-a-lifetime highlight for me would probably be when I came into a regular shift day to find an impromptu cat-wine tasting organized by a reporter from the New York Times! Besides that, I would say seeing some of our longest-term Cat Zone cats, like Elsa, Buffy, and Suzy, find loving families and homes after 1+ years with Cat Town.
LC: What would you say to someone considering volunteering at Cat Town
NG: Do it! The community of volunteers and staff at Cat Town is so incredibly welcoming, and the work we are doing is really rewarding. There is room for everyone, and we’re in this together, which for me has been a refreshing and restorative spirit to take part in and be around.
Interested in joining the Cat Town volunteer team to help save Oakland’s vulnerable and under-socialized cats? Visit cattownoakland.org/volunteer today to let us know what volunteer opportunities you're interested in getting involved with!
When visiting Cat Town, it’s not uncommon to hear a volunteer use the term “under-socialized” when referring to one of our adoptable cats. These cats, due to their challenging or fearful behavior in a shelter, are typically considered “unadoptable” by most rescue organizations. Part of the magic of Cat Town is that we believe in the potential of every cat and frequently get these cats out of cages and into a safe environment, where they can grow comfortable and confident enough to show their true personalities — all while waiting to find a good home.
Owen has become braver by leaps and bounds, and still has more courage to build.
There are a lot of questions anyone looking to adopt an animal needs to ask themselves before bringing a new friend home. Do I have the space for a pet in my home? Do I have enough free time to dedicate to spending time with a pet? Am I financially prepared to care for a pet in case of an emergency? For someone thinking about adopting an under-socialized cat, there are a few extra considerations to make. It’s important to remember a cat who is under-socialized is not a feral cat, but has likely had little exposure to humans and/or their interactions with humans have not been positive.
Below are four things to consider when adopting an under-socialized cat. Keep in mind that every animal is different, so plan to have an in-depth conversation with an adoption counselor about the specific cat you’re interested in to get insider information!
They may need Extra time to Adjust
It may take a while for your new cat to feel at home with both you and your living space. It could take days, weeks, or even months for them to be fully comfortable with you. Be prepared to stay patient, and start slowly. We recommend adopters set up a small space such as a bathroom, with food, water, a litter box, a bed, and plenty of toys available. Visit the cat several times a day, every day, and make each interaction positive. This could mean offering treats or simply sitting nearby while they get used to you. As the cat becomes more comfortable, you can start gradually letting them explore more of your house (with supervision), building up to giving them total access.
Providing under-socialized cats with a special place they can hide and feel safe, like a cozy covered bed, allows them to explore their new surroundings at their own pace.
You may need to coach Them
Playtime with toys is often the first activity that bonds an under-socialized cat with their new family.
There are no magic words you can say that will automatically build your new cat’s confidence, so you’ll want to put the time in to help them progress. Try a variety of things to see what works for them and what doesn’t — some cats love to play, while others are very food motivated. This also applies to making your home a comfortable and enjoyable place for the cat; you may have to experiment with several different toys or foods to learn what they like.
Think about adopting Two cats
Cats constantly observe and learn from one another, which is why we often recommend an under-socialized cat go home with another cat, or require the adopters have a resident cat. Being around a more confident cat can help bring a shy cat out of their shell and teach them valuable life skills more quickly. There are many reasons why you might want to consider adopting a second cat, or a pair of cats. Read our blog post “4 Reasons to Adopt a Bonded Pair” to learn more!
Acorn relies on his brother, Cashew, to test the waters in a new space before he feels brave enough to venture out.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Cat Town’s support goes beyond match-making! We continue to make sure you have the right tools after you bring home your new best friend.
Animals are complicated! Should you become frustrated by slow progress with your new cat, remember you aren’t alone — Cat Town has a team of volunteer case managers ready and willing to help you out! They can work with you to determine the best course of action and give you a variety of options for tactics to try to help you and your new cat become a successful match. At Cat Town, we keep the equation “Love + Time = Magic” close to our hearts. Don’t let fear get in your way of opening your heart to an under-socialized cat.
They may take a little extra patience and effort, but that often makes their small breakthroughs that much sweeter. Below are just two examples out of the thousands of Cat Town adopters who have found that to be true:
“I am so thankful for everyone who helped Clayton turn his life around. He continues to make progress now that he has found his forever home. … He is a daily reminder that with just a little effort a life can be changed, whether it be my own, someone else’s or the life of a formerly feral cat. With a little love and understanding, we can grow and thrive into our true selves.” — Candice, adopter of Clayton
“From day one, Briggs brought us some challenges, but then, so much more joy. Every day, small but exciting steps marked his growing confidence and gave us cause to celebrate. … We are so grateful we got to be Briggs’ second chance, and that he got to be ours. He healed our hearts and proved the formula ‘Love + Time = Magic’ is absolutely true.” — Loraine, adopter of Briggs
Talk to us today about adopting your own under-socialized cat!
This March is coming in like a lion — with lots of rain, and plenty of adoptions to celebrate! Didi, who came to Cat Town with wounds requiring multiple surgeries, was adopted by our very own Foster Coordinator, Dawn. Two sweet kittens with feline leukemia, Hammy and Louie, got adopted together, so they'll always have a friend nearby. And ten-year-old Tony found the perfect person to give his ears a good scratch. You can see all of our February adoptions below.
We still have lots of cats looking for the perfect friend to cuddle up to on these rainy days. Email email@example.com to inquire about adoption!
MEET OUR ADOPTABLE CATS
Cat Town, in partnership with Oakland Animals Services and Friends of Oakland Animal Services, has been selected as one of seven organizations across the nation to compete for a finalist spot at the 2019 Innovation Showdown. Now, we need your vote so we can pitch our lifesaving idea to a panel of investors — for a chance at $450,000 in funding!
Senior cats like Mini often struggle in the shelter, but can show their true sweet nature when in a more relaxed environment.
As you may know, I started Cat Town while I was a volunteer at Oakland Animal Services (OAS), after recognizing that the shelter is made up of good and compassionate people, who lack the resources they need, and are operating in a broken system.
Cat Town started with a vision for a completely different approach to helping the cats who were being overlooked by potential adopters and shelter transfer partners. Eight years later, we’ve helped reduce the euthanasia rate at the shelter by 70 percent, and are recognized for having created a new model for helping the hardest-to-place cats. But we are still operating in reaction to a problem, rather than getting out in front of it.
In an ongoing conversation with our partners at OAS we’ve identified three key issues that could be addressed to solve this crisis:
Many people who bring their animals to the shelter don’t want to do so. Often, families surrender their pets due to some stressful hardship, and with a little support, would be able to keep their pets.
By the time people arrive at the shelter, it is often too late to provide intervention. Whether faced with eviction, trying to correct a stressful behavior without guidance, or dealing with complicated medical needs, many people struggle to know how to help their pets. They wait until the last minute to surrender, and by then they’ve either steeled themselves to get through the process or have simply run out of time to try a different approach. This often makes it impossible to offer the kind of support that could keep pets and families together.
Once animals are in the shelter, it is nearly impossible to know who they are, since we just see their reaction to being in that stressful environment. At Cat Town, we know the shelter can be a scary place for animals — and that fear can change their behavior.
What if we could meet these animals in their homes, before they arrive at the shelter, when they’re at their very best?
Through our partnership with OAS, we came up with the idea for HomeAdopt to proactively provide hands-on intervention to allow people to keep their cats or dogs, or to help them find new homes for their animals without them ever coming to the shelter.
With the Innovation Showdown, we have an opportunity to compete for a $450,000 grant that would provide start-up funding for a two-year pilot program, with the longer term goal providing more resources to help animals while they are still in their home, rather than reacting to a crisis when they come to the shelter.
If this project is funded, it would operate in parallel with Cat Town, without impacting our mission or capacity to continue to help the cats who need us most.
Helping pets in their homes removes stress from the shelter, the animal, and the people involved.
I hope we can count on your vote to offer every Oakland animal in need the same support we give to our own pets, and to the cats we help every day!
Many people aren’t aware of Cat Town’s extensive foster network. There are a variety of reasons why a cat may be in a foster home; they might be recovering from an illness or surgery, they could be a cat who may not do well in our public Cat Zone space, or they could simply be decompressing from being in the shelter while they wait to be adopted.
Angeline Y. has been a rockstar foster since 2017. She chooses to focus on senior cats and cats with medical needs who may be passed over for younger, healthier cats. I talked with Angeline about her experience fostering for Cat Town and why she hopes others will consider opening their hearts to cats with special needs.
Angeline and her best buddy, Yoda.
Larissa C.: How did you get involved with Cat Town?
Angeline Y.: When my beloved 15-year-old cat died, I was left heartbroken, and with a small fortune’s worth of cat medications and medical supplies I hoped to donate somewhere. Most shelters work with healthy, younger animals; Cat Town might have been the only place I found that worked with older cats and those with special needs — plus, they were really close to us! While looking through their website for donation criteria, I happened upon the foster program page and decided to give it a try. We donated my cat’s supplies and picked up our first foster a couple weeks later, and we’ve been fosters ever since!
Angeline with her first cat, Smokey.
LC: Have you been a cat person your whole life?
AY: Yes! I come from a family with both cat allergies and cats (having a good allergist does wonders!). My daughter is a third generation cat lover, but fortunately she hasn’t developed allergies like the rest of us—something my allergist suspects may be from all the cats she’s exposed to!
LC: Do you have cats at home?
AY: I currently have a 16-year-old ginger tabby, a 13-year-old tuxedo Maine Coon mix, and a one-and-a-half-year-old torbie, plus a cat savvy preschooler and foster cats from Cat Town.
LC: What is something you’ve learned about senior cats, or cats with medical needs that people might not expect to be true?
AY: A lot of these senior kitties get passed over for younger cats, but they still have so much life in them; cats are considered seniors at 8- to 10-years-old, but a healthy, well cared for cat can live double that. The same goes for those with medical needs — often, they can live normally if they’re kept on a stable diet or given medications as prescribed. I think a lot of people expect cats with medical needs to be very sickly or difficult to manage, but that’s just not the case.
Fostering is very much a family affair, so it’s been fun to see the friendships that develop between the cats and us humans.
— Angeline Y.
In terms of administering medications, I think people get intimidated by the thought of having to medicate a cat regularly, but it’s really not as hard as one might think, nor very time-consuming. I usually give oral medications at feeding times, and it really doesn’t add more than a minute to the process; injections and other more intrusive medications take a little getting used to, but they also become easier with practice. It sounds like a lot when I have to describe it, but the process itself is easy once you get used to it!
LC: Why would you encourage people to adopt a senior cat, or a cat with medical needs?
AY: In my experience, these older/special needs cats have been the most charming and charismatic cats! They don’t have the behavioral issues younger cats and kittens have, they’re at the age where they’ve settled down and are much easier companions to live with. In our house, two of our forever kitties are seniors, and one is just out of kittenhood; the young one is the one who causes the most trouble! Our fosters from Cat Town have been the easiest to live with, even with their medical needs (far better behaved than any of our cats!).
On top of getting an amazing, personable cat, Cat Town offers such great support, with their In It For Life program where they cover medical care for some of the seniors and cats with medical needs. They’re also great about making potential adopters aware of issues and of realistic expectations, and just so dedicated to finding a good fit for both cat and adopters. I hope more people will consider giving these older kitties a chance, especially since Cat Town offers so much support!
LC: Tell me about your favorite memory from fostering for Cat Town. Why would you encourage people to adopt a cat from a foster home?
AY: I have enjoyed every part of fostering! It’s a great excuse to meet and live with new cats as well as meet all the lovely people at Cat Town. Fostering is very much a family affair, so it’s been fun to see the friendships that develop between cats and us humans. Just like human friendships, we end up having different relationships with each other, different activities we bond over. Still, my favorite moments are when a foster cat goes home with their adopter. It is always such a joyous and exciting time for both feline and humans, especially after long, stressful stays in shelters and foster care for many of these cats. Of course, this is followed by the hardest part of fostering: having the happy goodbye sink in after they leave, and the interim time before we meet our next foster. It’s still worth it, though, for all the wonderful time we share together, and for all the cats and people we get to meet.
Angeline’s daughter with their most recent Cat Town foster, Marnie.
LC: What would you say to someone considering fostering a cat for Cat Town?
AY: I would strongly recommend it! In my view, there are no downsides to fostering, especially since Cat Town makes it so easy. They take care of all the supplies and medical needs and they even deliver supplies, so you really don’t need to do anything except share your home with a cat who needs it. If you become so bonded that you don’t want to part with them, you’re able to adopt; conversely, if something isn’t working out or you just change your mind, Cat Town will take the cat back.
I’ve found Cat Town to be very considerate of the needs of all parties involved. They genuinely want us paired with a cat who would do well here, even if it means some cats end up waiting longer to get to a foster home. They focus on finding the right home where both humans and cat(s) will be happy (just as they do with adopters—there’s no pressure or hard sell involved). I find it even easier than actually having cats since Cat Town takes care of all the hard decisions and expenses!
Cat Town is always looking for more volunteers to join our foster team. We provide you with all the supplies, you just provide the TLC! If you have space in your home and time and love to give to a cat who may be under-socialized, have medical needs, or is simply a senior cat in need of a comfortable home, you might be a great foster parent for a Cat Town cat. We will match you with a cat who is right for your interests and experience and will offer you lots of guidance and support. To learn more, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org today.
The only thing better than snuggling up with a sweet, fluffy cat? Snuggling up with two cats! Aside from doubling the fun (and the amount of love), there are several reasons why you might want to consider adopting more than one cat. Read on to learn why we think adopting a bonded pair, or adopting another cat as a friend for the feline family member you already have, is one of the best decisions you can make!
Foster cats Bowie Lane and Carmichael love three things: catnip, licking you when being pet, and most importantly — each other.
They can learn from each other
Cashew helps his brother Acorn learn to be braver by setting a confident example.
Kittens and adult cats continually learn survival skills and life lessons from each other through play and observation. Playing can teach hunting and social skills, while observing consequences for certain actions can help cats understand and define boundaries.
My fur-nephew Mycroft is an excellent example of this. A shy and reserved cat, he was a solo guy for several years before my brother and his wife adopted him. They introduced him to his new brother Wolf, an outgoing and playful younger cat. Wolf has no qualms about walking up and demanding attention from visitors, and through watching Wolf interact with humans, Mycroft has become much more friendly and social. It’s been amazing to see Mycroft come out of his shell even more.
They’ll keep each other entertained
With their two brothers already adopted, sisters Monkey and Maru will rely on one another for lots of play time.
Two cats can provide one another with social interaction and mental stimulation. By playing together, it usually means they’re less likely to engage in destructive behavior that can be damaging to your furniture and belongings. Single cats might also struggle with being left alone for long hours with little physical or mental stimulation, which can result in them becoming bored and depressed, or developing bad habits. Living with and being bonded to another cat keeps them entertained and happier, whether they’re playing or snuggling together.
It’s basically the same price
Let’s face it, you’re buying the supplies for one cat anyway! Aside from any immunizations that may be needed, adopting two cats at the same time doesn’t cost much more than adopting just one. Cats can share a lot of supplies such as litter boxes, toys, and beds, so you won’t need to buy much more for two cats compared to one. Additionally, many rescues, Cat Town included, offer discounts to adopters who adopt two cats.
Sahara, India, and Geneva were surrendered from the same home, so we hope to keep them together.
You’ll saves two lives instead of one
Perhaps the best reason to adopt two cats is that you’re doubling the number of lives you’re saving by bringing two cats home instead of one. It can also be a little more difficult for a bonded pair to find a home since many people are intimidated by the idea of having two cats, or have only considered having one cat. Many pairs often wait a long time for an adopter, so when you bring home two cats you’re saving them from potentially a long wait.
There are more than a dozen incredibly adorable bonded pairs of Cat Town cats waiting to meet you, like Patrick and Caleb, Hank and Turtle, Brady and Belle, and even a trio with Sahara, Geneva, and India! If you would like to make an appointment to meet them, email email@example.com. Don’t miss out on bringing home your new best friends!