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How Patience and Trust Changed a Scaredy Cat Into a Confident Feline

We all have that shy friend – the one who is loyal and loving but avoids groups of people, especially if she doesn’t know them. Babbs, the cat, is that friend. And, like some of our friends, Babbs just needed to trust people before she felt secure.

Babbs’ foster parent, Flore Yuan, has fostered several cats now, mostly the shyer ones like Babbs because they need a little more help to be adopted and she likes the challenge.

“I thought she hated me at first and I wasn’t quite sure what to do,” said Yuan. “I had a room set up for her and I came in several times a day, bringing my computer or phone to just sit with her, but she would hiss and growl.”

Yuan tried things that had helped other shy cats. Some want you to sit with them. Some want you to talk to them. That didn’t work with Babbs. But she was very food motivated. So Yuan started hand feeding her, teaching Babbs to associate her with food, the path to her heart.

“The first time she started accepting food from my hand was very gratifying and it was the breakthrough that led to steady progress,” said Yuan. “She didn’t hide anymore.”

“I could see that she was not an aggressive cat. Even if she hissed or growled it was only when she was startled, but she never tried to scratch or bite. It was very helpful for the adopter to know that she was just scared, not dangerous. Even if she acted angry, she would not hurt someone.”

Yuan suggested that Babbs’ adopter create a “safe room” for Babbs and to begin to feed her there, then gradually move the food outside the room to challenge her to come out.

Babbs’ adopter, Brandon Roberts, did all that and more.

“I am a first-time pet owner, and my family has never had pets before, so my experience was very limited,” said Roberts. “Adopting a cat worried me, let alone a cat that needs extra care due to being under socialized. But it ended up being a really rewarding experience.”

Roberts conducted a lot of research and created a plan to help Babbs settle in. He created her safe room and she would run inside if there was a loud noise and hide if Roberts was in the room.

“I had to learn what her cues were to understand if she was just scared or if she was going to respond negatively,” he said. “She was usually just scared.”

“One thing I learned was that she did not like prolonged eye contact,” said Roberts. “She would allow me to pet her if I didn’t stare at her; it required a lot of trust for both of us.”

Through observation and advice from Yuan and the staff at the Seattle Animal Shelter, Roberts built that trust and saw quick progress.

“I would reward her for staying in more exposed places by giving her treats when she ventured out. After a few weeks, she is confidently roaming the entire apartment.”

“Sometimes I wonder if she’s the same cat I adopted,” said Roberts. “I never imagined that the shy cat I adopted would make so much progress in a month and become a lap cat who follows me around.”

He said that Babbs now seems to purr non-stop and confidently takes up as much space as possible, stretching out on the floor, tables, and bedding.

“She’s a lot more confident, allowing belly rubs and even letting me clip her nails and give her a bath,” said Roberts. “I am very glad I adopted her; it has been really rewarding to make a positive impact on Babbs’ life. I am excited to keep learning with her and continuing to give her a loving home.”

See all the cats available for adoption.