Happy Tails: Shasta

For beautiful Shasta, a challenging beginning with her foster dad Michael McGibbon turned into a special bond and a happy forever home with him.

HappyTails-Shasta

Shasta had been living on the streets when she was trapped, having recently given birth. She went to a foster home for three weeks before McGibbon began fostering her. When he brought her home for the first time, he was expecting her to acclimatize to her new environment easily. “Usually new cats come to you immediately, or at least after a few hours,” he says. “But after a full day she hadn’t come out.”

After five days of not seeing Shasta, he knew he had to help this cat face her fear of socialization and people. For a half hour he tried to coax her out of hiding, resulting in her releasing her bowels from fright and scratching his arms and chest so badly he had to wear a snowboarding outfit just to catch her. He blocked off the hallway of his apartment and sat with her, allowing her to become comfortable with his presence. “I didn’t make much eye contact or touch her,” he remembers. “I just sat and read the news.” It took two hours for tense and frightened Shasta to become relaxed enough to lie down.

McGibbon believed that his new foster cat wanted a friend, but was too scared to trust humans. Determined to help her become comfortable in her surroundings, he blocked off every hiding place in his home and then released Shasta, letting her try and shield herself before approaching her. “She hid in the best place she could, the side of my couch, but she was still exposed. Her body language showed that she was very scared,” he says. “I approached her, took five deep breaths and then started to pet her. She flinched a lot, but I was calm and assertive, just taking deep breaths and not flinching myself.”

After petting her for a whole hour, Shasta had stopped flinching. “Then I went into the middle of the living room and started meowing,” McGibbon says. He explained that when he did this with his other cats they usually came running to him. He conversed with Shasta with twenty meows before she came towards him and smashed her head into his leg. The rest is history.

“It was a special experience,” McGibbon says, mentioning that Shasta headbutts him every day now. He decided to adopt her permanently and spends time with her each day to help her fears disappear. She sometimes still gets scared, but he works with her to make sure she’s relaxed and comfortable in her new home.

HappyTails-Shasta

McGibbon encourages pet owners to help their animals overcome fears like he did with Shasta. “It is a special experience. If your animal is scared of anything irrational [the dishwasher, plastic bags, a knock at the door, the blender, etc.] make them face it. Be consistent, be patient, do it with love and not aggression, and eventually the animal will come around.” He mentions that connecting with Shasta by helping her stay relaxed and get used to her new environment has helped him communicate with other cats, dogs, and even humans. “I encourage everyone to have as many meaningful friendships as they can, with as many different species as possible.”

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