Happy Tail: Nellie

Nellie was a scared and skittish cat when Zoe began fostering her. After about a week of hiding under Zoe’s bed and only coming out at night, Nellie started to come out of her shell. But when Zoe’s dad, Robert, would stay over during work trips, Nellie went right back to being that skittish cat hiding under the bed.

“She was really afraid of my dad. Fine with me, out in the day with me, and then he would come home and she would hide,” says Zoe, who has fostered over 20 cats in the past six years, including Nellie.

Happy Tail: Nellie

Robert didn’t take it personally, but he did decide that he wanted Nellie and him to be friends.

“When I saw her, I just thought she was really gorgeous and I was determined to have this cat like me,” says Robert. That meant being patient and observing Nellie as much as she warily observed him.

When he stayed over, which was often weekly — while he lived in London, his office was in Toronto — he noticed that Nellie didn’t like it when he was standing up, but was more comfortable when he was sitting or lying down. And seemed especially interested in his crosswords. Well, not the crossword itself.

Happy Tail: Nellie

“I was doing crosswords and realized she was watching my pen,” says Robert. “So, I started teasing her with it and eventually she jumped up on the bed to try and get my pen. And that’s how I made friends with her.”

With Christmas coming up, Zoe would be returning to her parent’s home for school break, meaning she would be passing Nellie on to another foster. But her father was worried about Nellie, and not just for the Christmas break. Nellie was a beautiful cat, but still very shy. How would anyone looking to adopt see past two big, scared eyes hiding under a bed?

Robert spoke to his wife, Sarah, sharing his concerns about Nellie or, as Sarah puts it, “another tale of woe.” At that time, they had two cats and a dog, but it didn’t take much arm-twisting to convince Sarah to at least let Zoe bring Nellie home for Christmas. And with Zoe taking her own vacation right after Christmas, surely it wouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience for Robert and Sarah to look after Nellie for a little while longer?

Happy Tail: Nellie

Although Nellie spent most of that first Christmas under the tree — or under the bed — it didn’t take long for Sarah to fall in love with Nellie as well and agree to adopt her as a permanent member of their family. The bigger space for Nellie to explore (and hide in, when she needed her space) meant Nellie was soon out and about and has since made herself completely at home with her new family.

Zoe has fostered a number of cats who are scared when they first arrive, but with patience (and maybe a bed to hide under) they are often out and about in a week or two, making themselves at home. Some cats, like Nellie, don’t often make great first impressions — they need a bit more time and patience to come out of their shell.

Happy Tail: Nellie

“I think they’ve all got potential to make really good friendly pets,” says Sarah. “You have to be extremely patient and respectful of where they are at, at the time. You have to be observant too; what they do and don’t like, what bothers them. You have to watch them and learn.

“That said, I have never met a cat that didn’t, eventually, love being pet. They will get there in the end.”

-Sarah Anderson Austin

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