Happy Tail: Ollie
When Annex Cat Rescue foster Olivia signed up to bring home a 10-month-old kitten named Ollie, she had no idea that he would soon become a new member of the family. But Ollie’s story almost went a very different way.
“He came from a colony at the Finch and Bathurst area,” Olivia recalls. The volunteer who had trapped him, April, thought that little Ollie wouldn’t be able to adjust to life in a household; he was incredibly skittish and shy around humans. She was planning to trap, neuter, and release him back to the wild. But then one day, April heard a noise that startled her — it was Ollie, purring like a motorboat. “He has the loudest purr I’ve ever heard,” Olivia laughs. That purr made April think that Ollie might be able to live with humans after all.
So instead of going back to the wild, Ollie went to his foster, Olivia, who would care for him until he found an adopter and was ready to transition into a new home. ACR knew that Ollie would acclimate better in a home with another cat, and Olivia had her elderly cat, Binx. She and her family, including her partner and their twin boys, Milo and Xander, were eager to help Ollie, especially the boys. Ollie was dropped off on a weekday while the kids were in virtual school, so the minute recess rolled around, they ran to the bathroom where Ollie was hiding to greet him. “They were like, ‘The cat’s here! The cat’s here!’” Olivia recalls with a laugh.
But Ollie spent most of his first two weeks at home hiding in a corner. He was very sweet, but very nervous. However, one family member was able to get him out of his shell, and that was Binx. Ollie got excited the minute he saw Binx, but at 17-and-a-half, Binx was initially impatient with some of Ollie’s kittenish hijinks. With time, they soon developed a friendly bond. Sadly, shortly after Ollie’s arrival into the home, Binx passed away. Olivia’s family decided to adopt another cat, a Siamese kitten named Remus, who would quickly become Ollie’s best friend.
At first, Olivia says, the kittens “did the most aggressive playing [she] had ever seen… I had to call the vet and make sure they weren’t really going to hurt each other. I think they were trying to establish dominance.” Despite being younger than his new friend by several months, bossy and assertive Remus came out on top over sweet, shy Ollie. And once that was established, they were inseparable. “They groom each other, and sleep together, and cuddle so much. They’re so happy together.”
Remus showed Ollie how to live with humans. When Ollie first arrived, he would hardly ever meow. But then he noticed how Remus would meow when he wanted food, and slowly, Ollie started doing it too. Olivia can’t help but laugh at the difference between the two cats’ meows. “Remus is like, ‘MEOW!’ And Ollie is like… ‘mew.’ His voice is so sweet and cute.”
But when it came to some things, Ollie was the one showing Remus what to do.
“Ollie is way better than Remus at catching mice,” Olivia says. “He has street smarts. When he caught a mouse was the only time he growled at Remus. I was kind of proud of him because Remus can be kind of a bully.” Slowly, Ollie was learning how to stand up for himself and be brave.
With Remus at his side, Ollie grew more and more comfortable with the family, spending more time hanging out with them and less time hiding. And as time went by, Olivia and her family couldn’t help but fall in love with him. In March, two months after taking him in as a foster, they decided to adopt him. “I know, it’s a foster fail,” she laughs. “But he was just fitting in so well.”
Today, Ollie has truly come out of his shell. He loves snoozing on the top bunk in the kids’ room, being talked to in a baby voice, and having his belly rubbed. And he’s finally gotten comfortable lying down beside people.
Despite how much progress he’s made, at times, you can still tell that he used to be a wild cat. He struggles going to the vet, and he is still easily startled, especially when he is eating, or when a person is standing over him. But the family has learned to be patient with him. “He taught [Milo and Xander] how to be patient, calm, more sensitive to him,” Olivia says. “It’s really helped them to see that cats have different needs and personalities… We couldn’t imagine not having him in the family.”
Olivia’s biggest takeaway from her experience with Ollie?
“Don’t judge a cat from their initial behaviour. The transformation is remarkable and drastic, but it’s over a long period of time. It’s not that they’re just going to adapt in the first couple of months. They will, but then they’ll keep adapting and keep changing and coming out of their shell, even two years in. I don’t even think we’re finished seeing what Ollie’s going to be like.”