DEAR DR. FOX: I have had a rescue cat named Louis for over two months. I have rescued cats for around 20 years, but have never seen one quite like Louis.
He was never a totally feral cat. However, after being in a cage for two months -- a huge cage, big enough for a litter box, food and water -- he still doesn’t seem ready to come out.
I have gotten into the cage daily with him and brushed him, talked to him and cut his claws. Then, when I let him out, he goes and hides. When I discover him, he hisses at me. I’m afraid to pick him up when he does this, so I net him and put him back in his cage.
He is neutered now and has had all his shots. He has a good appetite, and is nice as long as he is in the cage. I have six of my own cats, which Louis couldn’t care less about. I want to find him a good home, but he is not ready for adoption with his behavior of hiding. I’ve had other cats that hid, but they stopped after a while. Louis just reverts back to being “wild” and hiding.
I welcome your opinion on Louis. I’ve tried to block off his hiding area, but he manages to weasel his way back behind the furniture. -- D.A., St. Louis, Missouri
DEAR D.A.: When a semi-socialized cat has places to hide, the process of recovery will be protracted. Try following some of the steps of introducing a new cat into a cat-household, as posted on my website. Often, keeping the cat in a large cage as you have, in full view of the other cats, can help. Also have some cat condos and catwalks/shelves in your main living area, and keep the new cat in there. One or two boxes or “dens” where the scared cat can hide -- but still be in the same room and be able to see the other cats -- will give him security and facilitate habituation. Let the cat see you playing with the other cats and grooming them.
This can take weeks, but keep the faith.
DEAR DR. FOX: I always have tried to adopt my pets from the shelter. My latest dog, Skittles, is a beagle/Boston terrier mix. She is smart, full of life and love, and will never have the breathing problems of a purebred Boston terrier because she does not have the smushed snout.
Her coat is mostly black. At first glance, you can only see some white on her feet. Statistics have shown that black dogs are the least adopted dogs from shelters; this is too bad, because I could not have made a better choice than my Skittles.
Please tell your readers to give black dogs a chance when they go to the shelter. I had an unconscious prejudice, and I do not know why -- my only guess is that black is considered “evil” in our culture, and white is not. Black cats are considered unlucky, etc. -- L.P., Naples, Florida
DEAR L.P.: You raise an interesting fact about black dogs and cats being chosen less often for adoption, the grounds for such prejudice being beyond my comprehension.
This calls for a cultural anthropologist to investigate, since in some cultures black animals are good luck, and in others, bad luck. As Indian veterinarian Dr. M. Sugumaran describes in the book “India’s Animals: Helping the Sacred and the Suffering” (by my wife, Deanna Krantz), villagers have a different regard for the indigenous “pariah” dogs according to their color, which may also be linked to temperament. Black dogs are regarded as good luck, able to sense when ghosts or evil spirits are close, and are thought to bark louder than other dogs when cautioning people of danger.
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