Updated: Mar 12
"We didn't know what to do."
It was late October of 2021. The evenings were getting cold. We were leaving for the day - or so we thought.
But there was a surprise waiting for us on our loading dock. (RappCats is housed in a former apple packing shed; a loading dock runs in front of the building.)
A pet carrier was sitting beside a grocery sack. A cat was in the carrier, crouched down and facing away from us. All we could see was a stubby gray tail. It was whipping back and forth like a flag in a hurricane.
Cans of cat food and a bag of cat litter were inside the grocery bag. A handwritten note was taped to the outside.
We're sorry to do this. We just finished up a project over in Amissville and we have to head back to Maryland tonight. This hungry cat has been hanging out with us on the construction site. We don't want to leave him alone. We didn't know what to do. A lady told us about you. We hope you can take care of him and that the food and litter helps. Thank you, Mr. W.
We had no idea who these folks were but they warmed our hearts! We imagined a group of tired, dirty construction workers who wanted nothing more than to head back to their families, yet they drove to a pet store and bought supplies and a carrier!
We brought everything inside and unloaded a perplexed gray and creme-colored cat into an intake cage. He was so handsome! He was a sturdy fellow - all muscle.
Even though we are cage-free, new cats temporarily go into a 2-room intake cage to adjust & for observations.
Unlike lots of new cats, he didn't hide behind (or in) his litter box. He was a curious "sniffer" - every single thing had to be smelled! He looked right at you - another thing new cats often are afraid to do.
But he was NOT calm. This was a very high-strung cat and he did NOT want to be handled. While he seemed to want attention, he startled easily. That little tail swung into manic action, his ears went back, and claws came out.
What would we name this cat? Lesley, our shelter manager, suggested "Docket" and we thought that was perfect. He'd been dropped off on our dock, and his tail was either docked (we sure hope not) or he's a true bobtail.
It was very clear that Docket was a smart cat with a strong presence. But he was also a contradiction. He wanted to be boss and was quick to snarl at other cats. But if the other cat stood up to him, he'd get in a tither. Sometimes he'd run and hide.
His tail, meanwhile, would be going full speed!
He's been the same way with us. Docket really, really wants love. But he really, really doesn't know how to get it. Perhaps he was mistreated by previous owners. He clearly has what's called an "ambivalent" attachment style. He sends the message "I want to be close to you", and then when approached, he might smack at you or run away.
But he always rubs against our legs. He so wants affection. His nervous system just has a hard time staying regulated when he gets it. The sweet guy tries so hard, but his body betrays him.
Docket's classic "airplane ears" after getting overstimulated.
Whenever Docket has lashed out, he looks at us with those gorgeous, soulful eyes and it's like he's saying, "Please don't be mad. I can't help myself".
Part of Docket is convinced he wants your company. When I'm in another room of the shelter, and Docket hears me, he often stands on his back legs, looks through the screen door of his room, stares at me and meows loudly. "I want attention!" He's very clear about that.
When I open his door these days, Docket's excited to see me and his body stays calmer than it used to. When I sit on the floor, he comes over, sniffs my pants and shoes, and plants himself beside me.
Docket has made tremendous progress. For about six months, he's not only tolerated but even enjoyed head rubs. He knows he'll get a scalp massage if he lies flat on the floor. His tail even stops moving!
Docket loves to play. Play is stimulating, and for traumatized cats it can be easily overstimulating. Sometimes, Docket will run after a toy, grab it, then skitter away to hide behind the litter boxes. He's coming out faster now though, and playing longer before his system goes wacky (technical term:).
Docket's even starting to roll over when he's really comfortable. He seems to be asking for a belly rub, but I'm pretty sure he's not ready to tolerate one yet.
I've also been picking Docket up. He doesn't love it, but it's helping him "self soothe". That's when an animal or person learns to calm themselves down instead of going into "fight or flight". Many animals (including people) are hard-wired to feel reassured by steady pressure. It's part of why most of us like hugs, and some people find heavy sweaters, weighted vests or blankets comforting.
These days I can pick Docket up and carry him around his room. We go to the window and watch the cars and birds. I can keep holding him as I sit down, and he sometimes lets me give him a head massage while he's on my lap. He's making incremental progress each week.
I'm convinced once he's in the right environment, Docket will become even calmer. He may never become a lap cat (but I wouldn't rule it out) but he'll be a fabulous companion. He wants to please - oh, how he wants to please - and he has worked so hard for every step of his progress. He deserves someone who will work just as hard with him and give him a safe, loving, quiet home.
Docket's been with us 497 days. It's time. Please reach out to us if you'd like to know more about this special boy or if you'd like to visit him.
Also, RappCats needs more volunteers to work with cats like Docket! It makes a big difference in how quickly they're adopted. Let us know if you want to be trained to work with traumatized cats. It takes patience and a weekly commitment but the rewards are tremendous.
The day Docket discovered himself in the camera.
As always, thanks for reading my blog and many thanks to all of your who support our work. We could not do it without you!
Meow for now! Kitty kisses!
RappCats relies entirely on private donations
from animal lovers like you. If you'd like to contribute to Docket's or our other cats' shelter, medical, and care expenses, please consider a donation. We can't do what we do without your support.
Please send this blog to your friends & family, and post it on social media so others will understand our work, and can choose to support RappCats.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
Donations in the form of checks and money orders are also accepted and can be sent to:
RappCats P.O. Box 307 Washington, VA 22747
We have a supply "Wish List" on Chewy's website.
Click on their logo below if you'd like to see what we currently need.