Georgia SPCA's gift of time to a cat named Willie

Wille's story, as told by his foster mom, Yvonne Stirling:

"Isn't 10 months too much time to invest to find one cat the perfect home?  Not for the Georgia SPCA! The cost of time was a small price to pay to save a terrified two-year-old orange tabby named Willie.

What was the kind stranger going to do with this cat he had trapped in the vacant home? Willie was starving, hissing and paralyzed with fear when he was brought to the Georgia SPCA. His desperate cry from the trap was more than anyone could bear- they had to give this cat a chance at a forever home. He spent his first month in a foster home, hiding in a corner, as close to the wall as possible, chin pressed against the garage floor, not daring to look at the strangers trying to take care of him. Was he feral? That was the question that would determine the course for the rest of his life. Thankfully, the Georgia SPCA had given Willie the gift of time.

A month went by and Willie was still running into the corner when anyone opened the door to the garage. He would let out the sweetest hiss, warning everyone not to get any closer. His foster family spent hours sitting in their garage- reading books, playing games, and talking- just so they could be close to Willie. They were always hoping that he would give them any sign that he was not feral. It had been a month and they still had not so much as seen him walk. It was as though they had a wild animal trapped in their garage and it felt cruel to make him stay there any longer. Georgia SPCA began the process of finding a place where Willie could live outside. It broke everyone’s heart to think this beautiful cat might spend the rest of his life separated from people. His foster family prayed, again. There had to be something else they could do. The next day the foster mom brought treats with her, and even though Willie would not look up, she shook the treat bag, said “treat-treat, Willie” and tossed a treat in his corner. After several days of shaking the bag and saying “treat-treat”, he raised his eyes and looked at them for the first time. Encouraged, they started sitting on the garage floor with Willie so they could get a little closer to him by holding out a treat in their hands. It was so cute to see him inch forward, on his belly, for that treat. One day Willie touched the treat with his nose, allowing his foster Dad to rub one finger across his cheek. Willie let out the loudest purr ever heard! Amazing— could it be that Willie was just a terrified, but friendly tabby cat? Then it happened. They were sitting in the garage when he got up from his corner and started walking around. Now granted, he was hugging the wall when he walked around, but it was progress. They could not stand having him separated from the family any longer, so they cleared out a bedroom and gave Willie the gift of more time- three months inside their home. (To this day, that bedroom in their home is referred to as “Willie’s room”.)

Willie got through the move to the inside, but he was terrified of everything. He was given space in the closet where he could hide for time to recover when he was too afraid. So many things frightened Willie that a list had to be made — all ceiling fans had to be turn off, the computer could not be left on because the screen saver scared him, and you had to announce yourself before entering his room or he would run into the closet to hide, for hours. He did not like the noise of paper, the movement of toys, the sound of cat food cans being opened, the vacuum cleaner, any sudden movements, or wind blowing the trees outside. A 4’ cat tower was put in his room, but it turned out he had no idea how to climb or jump. Hours were spent each day desensitizing Willie to the things that scared him, and encouraging him to climb, and to jump into laps for snuggles and kisses. It took him two weeks to climb that cat tower, and about as long to get up the courage to jump up on the arm of the chair. The problem was he had no idea how to jump and “stick the landing”, so he would jump, but then immediately fall off. It was embarrassing for him, but he did not stop trying until he’d mastered this very important skill. You see, his favorite thing in the world was getting his daily brushing, and that meant jumping into someone’s lap for brush time. Every lesson was a new adventure and Willie came to thoroughly enjoy these training sessions. New toys were left out on the floor just so he’d discover them. At first he would run and hide when his paw made a toy move, but then he learned that it was fun rolling balls across the floor and throwing mice into the air. Willie lived with this foster family for four months before they were able to take him to the Georgia SPCA’s cat room at the Flowery Branch PetSmart for adoption.

Willie lived at PetSmart for six months. His first Paws for Consideration outing was unsuccessful, because the families’ three rowdy boys made him nervous. Once again Willie was given the gift of time and allowed to stay in Georgia SPCA's adoption program for several more weeks until another family saw him and wanted to consider him to become a part of their family. Another five weeks with this family in the Paws for Consideration program proved to be successful and Willie was finally adopted into his forever family- a beautiful family with one quiet little girl and four friendly cats.

Willie reminds us that not every cat is going to be adopted quickly, and sometimes the best thing we can give to these cats is the gift of time. It takes a lot of resources to offer a cat like Willie unlimited time to find his forever family, but that is a commitment Georgia SPCA is willing to make. The cost of the gift of time—PRICELESS!"