Introducing Oliver: Slice of Life #sol18

Believe it or not, I wasn’t looking for another cat.

We had eight already, and yes, they’re all indoor cats, and even though I really, really, REALLY love cats, even I thought that eight was enough. Mostly I worried about upsetting the delicate balance of the social order by adding more.

I think that cats are far more social than most people realize (feral ones do live in colonies, after all), but their social dynamics can still be tricky. My mother’s house is populated with cats who had personality conflicts with other cats at my house or who just couldn’t thrive with in such a big group. Our eight, though not without occasional conflict, were a pretty copacetic bunch.

So Oliver was only intended to be a foster. His story spoke to me. Our local no-kill shelter had to quarantine their cat houses for several weeks and couldn’t accept any surrenders. But sometimes people get desperate: Oliver and fourteen other cats, including several pregnant females, were dropped off in crates and boxes outside the gates. All of the other cats found foster homes, but no one wanted to take the adolescent male kitty. There he was, stuck in a cage in the dog building, and declining daily from the stress.

We had a room that was going unused, and here was a cat who needed a room. So my son and I went to pick up Oliver.


He spent the first 24 hours wedged in between the wall and the edge of a bookcase, nose to the corner. With some soothing and petting, he began to emerge on the second day. By the third day, he was climbing into my lap to purr mightily. By the fourth day, he began to purr as soon as I stepped into his room.

Still, I was sure I could return him to the shelter once that cat room was open. We just didn’t need another cat.

oliver and zorro.JPG

As we got to know Oliver better, we struggled to see how he would manage life in a shelter. He was terrified of everything, especially people and cats and noise, which there’s plenty of at an animal shelter. Fear often makes him lash out with claws. We wondered how Oliver would get noticed in the first place or how he would ever learn to interact appropriately with a potential family.

And if he did get noticed for his handsome stripes and ridiculously long tail, a potential adopter might turn away upon a closer inspection that revealed the weeping eyes, the constant sneezing, the crusty nose. Oliver suffers from seasonal allergies, and he’s often a crusty, goopy mess.

And even if all the ooze and crust didn’t put someone off, we thought the biting would.  Oliver is a biter. Not out of spite. He’s a good-natured, happy cat. But excitement and affection (and perhaps some dental issues that lead to sore gums) lead him to grab an arm or a hand and chomp down hard. Breaking the skin hard. And he doesn’t like to let go. Sometimes it’s a two person job to pry Oliver’s mouth open and extricate the tender human flesh. Even if he found a home, it was likely to be short-lived. Not many people appreciate a cat who makes you bleed, and not many have the patience to work with a cat on their troublesome behavior.

oliver and panda 2

And that’s how my first foster cat ended up becoming my first foster failure. In the end, we decided that despite everything, ours was the best home for him.

oliver and panda

It hasn’t been an easy transition. As I have told my husband more than once, it turns out you really can have too many cats. Oliver has fought his way into the social order–quite literally. The three girl cats, especially, have not wanted to share their space with the interloper, and they still ambush and pick on him. He routinely has to be rescued from a cat half his size who’s got him pinned under furniture. The boy cats all seem to like him okay, but he doesn’t understand their social cues and constantly mistakes a playful engagement for an attack. Kerfuffle abounds. But he’s getting along well with Panda, and he adores the dog.

oliver and roxy

He has learned to stake out his share of the bed at night, and he puts his master snuggling skills to good use. He’s busier than the other cats and struggles to occupy himself when they’re all napping for 22 hours a day. But he’s a happy, silly cat, and for all his challenges, he does make me laugh every day, which is not nothing.

oliver sleeping.JPG












24 responses to “Introducing Oliver: Slice of Life #sol18”

  1. elsie Avatar

    What a lucky cat Oliver is to find someone so understanding and caring! What a sweet fellow he is and one day (hopefully) he will learn the rules of socialization. You are a special person.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It’s fun to watch their interactions and confusions and misinterpretations. I do hope they figure it out!

  2. standingtall47 Avatar

    So sweet. I liked how you shared so many pictures of your new family member.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was tempted to skip the writing altogether and just post photo after photo! I really struggle to get good photos of my other cats, but Oliver always takes a good picture!

  3. arjeha Avatar

    How lucky for Oliver. He reminds me so much of our Archie. Congratulations on your newest family member.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thank you! A new family member is the last thing we needed, but he’s a charmer!

  4. Juliana Ellington Avatar

    I’m always happy when you do a cat-slice post, and this one was especially fun. I loved the photos, and it was nice to see Roxy with her new cat friend. I wonder if Roxy even registers that Oliver is a new cat.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Well, she realized when she first saw him that he was totally new because she slid off the couch to stumble over to greet him and sniff him all over, which he tolerated extremely well, especially given how unhappy he was to have other cats noticing him. But I don’t think she even notices now when he snuggles with her.

  5. GirlGriot Avatar

    Oh my, but he’s adorable! I so appreciate people who can foster … I know I’m not one of them. I would have a dozen cats by now if I tried. Oliver is so precious. I hope that living in your loving house will help him grow out of some of his more painful behaviors. ❤

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I’m concerned that if I ever try fostering again, I’ll totally end up with a dozen. Then a baker’s dozen. And then…. well, you know.

  6. Amanda Potts Avatar

    “…he does make me laugh every day, which is not nothing.” What a beautiful new addition. I love all your cat stories, of course, and Oliver is gorgeous – what a tail! May he find his place in the hierarchy and may you stick with 9 cats!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yes, fingers crossed to hold steady at nine! Each day, the group dynamics smooth out a bit more, so I’m hopeful it will all work out.

  7. readingteachsu Avatar

    Bless his amazing cat self. If you know cats that well, I know you’re also good with humans.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Isn’t he wonderful? I certainly didn’t mean to fall for him, but there he is.

  8. Trina Haase Avatar
    Trina Haase

    Oliver won the jackpot! I need to forward this post to my friend who fosters cats. She would love it!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Incredibly, my husband’s response to my failed foster was “Don’t worry, you can still try fostering. Maybe next summer you can get kittens. You know they’d find good homes, so it would be easier to let them go.” DOES HE NOT KNOW MY DEEPLY HELD PHILOSOPHICAL BELIEFS ON KITTENS? (Sibs should stay together!) HOW COULD I POSSIBLY LET THEM GO TO FAMILIES WHO WOULD–GASP!–SEPARATE THEM? I still like to imagine that I could maybe be a successful kitty foster home, but I could be totally deluding myself!

  9. glenda funk Avatar
    glenda funk

    You had me at “cat.” Of course I had to toddle over and meet Oliver. He’s a lucky fellow to have found your home, and he’s really cute, too. What I really want to know is, how do you handle the litter boxes w/ so many critters?

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      LOL, I don’t think I’ve ever skipped a cat slice either. I have to be honest: if I had to clean all those boxes every day, I might rethink the number of cats we have! My son and my husband clean the boxes, and on the rare occasion when I do it, I’m super cranky because it takes FOREVER. Our basement is basically wall to wall boxes…. kind of gross. Though we try to keep things clean and fresh… There’s no such thing as skipping a day cleaning boxes, for sure.

  10. Julieanne Harmatz Avatar
    Julieanne Harmatz

    I love the way you have taken in Oliver’s troubles with understanding and joy. In someways I can’t imagine that many cats and in other ways I can see how the mayhem is pure entertainment!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      We spend sooooo much time as a family watching our cats, talking in our cats’ voices (my son especially loves to do this), narrating our cats’ adventures, wondering what the heck our cats are thinking. It’s really entertaining–and yes, also mayhem sometimes!

  11. Elizabeth Avatar

    That was hilariously written! He sounds like just the kind of cat that would attract your interest. And, except for the biting and not letting go, I see why. What a handsome fellow! I love the picture of him with Roxy.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Isn’t he handsome? He adds some much needed color to our monochromatic set of cats (all eight are black, gray, black and white, or gray and white). I’d love for him to stop the biting–my hands and wrists have so many scratches on them that people actually comment sometimes. (One savvy person looked at them and said, “I’m guessing you have kittens?” YES!) But he’s adorable and has so much personality. I adore the formerly feral kittens, but altogether, they add up to maybe one cat in terms of personality. You wouldn’t want too many Olivers, but he does add a lot of energy and pep.

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