Big cat, big love

Oliver the cat in a wire kennel
Oliver looks like a lion. At Best Friends, he found the confidence of a lion, too.
By Anna McClain

A typical day in the life of a big, buff-colored cat named Oliver goes a little something like this: first, a lively morning running up and down the stairs and chasing toys thrown by his adopter and best pal Alison. Then it’s on to a day of lounging peacefully, preferably next to Alison as she pets him.

Considering how confident and relaxed Oliver is now, it may be hard to believe that when he first came to Best Friends in Northwest Arkansas, he was tentative about people and showed it by hiding and hissing and swatting at anyone who tried to pet him. He was apt to come across as scary to adopters, but in reality he was just scared. 

Disney tunes to the rescue

Olivia Dean, Best Friends lifesaving and care specialist, remembers meeting Oliver shortly after he arrived from North Little Rock Animal Control. “He was willing to let people pet him for just a short amount of time; then he’d swat at them if they missed his cue to step away,” she says.

[A shy but spicy cat and the family that adores him]

For the first few days that Oliver was at the lifesaving center, he stayed in a cat condo covered with a blanket to help him feel safer. Occasional visits from staff helped him get used to his new surroundings, too. Ashley Matsumura, one of the team members who took care of Oliver, says, “Sometimes I would lift his blankets, play Disney music, sing to him, and then let him watch me work so he knew there wasn't anything to be scared of.”

Within a week of coming to Best Friends, he was able to move to the free-roaming room. Quiet time and regular check-ins, combined with Ashley’s sweet serenades, had worked wonders for Oliver.

Oliver goes home

Alison first met Oliver one day when she was dropping off donations at the lifesaving center. She had been looking for a cat to adopt, and when she saw Oliver she was floored by his magnificent presence. “He was the biggest boy in the room and seemed to feel he owned the place, pacing around and then plopping down on his side,” says Alison. “He was so regal, almost like a baby lion.”

Today, Oliver has made himself so comfortable in his new home that he has even started cuddling with Alison on the bed. “He especially loves to spend time on his cat tree, along with the Frankenstein pillow we bought soon after adopting him,” says Alison, who will never forget the first night he was in his new home when he was giving her kisses and kneading her. “I felt so relieved at how comfortable he was here.”

[Adopter sees underdog kitten as a champ]

Alison and Oliver share a special connection. Alison gives Oliver space and lets him approach her for cuddles. She especially enjoys his snuggles while she reads and plays video games.

Alison has since created a variety of nicknames for Oliver relating to his cinnamon roll-shaped coat pattern, including “Cinnaboy” and “BonBon,” and she adores his cute belly. “I’m sure this is where he hides all his treasures,” she says.

Oliver began his time with Best Friends only letting certain people snuggle and pet him on his own terms. It turned out that all he needed was time and understanding, and today he’s enjoying the good life at home with his family.

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