Once grumpy cat finally gets his day in the sun

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Archie the cat lying on a bed
Archie was seeing red when he arrived at Best Friends, but with a lot of help and a little time the handsome orange tabby found a home where all he has to do is be himself.
By Nicole Hamilton

Adapting to change can take time, especially when you find yourself in new surroundings when you least expect it. That’s just what happened to a handsome orange tabby named Archie, who made it clear he wasn’t thrilled to be away from the only home he knew.

Krystal Vera, a Best Friends supervisor, will never forget meeting Archie the day he arrived at the Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Los Angeles. “He was growling, hissing, spitting and even lunging at the door,” she recalls. Still, Krystal, along with everyone on the cat behavior team, knew Archie (whose name back then was Tossi) wouldn’t be grumpy 24/7 for long. “We knew there was another side to him, deep down.”

They also knew that Archie wouldn’t feel at ease in his new surroundings overnight. It would take time, not to mention lots of patience, to help him feel good again. If they could help him be happier, he’d be more likely to stand out to an adopter who could give him the very thing he needed most of all ꟷ a home.

Photo courtesy of Julie Ganis

Helping a cat take it easy is hard work

The first thing the team did to help Archie adjust to his new surroundings was to give him a quiet space all to himself, where he could relax on his own time. For the next several weeks, he remained glued to the back of his kennel, only venturing to the front to eat. Then, little by little, he started to let the team get closer to him and occasionally, he even let someone pet him.

“We did positive things with him and gained his trust,” says Krystal. “We would play with wand toys outside his kennel door and he began to enjoy it. It took a lot of dedication and time, but it paid off.”

During this time, the team learned a lot about Archie. For example, he doesn’t like to be picked up. The same goes for long petting sessions. All of this was important information that the team could share with potential adopters. Eventually, the team felt Archie was ready to move to the adoption area, so that more people could meet him.

Photo courtesy of Julie Ganis

No warm welcome, no problem

Julie Ganis and her husband, Scott Leslie, were used to living with four cats. But when three of their kitties recently passed away around the same time and they found themselves with only one cat, it just didn’t seem like the right balance. So, they visited Best Friends hoping to adopt a cat and help the family feel complete again.

Julie and Scott met a few cats they really liked, but the connection they hoped to make wasn’t quite there. Then someone suggested they meet Archie, but that they first should prepare themselves. Archie wouldn’t be showering them with purrs and head butts. That’s just not his style.

[One kitty’s transformation from scaredy-cat to queen of her castle]

Julie and Scott liked what they heard. “Not all cats are loving and really easy to pet at first,” says Julie. “That doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful cats.”

That day, the man of the hour happened to be in a relaxed mood. He readily let Julie and Scott pet him, and Julie sensed something important right away — so important, in fact, that it convinced them to adopt him. “He was ready to not be there anymore,” she says. “He just wanted to be home.”

Photo courtesy of Julie Ganis

Taking cues from a cat

The first few days in his new place were hard for Archie, and it wasn’t exactly a beach vacation for Julie and Scott, either. At first, he wouldn’t leave the room they set up for him, so Julie sat with him for a good part of the day so he could see she wasn’t someone to be frightened of.

On good days, Archie would let her come close. On not-so-good days, Julie would have to call Scott (who was at home in another room) if she needed something because she was tentative about walking by Archie to get to the door. But none of this bothered them — not one bit. “He’s a touchy, seven-year-old cat who’s lived a life,” says Julie. “He’s not a blank slate at all. We were adapting to his needs.”

Julie sums up the stages of Archie’s mood those days — from freaked out to wary to accepting. Now he’s even accepting his feline housemate and they’re beginning to play together. It’s only for a few seconds at a time right now, but it’s still a good sign that Archie’s starting to understand he’s there to stay.

[Letters from home: pet adoption updates]

Recently, when Julie and Scott were down for the count with COVID-19, Archie kept them company as they rested in bed. “He’s a great sweet buddy,” says Julie, who often finds him lying in the sun and gazing at birds from afar.

When Julie sees Archie relaxed and lazily watching the world go by, she is sometimes reminded of the first day she and Scott met him and how ready he was to be right where he is today. “It’s been so satisfying and wonderful,” says Julie, about playing a part in Archie’s transformation.

Julie has some advice for anyone thinking about adopting an adult cat like Archie:

“When you meet a cat at the shelter, you’re only seeing one side of them. You have to be willing to imagine who they’d be without all the noise and bustle. We chose Archie. And he’s a sweetheart.”

Photo courtesy of Julie Ganis

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