When Katie came to our veterinary office, she was a skinny, sickly, 1.8 lb tabby kitten with a fever and lots of worms. We estimated her at about four months old. Katie had been born into a band of stray, mostly feral cats. We admitted Katie for care and grew so attached to her we adopted her as one of the office cats.
Katie got better and grew into a big beautiful gray tabby cat that was afraid of the world. At first she lived in a room, devoted to our office cats, under the couch. She would come out at night when all was dark and quiet and eat as much as she could, then retreat and wait through the day under the couch until the next nightfall. Katie's fear of people grew as did the rest of her. We moved Katie to a large dog kennel so her food could be rationed. It was also in a high-traffic area so staff members could talk to Katie all day long. Despite our attention and diet food, Katie failed to lose weight or become comfortable around people.
This went on for about four and a half years until I read an article about clicker training feral cats on Karen Pryor's website. I immediately thought of Katie. I tried it with her and the response has been amazing. The first change we noticed in Katie was her new-found interest in people. Instead of hiding crouched in her bed all day with her head down, Katie started looking up when people walked by. After a few more sessions she started coming out of her kennel at lunchtime to check out what was on everyone's lunch plate. The "Katie sightings" were brief since she'd scamper away if she knew you were looking at her. But still it was exciting to see her venture out and be brave.
Katie continued to progress by letting us do things she hadn't before. When pet, Katie used to flatten herself, close her eyes, and tense up waiting for the touching to stop. Since being clicker trained, Katie welcomes petting by rubbing up against your hand. Sometimes she even prefers petting as a reward over her beloved tuna fish.
In only a short month or two of clicker training maybe five minutes four times a week, Katie is a different cat. She may startle at the sight of someone, but no longer runs for cover. She has been taught to jump as well. And believe it or not Katie has lost weight. I truly believe Katie has a reason to live now. Life has meaning for her. She looks forward to her clicker time and her tuna, but most of all Katie looks forward to companionship.
Wonderful work, Carlie. Thanks so much for sharing!