Grumpy Shelter Kitten Transforms With The Help Of A Giant Dog
“Betty just crawled onto Truvy, made herself comfortable, and wouldn’t move ... It was the sweetest thing.”
The kitten certainly wasn’t the most adoptable one at Jelly’s Place shelter in San Pablo, California. When people walked by or approached the kitten’s cage, she'd retract her entire body into a corner and hiss.
The kitten, found as a stray, didn't have much of a chance of winning an adopter's heart.
The shelter’s staff called Kendal Benken, one of their seasoned feral kitten whisperers. “They said, ‘You better come here and take a look at this wild thing,’” Benken told The Dodo.
Benken knows a thing or two about taming even the most undomesticated kittens. She and her crew of rescue dogs and cats can make even the most distressed animals feel like a part of the family.
She rushed to the shelter and observed the kitten. Within minutes Benken decided the 5-week-old Siamese wasn’t frightening, but was likely frightened.
“No one could touch her. She was very angry,” Benken said. “She was a little, tiny demon. It was a fear reaction. She probably had never been handled. She acted so aggressively. She was hissing. She was adorable, though.”
The only way anyone could carry the surly kitten was to gently put a towel over her and wrap her up. Benken tenderly swaddled the kitten, put her in a crate and drove her home.
The kitten wasn’t pleased with this plan, and when she first arrived at Benken's house, she was still grumpy. Benken just knew she’d win her over and named her Betty. “She had those [Bette] Davis eyes, huge, pretty blue eyes. She looked like a Betty to me,” Benken said.
Benken unwrapped Betty and made her a home in the middle of the kitchen. “I put her in a big dog crate with food, water and a litter box. She could not run and hide,” Benken said. “With feral kittens, the best thing you can do is force them out of their comfort zone and put them in a busy part of your house.”
Soon, Benken’s family of rescue animals came over to check out Betty. The dogs were quite fascinated with the testy new foster family member. Somehow Betty’s attitude made them even more in awe of her.
They'd huddle around the kitten and try to make her feel welcome, hoping one day, Betty would be their friend. And out of all the animals in Benken’s home, no one wished this more than Truvy, a giant yellow Lab mix who loves foster kittens.
“Truvy has a special gift. She gravitates toward the rescues. I think she fancies herself as a mama cat. Truvy was very fascinated by Betty,” Benken said.
Each day, Betty got more used to her new pack. After about two weeks, Betty decided the Benken family wasn't so bad. She didn’t need to be swaddled anymore. She liked being held and pet. Then a breakthrough moment came — Betty claimed Truvy as her friend.
“Betty just crawled onto Truvy, made herself comfortable, and wouldn’t move. Truvy was afraid to move because she knew Betty was on her. It was the sweetest thing,” Benken said. “Truvy was delighted Betty finally returned her affection.”
It was a bittersweet moment for Benken. She’d grown to love Betty, but knew her job as a foster mom was accomplished. The hissing, scary kitten had transformed into a sweet, social family member and was ready to be adopted.
As Betty’s foster mom, Benken was very particular about who would adopt her. But when Benken interviewed Roz Westil, she couldn’t have been happier.
“I spoke to Roz and knew she was the right one for Betty. She’s just such a great cat, and I wanted her to go to someone who would treat her so well,” Benken said.
And Westil said as soon as she spoke to Benken, she knew Betty was right for her. “It was serendipity,” Westil told The Dodo. “She sent me the picture of Betty on top of the dog, and I thought, ‘How can I not adopt her?’”
Betty took a few weeks to warm up to Westil and her new home. “I figured she was scared. I kept her in a secure environment, and slowly expanded that environment and I let her tell me what she wanted to do,” Westil said.
Now Betty is a friendly, secure, curious cat who makes Westil laugh with her antics.
Betty is doing so well that Westil adopted another rescue cat named Amber. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, but the two have grown to be their own cat pack.
“When they were introduced, Betty ran away,” Westil said. “It took a while for both of them. Then I don’t know what happened! They bonded in a week, and now they’re inseparable. It’s just amazing. They’re together almost all the time.”
Westil said her heart and house is now full of adopted cat love. “I think it’s wonderful having animals around. It’s a joy,” she said. “They also really love each other. Like a match made in heaven. And Betty sleeps in my bed; she cuddles, she’s such a loving little cat. She’s beautiful.”