SPCA New Zealand

From rescued to rehomed: Lavender's story

08 May 2024

When first brought in to our Māngere Centre with her five kittens, Lavender would frequently hiss, growl and swipe at our team. With a cat this unsocial, we knew it would be a challenge to gain her trust, but we were determined to try. The hard work began – this is Lavender’s story.

From rescued to rehomed: Lavender's story

For over a year, a member of the public had been seeing a skinny black cat around their neighbourhood, though never saw it going in and out of any of the nearby houses.

After checking with the neighbours in the area, it seemed the poor cat was indeed living rough. Worrying about the cat’s health, the Good Samaritan kept an eye out for her. One day they got a big surprise, finding the cat, along with a litter of five tiny kittens, inside a boat parked outside their house!

From the fairly aggressive behaviour of the mother cat, it was obvious that she wasn’t used to interaction with humans, and was highly fearful. The member of the public knew it was more than they could take on, so promptly brought them all in to our care.

A tricky inspection

The team at our Māngere Centre named this girl Lavender, and did everything they could to calm her down; understandably, she was extremely nervous and very protective of her wee kittens!

She certainly didn’t make it easy for us to assess her, hissing and swatting when anyone would get too close. After many attempts, we were at last able to give her a check-up, and provide flea and worm treatments as a start.

Unfortunately, an oral exam from our vet confirmed that Lavender was missing multiple teeth, and had fractures in others that would be causing her pain and required removal. We gave her a bit of time to settle in and get used to her new surroundings while the procedure was booked in.

Thankfully, Lavender’s kittens appeared to be in good health... she’d been a great mum to them despite her trying circumstances on the streets. The vet advised that having her kittens around was likely contributing to her protective aggression, so when the time was right and the kittens were ready for weaning, they were moved away from Lavender and in to their own space. The effect was almost immediate, and the stressed cat became much calmer.

Lavender became less aggressive after her kittens were weaned.
Lavender became less aggressive after her kittens were weaned.

The kittens were all desexed, and were soon ready to find loving homes. As the Centre was struggling with capacity for kittens and cats, a plan was made to transfer them down to our Thames Centre.

It’s always beneficial for our teams to be able to transfer animals between our different Centres - this allows for flexibility when certain Centres are overloaded with animals, and when others might have a bit more space. It gives the animals the best possible chance at being adopted too.

This proved to be the right decision, as it didn’t take long for the good news to come through that all of the kittens found loving homes over the next couple of weeks!

Meanwhile, Lavender received her much-needed dental surgery, and was moved into a larger cattery space where she could recover.

A fresh start

Now that her health was on the right track, we could focus on Lavender’s biggest issue: her behaviour around people.

Though she was far less aggressive after her kittens had grown and moved on, she still didn’t trust anyone around her. After living her life outdoors and away from humans, she was very timid, and didn’t seek out any interaction. The team were anxious about how they could possibly get her ready for adoption.

Our Senior Feline Attendant Alicia worked extremely hard to show Lavender that humans aren’t so scary.

“Myself and some of the others worked really closely with her, and discovered that the key to her heart is through food!” Alicia told us. “I could really see the potential in her, and she was adjusting to being around me more and more.”

It wasn’t a quick process, but Alicia was encouraged to see small signs of progress as time went on. The hissing and growling became less frequent, she regularly came out looking for treats, and on occassion she’d even allow a gentle pat.

Alicia said that she started to form a special bond with Lavender.

“She found great trust in me, and we formed a really special connection. In time, she became smoochy and would even purr contently.”

After a lot of patience from our team, Lavender started to show signs of affection.
After a lot of patience from our team, Lavender started to show signs of affection.

Her behaviour was worlds away from the scared and defensive girl Alicia had first met! While still not quite ready to be adopted, Lavender was moved into the care of an experienced foster family, so she could learn how to adjust to a home environment and get plenty more socialisation.

This is what love can do...

In foster care for nearly five weeks, Lavender really started to come out of her shell. Outside of a shelter environment, she became the relaxed and smoochy girl who Alicia had seen a glimmer of!

Her foster family gave an update of her progress:

“She’s doing very well and loves her food and mice! She has progressed to allowing me to pick her up, and nuzzle my face and head onto hers. She is a ferocious cuddler.”

With that feedback, our team knew that it was finally time for Lavender to find her forever home.

Back at the Centre, a few applications came through for Lavender over the next couple of weeks, but unfortunately none were quite right for her. It was clear that she needed a very particular home, one where she would feel confident and not be scared back into her old ways – for her, that meant a home without dogs or young children.

Before long, an application came through that was the perfect fit, and Alicia was thrilled to see Lavender go off to start her new life.

Her new mum Bayley tell us, “we were really happy with how quickly she settled! She likes exploring the house, and now sleeps on the bed with us and loves pats. At night she goes a little crazy and will run around, or run into your legs if she wants attention. She loves her mice toys, even at age eight! She’s still skittish at times, but doing so well. She’s even come out when we’ve had all the family over, and gotten a pat from them as well.”

Lavender wouldn’t have transformed into the friendly and playful cat she is today without the dedication of Alicia and the team at the Māngere Centre, plus her foster family. We’re so grateful for all of their hard work and commitment, and are thrilled that she found her happy ever after.

Can you provide a short-term home for scared animals like Lavender? You can learn more about fostering here.

Hello! Choose your nearest SPCA Centre and see content specific to your location:
Hit enter to submit