Some cats at Chesapeake Feline Association (CFA) grab visitors’ attention right away — they’re more curious than scared, so they stick around whenever someone new walks through the door.
These residents tend to get adopted quicker, while the shyer cats are looked over. That’s what happened to Gray Belle, a longtime resident at CFA who spent almost 3,000 days waiting for a forever home.
Gray Belle was just as affectionate as other cats, but sudden noises and new people tended to scare her. So, in her seven years at CFA, she was usually the first one to run and hide whenever a prospective family came in.
“We were hoping to find an adopter who could see past Gray Belle’s nervousness and fear of the unknown and see what a wonderful but independent cat she is,” Kim Roman, CFA’s volunteer coordinator told The Dodo. “They didn’t understand her personality.”
When Roman and her team first met Gray Belle in 2016, she was a stray cat whose background was pretty much a mystery. All her caregivers at CFA knew for sure was that she would need some time to warm up to them.
“We don’t really have a history for her, but I can tell you she was scared and not social at all,” Roman said. “We joke that if she didn’t like you, you knew that she didn’t like you.”
The volunteers at CFA wanted Gray Belle to feel comfortable in her new home right away, but they knew she needed to go at her own pace. So, they gave her space and time to understand that they were her new friends.
“She’d watch us from a distance up on a shelf, but she began to realize that we were there to provide food,” Roman said.
After a few months, Gray Belle’s caregivers started offering the reclusive cat delicious treats in exchange for closeness. Eventually, she started to let some volunteers touch her.
“A few of us even got to pet her when we offered her treats, but these encounters were brief and always on her terms,” Roman said. “It took a long time, but after years of consistent love and care, she started to roam around near the volunteers.”
At CFA, the cats are free to roam within the shelter as they wish. Once Gray Belle felt more comfortable with her surroundings, she started joining her shelter mates on the floor. She loved being out in the lobby with everyone else, until the door would inevitably open and a stranger would walk in.
Because of this, Gray Belle went 2,803 days without a single adoption application.
Unlike most shelters, time isn’t a concern at CFA. As soon as they come through the door, each cat is guaranteed a lifelong stay at the rescue. The volunteers at CFA are happy to take care of all their residents for the rest of their lives, but their ultimate goal is to find everyone a forever home.
You can watch their plea for Gray Belle on TikTok here:
They knew it would be difficult to find their shyest resident a home, but Gray Belle’s caregivers were determined to match her with the perfect family.
“We believed that when the right adopter met her and was patient with her, Gray Belle’s personality would shine through,” Roman said. “With Gray Belle, we told potential adopters that she would probably never be a lap cat, but if they could open their hearts to an independent cat, she would make a great companion cat.”
2,808 days after she’d initially arrived, CFA’s wish for Gray Belle came true. A man who lived nearby visited the shelter and asked, specifically, to see Gray Belle.
“He calmly walked in, sat on the floor near her and spoke to her with a gentle, loving voice,” Roman said. “Then he offered her treats but did not rush her and kept her comfortable by respecting her boundaries.”
After watching the man interact with Gray Belle, the volunteers at CFA knew he was the one for her. But, to their surprise, he wasn’t just interested in bringing Gray Belle home.
“He asked one of our volunteers if Gray Belle was bonded with any other cats at the shelter, or if there was another cat that could allow her to have the comfort of a familiar presence,” Roman said. “Our volunteer immediately thought of Carrots, who was also one of our long-term residents.”
Carrots had been at the shelter for 566 days at that point, and most of those days were spent by Gray Belle’s side. When Gray Belle’s new dad offered Carrots a treat, the cat’s reaction surprised him.
“Carrots was not interested in treats but wanted affection,” Roman said. “With each pet, Carrots became more and more comfortable.”
A little while later, the man left the shelter with Gray Belle and Carrots in his arms. The two shy cats were finally on their way to a loving home.
Today, both cats are thriving in their new environment. The volunteers at CFA get updates about the two all the time, and they’re always so happy to see that they’re doing well. Gray Belle’s still living life on her own terms, but, luckily, she’s opened up quite a bit.
“They’re settling in nicely and have even been caught cuddling,” Roman said. “Their dad’s even been able to pet Gray Belle several times a day, if only briefly. It’s brought us a lot of comfort knowing how kind and patient her adopter is.”