Sniffy came to the Healdsburg Shelter on March 4, 2011 as a stray cat. He (we originally thought he was a she but more on that later) was totally withdrawn and scared of everyone and everything. I put him in my clinic/office so I could work with him; so that one day, hopefully, he’d be adoptable.

For the first 23 days Sniffy hid under a blanket in his cage and never came out while I was there. He was extremely scared and didn’t want anything to do with anyone. I tried several times a day to pet him, but that scared him even more. So I decided to just let him be.

On March 27th we sent Sniffy to get spayed (remember: we still thought he was a she). Below are my notes to staff and volunteers (and to myself) from that day on:

Guest what? She’s really a he. Sniffy returned from the Humane Society a male. He’s in the clinic, still hiding. So if you get the chance to pet him please make an effort.

Today Sniffy poked his head out from under his blanket and seemed curious of clinic activity. I tried t pet him but he instantly withdrew. But at least he’s showing a little progress.

Sniffy let me pet his head today!!!!! Making progress.

Our first big break today. While I was working on my computer, Sniffy came to the front of his cage for attention. I opened his cage door to see if he’d come out. Although he wanted to, he decided it would be better to hide again. So I left the door open. But this is THE signal to me that he can be worked with; that one day, albeit months from now, he’ll be adoptable.

After yesterday’s progress I decided to remove a bottom cabinet door and put a bed inside to see if Sniffy might come out and hide in it.

Still hasn’t come out.

When I walked into my clinic/office this morning I found Sniffy sleeping in the cabinet. He was still scared when I went to pet him. I couldn’t do much more than gently pet his head. Petting his body still freakes him out. So every day I’ll push him a little further.

Today Sniffy let me pet his whole body. He has to see your hand coming or he freaks. But this is good progress.

I picked Sniffy up for the first time today for a few seconds. He squirmed and then quickly ran back into the cabinet when I put him down. But this is a big deal.

I picked Sniffy up and held him for almost two minutes. When I put him down he didn’t run away. He just walked back to his bed in the cabinet.

Sniffy came out to see me this morning when I walked in, and made himself comfortable on the floor by my feet while I was working on the computer in the clinic. This totally surprised me as it was a big step forward. He’s still scared of the door when it opens. He quickly disappears under the cabinet. He and Azure (Siamese) get along well with each other, and seem to get along well with other cats in general.

Trying Sniffy and Mambo (new shy cat) in foster care to see how they do. Hoping that they will both open-up a bit being outside the shelter.

Mambo and Sniffy returned from foster. They had issues with free roam of large(r) spaces and are now back in the clinic.

From June 9, 2011 to October 9, 2011 I periodically updated the staff on our progress . I didn’t note the exact dates, but here are some of my emails:

Sniffy is the messiest litter box cat I’ve ever seen. I think he does it on purpose! We need to use an enclosed box or a high-walled box. Honestly, there’s no litter in the box when he’s done!

Sniffy is getting more and more comfortable every day. He doesn’t run when the door opens anymore, and if he knows it’s me he immediately comes over for my attention. Complete strangers still scare him, so he runs and hides. But he’s very confident now with familiar voices/people and/or sounds.


OMG! Sniffy loves kittens. He plays with them, sleeps with them and acts like their mother. Although he’s 10x larger than them he plays with them very gently. Maybe we can offer a adoption package deal with Sniffy and a kitten.


A woman came in today and is very interested in Sniffy. He was at ease with her and she understands that he’s going to take a lot of time to acclimate to a new home. Hopefully she’ll be back in the next few days to adopt him.

(one week later) The woman who was interested in Sniffy hasn’t returned. I’m afraid that she’s not going to.

Came in today and Sniffy was sleeping with three kittens. One was actually trying to nurse on him. He didn’t care. What an awesome cat.

Today we had three total strangers come into the clinic and Sniffy didn’t run or hide or freak out. He stayed in his bed in the middle of the floor, and actually let one of them pick him up. This is great progress.


A couple came in today and are very interested in Sniffy. Their only concern is how much time and effort he’s going to take. They really like him but have had a few high-maintenance cats in the past, and aren’t sure they want another right now.

(three days later) The couple returned and said they we’re sorry but they couldn’t take Sniffy at this time.

Sniffy has become a glutton for pleasure. I can’t spend a minute in the room without him wanting my full attention. He’s even figured out that if he sits on my laptop (when it’s closed) I’ll put him on my lap when I work.

My wheels are spinning on how I can adopt this cat. He’s a big reason why I look forward to coming in every day. I can’t imagine him not being here or with me. Unfortunately my cat hates other cats. Still…

BAD NEWS. The powers that be want to move Sniffy into the large cat adoption room. I refused. He’ll go back to hiding all of the time again and not be seen by anyone. I was given a week to work futher with him. But after that he’s going to be moved. This sucks. They have no idea what this cat needs. If, in one week, they still decide to move him i’ll quit. I’m serious.

(3 days later) A couple came in today and are very interested in Sniffy. They spent a lot of time with him and he was great with them. This seems like a great fit. Let’s cross our fingers.

October 9, 2011 (the day Sniffy was to be moved to the adoption area): Sniffy was adopted by Patti Cisco and Greg Kirchoff, the couple who came in to look at him a few days ago.

(below are email exchanges)

Hi Darryl

Wasn’t sure if it was best to call or email to check in, but I know how busy you are so thought I’d start with email.

First off, you will be happy to hear that Sniffy is doing really, really well. I have to say I felt really terrible leaving with him — I know how much you love him and you looked so sad putting him in my car. How many people end up crying when they are taking an animal HOME from a shelter? I did. Anyway, if you are having second thoughts about having let him go I would understand. But he is an AMAZING, loving creature and we are attaching to him quickly. I can only think his behavior is a tribute to all the work you did with him.

He hunkered down in the crate on the trip home, let me comfort him by stroking his nose when I could while driving, and cried when I would speak his name. But he was a lot less vocal about being freaked out in the car and crate than I expected. I put the crate in our laundry room (where our cat box is) that has a door to the kitchen and just opened the door to the crate and left him to decide when or if he wanted to come out. Got food and water set up in there. He stayed in the crate for a few hours but was happy when I would lay on the floor, reach in the crate and pet him, even rolling over to let me get to his belly. Eventually he ventured out of the crate and began to explore the kitchen. We have a small house and had all the doors shut to other rooms. He’d come out and come to us for petting then go back to his crate. He wasn’t at all reluctant to come to us for petting which impressed me. He definitely loves attention. That night we left the laundry room door open and the door open to our bedroom. He pretty much “sniffed” (thus the name!) every nook and cranny that he could during the night. He also has an attachment to opening drawers — opened the drawer in my bathroom and has done more of that so I am guessing as a kitten maybe he had a drawer to sleep in or to get toys. Around 4:00 a.m. he settled in and actually slept between us in the bed (we sleep on the floor on a foam mattress so he didn’t have to work too hard to get to us.) Very sweet.

Tuesday a.m. the door to our extra bedroom (which has a real bed in it) was left open and he went in underneath the bed. I figured we probably wouldn’t see him much if he had such a great, inaccessible place to hide. In the afternoon I brought wet food to the room and he came out to eat and again seek attention. Got him out of there and have been trying to create little safe hiding spaces for him in the living room, our room and kept the crate in the laundry room. By Tuesday night he was up in my chair next to me and is just the sweetest thing. He also sits by the screen door to look outside and sits up on his haunches with his front paws hanging — looks like a kangaroo!! He is very tall! He skitzes out a little when we first come in whatever room he’s in going to his “hiding” places, but soon settles down. Seems to need his little “retreat” spaces (which we are happy to provide) but is more out than withdrawn. Having a little trouble getting our other cats to be nice to him — he so obviously wants to be near them and play. Our 15 year old tabby (nicknamed “devil child” for a reason) is growling at him, but our youngest semi-feral already is o.k. with him. Those two both want to be out more than in right now because of the heat, so they have time to get used to Sniffy in small doses.

Haven’t had much luck getting him to eat wet food with his lysine in it (my other cat ate what he left and actually he may need it more!). But he seems more comfortable eating today with us around so I’m sure I’ll be able to succeed soon.

This has been a good week for us to acclimate him since my work is slow this week and I’ve been home a lot, as has Greg. He is getting more and more comfortable even in just three days. His temperament is so loving and sweet.

Anyway, if you would like to visit him anytime lease email or call me. We are both self-employed and have flexible schedules so could easily have you come on a day when you aren’t working since you seem to work weekends! You have such a special bond with him.

Patti Cisco


i’ve been thinking about sniffy ever since you took him home. and your email made my day. it sounds like sniffy has found the perfect home. thank you so much for being patient and letting him acclimate on his own terms.

i would love to come to visit him once he’s fully acclimated. let me know when that is and i’ll drop by.

don’t worry too much about the l-lysine in wet food. it’s more of a support system in case he gets stressed, etc. if he eats it, great. if not, no worries.

as i mentioned to you here at the shelter, if my cat at home liked other cats, sniffy (and a lot of cats) would’ve come home with me long ago. so maybe my cat’s disposition a good thing for both of us.

darryl vet tech

Hi Darryl

Hope you had a nice holiday! Sniffy is doing great. What a sweet and wonderful soul. He rarely goes off to withdraw anymore. In fact he stayed in his chair the other day while I vacuumed the whole house (never had a cat who would tolerate the vacuum!). Thought he was sick or we were having a serious setback a few weeks ago, but it turned out to be our ceiling fan — Greg turned it on the mix up the warm air coming from the fireplace and Sniffy wouldn’t come out of the laundry room. We didn’t figure it out until the next morning after he had come out at night and started acting himself again. He was in the chair with me and Greg flipped it on and he tore off to the laundry room. So, mystery solved and we don’t need it on anyway. I also figured out that when he darts away from me sometimes it is about playing with me — he loves to run around the house and will jump back and then run to get something. It is pretty cute and good to figure out it isn’t about him being afraid. All that kitten training, I guess. Our older cat is tolerating him, and the younger one likes him. She was a bit intimated by his size, I think, when he would try to play with her. Anyway, wanted you to know he is doing well, and seems very happy here. He loves the fireplace. Shows no interest in going out, which makes me happy. I have a feeling he was raised as an indoor cat and maybe getting out was what got him into trouble in the first place.

Anytime you would like to set up to see him would be great. I am sure he would love that. We appreciate all the time you took with us to match us up with him. He’s great.

Patti Cisco and Greg Kirchoff

patti & greg,

so glad to hear sniffy is doing great. i was thinking about him the other day and wanted to come down to see him. would love to see him tomorrow before 3pm if that’s possible. not sure what your day schedules are like.

i miss sniffy a lot. fortunately (for me), though, i have another sweetie named sly who keeps me company in my clinic now. unlike sniffy, sly is all about people — he can’t get enough attention. unfortunately sly is FIV positive, so finding him the right home is going to be very difficult. but we’ll do it. just like we did with sniffy.

please let me know about visiting sniffy tomorrow. if it doesn’t work out, please let me know a better time and i’ll come down.

thanks again for giving sniffy such a wonderful, loving home.


Hi Darryl–Sniffy is doing great–so lovable. He still has these moments when something (usually unidentifiable by me) triggers him and he runs and hides until he decides it is over, but they are fewer and far between. The things that I think would scare him don’t seem to. But, I think he is very happy here. He loved the Christmas tree while it was up. He has the routine down for when I come home for lunch–always happy to see me and that’s our main playtime together. He loves racing around the house and then flops down in front of the fireplace to have his belly rubbed. Loves watching the birds out the window from his place on top of the sofa–but sometimes when they swoop onto the feeder it scares him and he runs away. Definitely would not make it as an outdoor cat.

BTW–I tell everyone Sniffy’s story and how wonderful you are.

I went down to Santa Rosa to visit Sniffy in his new home. Sometimes it’s hard to justify to certain people that all the time and attention and money spent on an animal is the right thing to do. But if those people could’ve seen Sniffy in his new home…





Sniffy passed away on September 27th, 2018. He spent eight wonderful years with his loving parents, Patti and Greg.

We often think that adopting a pet is an act of kindness; a gift that we give them. In doing so we often overlook what that pet gives us. Although Sniffy wasn’t my cat, he gave me so much more than I gave him. Yes, I gave him a warm, loving home. But what Sniffy gave me changed my life forever.

When Sniffy was adopted, I asked Patti and Greg if I could visit him once a week, because I would miss him so much. Thankfully they agreed. So, every Saturday I’d stop by to spend time with Sniffy… which was very difficult because every time I’d step into their house Sniffy would run and hide in the closet. Honestly. Every time. I never saw him. Here’s a cat that never wanted to leave my side, now runs from me as if I’m gonna kill him. Sometimes I’d catch him standing in the closet doorway ready to bolt inside. But that was it. The only way I knew he was fine was by talking to Patti and Greg.

So, every Saturday I’d visit Patti and Greg, we’d talk while Sniffy hid in the closet, then I’d leave. Well, over time, Patti and Greg became friends. Good friends. They invited me over for Holiday dinners, to concerts they had season tickets to, and introduced me to many of their friends. We all became this little family of friends… while Sniffy hid in the closet.

When we purchased our current home on Petaluma Hill Road in Santa Rosa, I needed a contractor to do all of the construction and renovations that the property needed. And it needed a lot! Well, Greg is a contractor, so I hired him to do the work (that was 4-1/2 years ago and he’s still working here!). When we needed to add board members Patti and Greg joined our board (and are still on it). When we needed employees to help with cleaning, etc, we hired Alyson and Monica, who were in our little family of friends.

To say that SNAP Cats is SNAP Cats because of Sniffy. Well, that may be a bit much, but close. Sniffy gave me the unique opportunity to bring wonderful people and wonderful cats into my life.

I did get to pet Sniffy once. Greg tricked him into eating his wet food while I tip-toed behind him and got a few pets in before Sniffy realized it was me (and not Greg) and bolted into the closet. Even though it was only a few, it seemed like I pet him forever. I can’t describe how wonderful it was.

And you know what? I don’t care that he ran. Because it’s not about me. It’s about him. It’s about a cat that had a wonderful life, and gave that wonderful life back to me.


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