I just found a blog entry made about a cat in need of a home, at the Animal Rescue League here in Western Pennsylvania. Her name is Sprite. http://arlcatlady.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/sprite-the-kerfluffled-kitty-behind-bars-again/. And I think that she is gorgeous. Her eyes - I have a weakness for expressive kitty eyes.
But if you read that blog post about Sprite, you'll see that she has some issues that make her a "special case" and as most of us know, special cases have a difficult time getting adopted sometimes. It's heart-breaking but true. But my guess is that most of her issues could be dealt with over time - as long as she was out of the shelter and into someone's home, that is.
It's natural to want a "turn-key" pet, that you just have to bring home, and immediately settles in and makes friends with everyone. And it IS refreshing when that happens. This happened to us with Argos, and really with Bit, since she was a kitten at the time that we got her.
But my Annie and Romeo were both "diamonds in the rough" and needed a little patience before they could be good pets. They were like dark chocolate, something a little bitter in the beginning, perhaps not as sweet as you might like... (and you wondered where I was going with that title, didn't you?)
But that changes with time. Sprite nipping and taking swings at people? Romeo did that a lot when we first got him. There was about a month that I was extremely leery about approaching him for any reason. He's gotten much better about it. He may nip gently, without breaking skin, VERY occasionally, and it's usually when he's been petted for a long time, or if he doesn't know what you're doing to him. Most of the time, he's a gentle, loving cat.
Being afraid to be held? Annie was like that. Little street cat that she was, she had little opportunity to see the kindness in humans, and was TERRIFIED to be held. She'd claw and scratch and wail until you put her back down. Two years later... Annie is my best lap cat.
Sprite needs someone to adopt her and give her time. Not many people are adept at savoring the taste of dark chocolate when so many sweeter varieties are out there. But it's so very rewarding when you can learn to do so. Every time that Annie jumps into my lap, I can feel an enormous sense of satisfaction that the little spooky cat that we adopted has become the perfect family cat. Every time Romeo leans into my hand as I scratch his neck, while purring and making "happy feets" on the chair cushion, I can know that not everyone would have tolerated his stroppy ways in the beginning, but that he is now a happy cat.
It does sound like she would need to be an only cat - but that's fantastic that she is at least "neutral" about dogs. Does a household with a dog want to add a single cat? My prediction is, if you are able to be patient and let her deal with the household on her own terms, that Sprite will adapt just fine.