Meet Texas. This beautiful tabby girl has come to see if we can help her overcome her anxiousness enough to find a new family of her own. She is been in Cats Protection care for four months already, but has been with two other young cats from the same household who were made homeless following a house eviction. The two boys were VERY scared of humans and have found it extremely hard to get past this. They were all reinforcing each other’s fear and anxiety so they have now been split between three foster homes for some one to one attention and to assess their future.
You can see Erik’s story on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/beeveeofcats. He looks so scared and sad. On one visit by his fosterer he was startled from his position on the window sill and did the “wall of death” bouncing off the walls in terror. It may be that he and his brother would be happier in a farm or stable setting where they can do a great job keeping the mice down, but still have access to a warm dry bed and regular food – and interact with people on their own terms.
I’m hoping that Texas might be easier to socialise than the boys and will be able to find a home as a pet cat. Her previous foster carer says she is nearly there in trusting humans. I spent two hours in the cat pen this morning with her, mostly ignoring her, but we had a bit of a chat and several good strokes. No response to the stroking, but she was visibly more relaxed when I left the room than when I first went in and I think we’ll get on fine.
Hmmm… Not sure what to do next. Texas has been with me since Sunday morning. It is now Thursday and she hasn’t eaten anything yet:-( Often when cats are moved from their familiar settings they don’t eat for a few days but she really needs to think about eating something now. I’m not hassling her but over the past 4 days I have tried her usual dry biscuits, a variety of sachets of wet food, and a spoonful of tuna. On advice, last night I took all the food out of the pen and just left her with water; then this morning I put down a few spoonfuls of smelly pilchards in tomato sauce (made smellier with the addition of a little warm water) and left her with it to sniff and hopefully eat in her own time.
By lunchtime still no action on the eating front. I tried reminding her how good food was by putting some pilchard and tomato juice on my fingers and she licked it off (that really surprised me – I thought she’d be too scared to lick my fingers) but wouldn’t take any solids from me.
Apart from not eating, Texas seems a little more settled. Look at her face – she is less scared. She is tolerating being stroked – she doesn’t run and hide and I can lay my arm along her back and fuss her head without raising her breathing and heart rate. But she is getting no pleasure from it and would rather I went away and left her alone…
Hooray! Last night I replaced the smelly pilchards with fresh ones and counted out 40 kibbles of Purina Pro Plan (which I know she used to like in her previous foster home) so I could tell if she had eaten any. This morning the stinky pilchards were still there but all 40 kibbles WERE GONE Also toys had been re-arranged so she has been playing overnight:-) Phew! Don’t have to try and get her to the vet after all. Have refilled the biscuit bowl.
Texas has now been with me for a month. She sleeps most of the day in her bed on the worktop in the cat pen. I turned her bed so that it faces out the window and she can watch the birds. It also gives her a little more privacy as the bed is slightly higher at the back. Every day I go and sit with her for an hour or so in the morning and talk to her about what is going on in the garden, or just sit there and read. Every day I stroke her head and her back and sometimes around her eyes and look in her ears. Mostly she puts up with this, but doesn’t purr or seek out contact.
We make more progress in the evening. I discovered that she comes to life mid-evening as the light begins to change and the birds start their goodnight song. She gets off the worktop and ruffles up the blanket on the floor. Then she plays with a catnip mouse, or chases a little woolly ball. And climbs up on to the bin where the litter is stored and watches the birds in the fading light. She is quite happy to amuse herself; she doesn’t mind if I am watching her; she doesn’t want me to play with her.
I try to find some time each evening for her to join me in the kitchen. I leave the door between the pen and the kitchen open and go about my business (baking, washing up etc) so she hears lots of house noises. Then I sit in a chair and read or do a Sudoku. The moment I sit down, she trots into the kitchen, relaxed and full of confidence, and has a good explore! From time to time she comes and settles down companionably within a couple of feet of me.
My feeling is that she enjoys company but it will be a long time before she chooses to actively engage with people. It’s as though nobody has ever paid her any attention and she doesn’t know she can interact. I don’t know that we can help her much with this in a pen – she needs to be in a settled home environment with some constancy and routine and few demands.