A Cat Tale

posted September 12th, 2015 by
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A Cat Tale

by Camille Hulen

 

A Tale of Two Kitties

 

~ Introductions ~

So you think you want a cat. There’s so much to consider. How do you find the right cat? How do you introduce yourself? How do you introduce a new cat into your home? Every cat and every situation is different as the following stories illustrate.

Duke and Thunder were litter mates. Although both would romp and play with other kittens, they behaved distinctly differently toward humans. Duke loved everyone, and his curiosity brought him to every stranger. Thunder, on the other hand, was fixated on his foster mom. He followed her everywhere, demanding attention but would run whenever a stranger came into the room.

Duke had no problem adjusting to his new home when he was adopted. Yes, he hid under the bed and was shy at first, but by the second day he was out and playing, claiming a blanket and empty boxes as his own.

Thunder was another story. Most potential adopters would simply look at Thunder and admire his beauty but then move on, saying, “He doesn’t like me.” One visitor, however, would not give up on Thunder. Although Thunder sought the highest shelf, almost out of reach, Rita followed him around, speaking to him softly. She showed him toys and offered him treats. Eventually, Thunder relented and let her touch him, so she filled out adoption papers and gave him a chance at a new home.

At first, Thunder hid under the bed in the guest room designated as his and refused to come out when his new human came near. However, when left alone, he would come out to eat and use the litter box, and they could hear him rummaging around at night. Throughout this time, Rita went into the room regularly to talk to him so that he would learn her voice. Then, after about three days, she found him on top of the bed! Progress!

From the guest room, Thunder moved into the office but would still seek the highest shelf, just out of reach. He would venture out when no one was looking and “steal” things to take to his hiding place. He was moving in and claiming territory. Next he would do “run-bys” trying to check out the humans, and sometimes sit within 3 feet of them, just observing. At other times he would follow Rita around to get a closer look. Fortunately, the new owners were amused by his behavior and did not get frustrated. Finally, one night he came to Rita as she was having a midnight snack and begged for food.  More progress!

As of this writing, after three weeks, Thunder is not yet a lap cat, but he is loved. I have no doubt that, in time, he will reciprocate with his love and purrs.

These stories illustrate the introductions of two different cats to their new homes, but here are some general tips for introducing a feline into a new environment/home:

  1. When you meet any cat, do not force yourself upon it. Speak quietly and touch it gently on the back of the neck or scratch it behind the ears. Do not attempt to pet it “head-on,” and give it an opportunity to bite. You cannot “pat” a cat like a dog.
  2. Do not attempt to pick up a strange cat! Above all, do not try to cuddle it to your face; this can be dangerous. It does not know you, and you cannot expect it to react like your own cat does. When you do pick it up, confine its front paws and hold it at your hip. Yes, you can scruff a cat by holding the skin at the back of its neck, but this takes practice, and it is not the best way to endear yourself to it.
  3. When you take the new kitty home, keep it in a confined space. A small bathroom is probably best because there are fewer places to hide. Provide water, a soft place to sleep and a litter box.
  4. Spend time in the room with the cat. Rather than leave food in the room, offer food while you are there, then take the food away when you leave. This way, the cat quickly identifies you as its food source. And, by all means, talk to the kitty and call it by name.
  5. Don’t panic. The cat may not eat for the first day because it is scared but continue to offer food at regular intervals. Play with it. For example, tease it with a toy on a string.
  6. When the cat is comfortable with you, release it into the rest of the house. Note: it’s probably better to keep bedroom doors closed at first unless you enjoy crawling on hands and knees, searching under beds.
  7. Relax and let the cat explore at its own pace. Continue to offer food in a designated place but do not keep food available all the time.
  8. If there are multiple cats in the house-hold, the idea of keeping the newcomer separate in its own room is even more important. Keep it in the room until it is comfortable and curious enough to come out. The resident cats will probably become curious as well and maintain a vigil by the door. Curiosity in a cat is a good thing!
  9. Exchange spaces for the cats. Allow the new cat to explore the house while the resident cats check out the smells where the new cat has been confined.
  10. When introducing cats, let them introduce themselves to each other. Do not force one upon the other. Chances are, they will hiss and growl at each other, then retreat and observe each other from a safe distance.
  11. If a scuffle develops, clap your hands and speak sternly. Do not yell and panic to protect your favorite. If necessary, a squirt from a spray water bottle works wonders.
  12. Mutual play with a toy on a string is a good icebreaker, as is a laser light. When the cats focus on the toy or “prey,” they tend to forget about each other.
  13. If you are uncomfortable leaving the cats alone with each other, continue to confine the newcomer in a separate room when you are not home. Eventually, the cats will find their own spaces. They may not become buddies but will usually learn to coexist.

Yes, when you adopt a cat, it finds its own space, both in your home and within your heart. And, I might add, the virtue any cat most assuredly teaches us is patience.

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