Sometimes plans change … and then sometimes they change again.
When we started to transition Moon kitteh from feral cat to indoor cat, I spent a lot of time reading up on how feral cats live and behave in the wild. Despite the fact that they are the same cat as a house cat, genetically, they are actually a completely different animal with respect to behavior. So, I tried to mimic the feral cat life as best I could in order to make Moon feel more comfortable. Lots of litter boxes to mark territory boundaries. Wood scratching posts. Toys that look and feel like real mice and/or bugs. Asking an animal to make adjustments to slight changes in their routine is better than trying to force them to adapt to huge ones. With Rupert, we had no choice but to make a huge change, but we can still use feral life principles with him now to ease the transition.
One of my favorite articles on feral cat life is over here http://amby.com/cat_site/carter_2.html written by Jack Carter after following a specific colony for over two years.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, Saturday and Sunday morning visitation time hasn’t been going so well. Moon is being a downright dick, and all the hissing and growling is stressing everyone out. I needed a new plan.
Now Jackson Galaxy, whose show I love, always advocates the separate room (which we are doing) and feeding on opposite sides of a door, but I’ve got a few problems with that scenario. First, Moon is not food motivated, unless it’s tuna, and he can’t have tuna because it’s too high in phosphorous for his stone-making bladder. Second, Moon will not eat anywhere other than his chosen designated eating spot, and lastly, we can’t get Rupert to come to the door to eat unless it’s dark and/or absolutely quiet. We also can’t wait months and months for introductions because they know each other and it’s not beneficial if they are sight and scent unseen.
The feral ritual I have been using with Moon and thought I should maintain for bonding purposes is that, on the weekends, I get up at 5:30, feed everyone, change the litter boxes, and then Moon and I would retreat to the bed for a cuddle and then a nap until 7:30-8:00. Then we would wake up, play, and after that, my husband and I would have breakfast.
I thought incorporating Rupert into this ritual would be beneficial, and I know I am right, but I think I was bringing him in at the wrong time, which was after the nap and during the playtime before the people breakfast. Moon, being fresh off a meal and a nap, is just too rambunctious and wired-up for that apparently, and the session would result in hissing and growling and staring and stalking and all around general protest, ending with mommy’s hair frazzled and poor Rupert, twitchy in the corner. Not productive. At. All.
So I thought: What if I bring Moon in earlier? And I did. And it went sooooo much better.
I got up at 5:30, fed everyone, changed the litterboxes, had a cup of coffee, and then instead of heading back to bed, we went into the room. I sprayed the room liberally with Feliway first.
Moon sniffed around.
Moon stared at Rupert a bit.
Moon yowled at me in protest once because I wouldn’t let him stalk.
Then Moon found the spare circle-bed, and I told him that he could have it if he wanted it.
Moon got in the bed and then made it a point to stare at Rupert for a bit from across the room. It was hilarious to watch him trying to stare so intensely while trying to keep his eyes open as he struggled against nap-time.
Eventually he curled up. At that point, I went over and kissed him and petted him and brushed him. I did the same to Rupert, and then I lay down on the floor and pretended to go to sleep as well.
My intent here is to try to create a “cat colony” or cat family of our own by mimicking a lifestyle that is familiar to them. The familiar is very comforting, and for a cat whose entire life has been spent in the wild, the routine of eating, sleeping, and play times along with colony behavior as it relates to cat-to-cat interactions is permanently ingrained in them. It’s what they know, and it’s easier for them to accept small changes in what they know than to be confronted with: This is how it is now. As a human who has suffered with anxiety all of my life, I know this to be true first-hand. Secondly, I know Moon. He’s a cat motivated by comfort and property. He likes to feel safe, and he likes to be given things to own. He might have viewed the room as The Place Being Taken Away from Me, so by giving him the spare bed and inviting him in to share, I assured him to some degree that whatever was happening, the change would be small and that nothing was being taken from him. Not his safety. Not his things.
I put this down as a small success, especially as you can see how relaxed Rupert is here. Rupert gets more comfortable every day. I can touch his belly and his feet and he’s playing more. I can’t have Moon set that back, so sometimes, plans have to change.