As lockdown restrictions ease we’re reflecting on what’s happened and the way forward. It’s been a strange few months for us as it has been for more or less everyone else on the planet. A couple of weeks before lockdown, as the threat of COVID began to rumble louder, Rolo & Rowan returned from their foster home. It looked like it would be a while until we could safely rehome them, and they were bouncing off the walls in their foster room. At least here they could have the run of the house and a cat proof garden.
Once they were home we battened down the hatches; their foster carers were the last visitors to come into our home. We closed to all other admissions or adoptions.
We’ve documented much of life in lockdown in other blog posts. It’s been a real joy to be home with them all pretty much 24/7. I hope that feeling is at least a little mutual. In some respects (and only some!) it’s kind of been a happy little timeless bubble.
We have to wake up and emerge at some point though. So when a friend asked if we could take a couple of feral kittens we decided the time might be right.
It was the first arrival since February so it caused quite a lot of interest.
We put them in a large dog crate. If I’m honest, I don’t like putting kittens in crates/cages. However, it’s a short term means to an end. If they’re just loose in the house they’ll obviously hide, not have interaction, and if they don’t interact whilst they’re young they’ll not be socialised. If they’re not socialised they’ll not find a home, and either they’ll stay here “bed blocking” or have to be rehomed to an outdoor home.
We draped another fleece over the side of the crate so they could hide a bit, and they huddled behind the litter tray, not eating or really moving at all for about 24 hours. We put small amounts of fresh food in at regular intervals, and rtttttttt999 tried tempting with chicken, ham, sardines, with some small success. They stayed huddled and hissed and spitted as we tried to interact.
We feel it’s important that cats have a name and aren’t just “the stray from Smith Street” “the black and white one”. Often naming gets stuck when we don’t know genders. You can run out of unisex names after the first 300. In messages with friends I jokingly referred to them as Hissy & Spitty, fully intending to find other more appropriate names in due course. However these names seem to have stuck for now. I’m hoping they will be entirely inappopriate in a few weeks and they will have nice furever names.
Gaining the trust of terrified kittens isn’t entirely easy. We know that they were born outdoors and have lived outdoors all their lives. We know that mum is feral. e4444448. In fact we believe that mum is the younger sister of “Albie the Feral” who was with us a few years ago.
We’ve had help from a suprising quarter. Young Rowan, our sacked office apprentice, has found his true vocation in health and social care. The little ones were starting to relax and play a little, but when Rowan joined them things really started to change.
He started to play with them and show them how things were done and they began to blossom.
Hissy particularly benefitted from his mentorship. I’m sorry these photos are a bit blurred (it’s hard to waggle a toy with one hand and keep the other hand steady with the camera … a bit like tapping your head and rubbing your tummy) but I love them.
It looks to me like he’s showing her how to grab the toy: “no .. do it this way” ” that’s it, hold it with your right paw and then pick it up with your left … look … like this …”
It went so well that after a few days he was allowed to bring his kittens out to play in the rest of the room.
He was proud as punch and did an awesome job managing them. He may not have been cut out for office work … but he rocks it with the childcare. His sister Rolo was somewhat put out that her brother was spending all his time with them rather than out in the garden with her.
Even from day one there has been a difference between these two. The difference between a hiss and a spit I guess. Day one Hissy hissed but I could stroke her gently, whilst Spitty spat and did an impression of an exploding ball of fluff when I tried to touch her. They’re both making progress though from different starting points. By week two I’ve been getting loud purrs regularly from Hissy when I stroke her. She’s growing out of her name by the day. It’s Rowan who can get purrs from Spitty.
We had a bit of a setback on Thursday … two weeks and two days after they arrived here. They went to the vet to meet the lovely Dr Molly for a health check, microchip, start their vaccinations etc. Our vets have done a wonderful job of managing care throughout lockdown. It’s been wretchedly painful on occasions to not be able to go in to consults with cats though; handing Henderson over on the car park or at the door has been tough. However on this occasion there were positives from the doorstep handover “Yes, it’s the one with white on who is more likely to bite you … good luck … speak later”. Normally I’d be in the consult room helping to hold them, but here I was, sitting in the car, playing Candy Crush on my phone 😉 Very impressed that Dr Molly managed them. The debrief later indicated that Hissy, although scared, had agreed to examination and procedures. Spitty had done the wall of death around the consult room but eventually submitted to procedures, albeit with limited examination. Perhaps her feisty chase around the room can confirm healthy heart and lungs as convincingly as having her chest listened to.
They were both very subdued for the rest of the day. Spitty attempted to work through her trauma by sitting back in the cat carrier, podding and purring gently. Hissy emerged the next day, and picked up where she’d left off. Growing in confidence by the hour, chasing around with Rowan. The vet run, though necessary, has set Spitty back quite a bit. She’s mostly hidden in her cat caves since, reluctant to even come out to eat. Last night I spent half an hour feeding her pieces of kibble into there, one at a time, until she’s full and until she’s not felt the need to spit every time I’ve put my hand in her cave.
Hissy is much more confident, enough to start to be naughty. Aunty Honey alerted me earlier to a breech of the sacred rule! Hissy had lodged herself in Uncle Henderson’s igloo. She had to be gently but firmly removed.
You may also have noticed some odd typos through this blog. They represent the moments where I’ve moved away from the laptop for a few minutes, and Hissy has been taking her first steps into IT. Normally we’d edit stuff like that out … but since it feels important to record their first steps 😉
Now we need to work out how to safely rehome them! We normally homecheck, then have people to visit the kittens (or cats), then when the time comes take them to their new homes and stay a while to help them to settle in. It’s perhaps more than many rescues do, but has worked well for many years. It will have to change and I imagine it’s going to involve Zoom or similar … most things do these days. Whatever we work out we will continue to work to find the best homes and support our adopters in settling their cats into their furever homes.