Pyjama Swipe

Oscar is a puzzle – a charming, warm furry puzzle. Long ago I decided that part of this comes from being loved as a kitten but also at some time being treated less than well by a person. He becomes unsure and scared with some movements – approach from the front or even petting from above. You can see it in his eyes – or I can see it in his eyes now that I know him. It’s an imperceptible shift from happy bonding to ‘why did you touch me like that?’ and suddenly he is threatened.

It’s been weeks since I’ve seen any half-considered bite attempt. I think there were 4 total in the time he’s been with me. All of them (other than the first when he was coming-out-from surgery and anesthetic) were half-hearted and confused – like he didn’t know how to communicate with a person. I can see the confusion – he knows he trusts me but something makes him feel strange and uncomfortable. And each time I scolded him for it, he cowered back and hissed… a protective rather than angry stance. This was a learning process for him… and he’s done so well. He doesn’t like to be approached head-on – maybe a sad story there, but time will teach him differently.

The new thing is the pyjama swipe. It’s not every day, but it happens to both J and myself – maybe a total of 10 times so far. You are standing with him and interacting and suddenly there is a claw swipe at the back of the pant leg. I’ve got 2 minor scratches from it – and he gets scolded each time. He cowers down and away and looks so guilty that you want to give him a treat. (Of course I can’t – that would just be a cruel, inconsistent training error).

What on earth is this? J thinks it’s the movement of the pyjamas. I think it’s a confused way to try to get attention, since it always happens to me when he’s literally underfoot and I’m working on giving him his food, fresh water and puttering at the sink. It seems to happen when he’s clingy and wants attention. To be consistent, he gets scolded and then we leave the room. He’s learned that a slightly raised voice and ‘NO’ means that he’s in trouble, and he’s realized that it doesn’t mean he will be hit or harmed. So his fear is diminished.

I know how to train around it, but I still don’t know what it is. Any ideas?

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Oscar in ‘paint’ (aka Natasha plays with the computer)

Three

It’s been almost 3 months to the day since we took Oscar in from the cold. Do you believe it? I can barely believe it.

It had been 2 years of realizing that he was homeless, alone and struggling. Two years when the cold threatened to kill him in the deep dark of winter. Two years of worry every time there was a polar blast (I swear I didn’t have more than 2 grey hairs then… and now I have many more!)

The first attempt to trap Oscar took about a week of trying to get him into a feral trap. It almost worked once. It also scared him away for a long time.

I look at him and see this beautiful, friendly cat wanting so much to be a part of a family. Working so hard to relearn and change from survival behaviour to indoor manners. I can hardly believe it is the same cat – the sometimes gaunt, untrusting, tomcat wandering the neighourhood in the cold, getting into scraps and risking the forest-edge. No one would take Oscar – there was no place for him to go. Without a voice, his fate was undecided and at the whim of the weather, cars or coyotes. The hard truth is that agencies don’t have the time, dollars or space to give cats like Oscar a chance.

I knew I’d be in deep when I began this. You see, he was outside in the cold for 3 years. No rescue would take him, the local humane society won’t take strays, and animal services won’t take him unless he’s injured (and then there’s a good chance he’d be put down). The rescue’s advice was just TNR him and feed him in the yard. I couldn’t – he had already lost part of his ears to frostbite – it gets to -20 in winter here. It had to be up to me – so we finally trapped him, and had him vetted, and now I must find a patient home as he tries (and he tries SO hard!) to learn indoor life.

Oscar waiting for food… photo by my cat sitter while I was away

 

Morning Routine

Oscar has a cherished morning routine. Oscar spends his nights closed into his room and I ‘tuck’ him in each night. Each morning, some time after the alarm goes, I grab a coffee and spend some time with him. I had to train him (with some unfortunate damage to my carpet from reaching claws) that ‘just before the alarm goes’ or ‘just after the alarm goes’ is not immediately our time. Our time comes a little later – and Oscar is doing so well in learning this. We do the breakfast routine, the litter clean, and then we go and sit on the bedroom fancy rug (both of us) by the window and just hang out.

I have my coffee and often read while Oscar sits purring and pasted tight to my thigh. He won’t climb up onto my lap but lays stretched to full length in full contact with my leg. He loves having his cheeks, chin and forehead stroked. He watches patiently while I play with his tail. I stroke his beautiful buff fur and it’s so relaxing.

While he often offers me his tummy, I find that I am scared to pet it – I guess that one bite did leave me a bit gun-shy. I have stroked his belly tentatively just one time, and he was fine. There are just two areas I don’t touch with Oscar – belly and feet. I’m sure that most of that is simply lack of trying on my part. I do peer at his paws now and then. His front paws are now beautiful and pink and have lost the dead dry skin. Not so at the back… yet. I’m still not entirely sure that the black bits are not frostbite. However, it is not much if it is and he is not hobbled in any way.

I’ve got one of my books (a long tale called Gone Girl) on audio. This means I can watch birds from the window, pet Oscar and still be reading hands-free. Life is good!

In moments like these I forget my purpose. I forget that my house is divided and that we haven’t been able to use our master bath in 3 months. I forget that I need to find Oscar a forever home. In these morning moments, there is only purry, soft-cream coloured contentment and peace.

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Waiting for me to drop the silly camera and come back and join him. That’s the pillow I lean on to read and Oscar will stretch out against me. The only thing missing is a sun-puddle which we’d both enjoy

Into the Fray

I’m writing this with throbbing hands and bloodied palms. Ever been in a catfight with your cat? Ever separated fighting cats? Well, to be very clear I did neither, but I did manage to come out the worst in an unfortunate match.

Nuala has been into our bedroom (aka Oscar’s second room or day room) over the past few days. Each time coming in closer and there has been no real hostility. Nuala has gained the nickname of ‘Hissy von Growly-kins’ around here for her habit of walking up towards Oscar and then hissing at him. Then she sits down and growls in a low tone. Oscar, to his great credit, sits calmly and purposely docile.

The two orangies had just finished a session of the ‘usual’ … progressing to Nuala calmly coming to about 2 feet from Oscar. I gave each one a treat in the other’s presence (positive association) and lots of soothing words.

Nuala left the room and I had my back turned to the door for once. Nuala came back into the room and slipped by me and into the master bath. This door is always closed when she is in the room and is maintained as 100% Oscar zone … and it’s also a dead end. I had just opened the door a moment before anticipating that I’d close off the bedroom to Nuala. I jumped up and dashed after her… I was just a couple of feet behind her. She ran straight into Oscar’s box. I grabbed her and pulled her out… by then she had her claws firmly into his bedding and dragged it all out with her and was hissing up a storm. I had her in my hands and headed for the door with her hissing, squirming and scratching –  Oscar raced into the room hissing and aggressive in response. He was at my feet and Nuala was in my hands. I scolded Oscar to hold him back and headed for my bedroom door with Nuala scratching wildly. I got as far as the bedroom door and had to let her go as she was doing some serious damage to my arms. I threw her into the hall and out of the fray.

She flew down the hall … and Oscar flew after her with me chasing the rear. Oscar stopped about 6 feet from my bedroom door. And I scolded him and he dashed back into the bedroom so I closed the door. Nuala (puffy as a blowfish) raced down the hall and over Shadow. Both tore downstairs.

In all honesty, I think Oscar (who never scratched or clawed at me in this incident) might have been protecting me against an unknown and hissing menace. He’s not used to hearing my voice raised. I’ve since gone in to visit him to pet him and give him soft words. He’s back to his purry self immediately.

Nuala never scratches us… she gets scolded for the slightest scratch or aggression in play. This is the first time I’ve met her claws.

I averted disaster but I’ve got some pretty sore paws.

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No matter how naughty she is! Trust me … this is a challenge right now!

The Dance

Over the past 2 weeks a slow change has been happening at our place. Slowly, Nuala is coming to realize who is behind the door. It started with her always scratching on the door to come into our bedroom when either of us was in there with Oscar.

An innocent game started: I’d play with a straw under the bedroom door with Nuala on the other side. This fascinated both cats. Oscar would sit 6 feet away and watch entranced as the straw moved without me touching it. He knew there was another kitty.

Days later, we left the bedroom door open with both of us sitting between the cats and let Nuala see Oscar. She was immediately hissy but fascinated. How can such a little cat have such a big and ugly hiss?

Next it progressed to Oscar sitting by the window (the most defensible and secure place in the room) and Nuala taking some tentative and hissy steps into the room. Day after day they were getting closer. They ate treats in each other’s presence. They sat quietly for a few minutes in each other’s presence.

Oscar is a prince. He really is! He has the sweetest approach to this. He sits perfectly still and every so often makes a little sound with a head bob that seems to be ‘how you doing?’. It’s very sweet, gentle and patient. He never once hisses back at her or shows the slightest sign of fear or aggression.

Slowly they are getting closer. He seems to understand that she was here first… that she had been in the room before him. He seems to be fine with letting her take her time to meet him.

I’m so impressed with Oscar. What a charmer! Okay he has me around his paw – how can you resist a cat who loves you so much??

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Oscar’s fave back-corner spot

 

My Fuzzy Valentine

A few days ago I found a note tucked away and forgotten in months past. It was a Valentine I wrote to Oscar last year when he was out in the cold and struggling to stay alive:

My heart belongs to a wanderer who’s lonely existence haunts me daily. The weather has turned cold again and I worry about my friend Oscar. 

Every morning I run out to put some fresh food and warm water in an overturned blue box which is protected from the snow/rain. Almost every day it is gone. I don’t often see Oscar, but I know he’s out there…

This is not a feral boy at all. Once he was someone’s – he knows humans. He’s a beautiful cat – beige with lovely white markings. Big lonely eyes. How could he be out there alone? Abandoned? Lost long ago? I have seen him for about 2 years. How long has he been on his own and avoiding the coyotes and cars?

Last spring I spent a ton of time looking up rescues on the internet. Calling. The outlook is bleak for the forgotten kitties like Oscar. Animal services classify him as a ‘nuisance animal’ and will only intervene if he is injured. They would then take him into their program and see if he behaves well. If he does, he would be put up for adoption. If not, he could be put down. The humane society in my area won’t accept strays. Period. They have their hands full with owner-surrendered cats. The various rescues in the area don’t have space for him. There was one 2 towns away which would take him, but only if I caught him, got him fixed, got all his shots and HIV/FIV tests. About $700. And now they too might not have space.

So, my Valentine is Oscar. Even if he doesn’t know I love him and that his health weighs heavily on my shoulders every single day, he has snuck into my heart.

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Oscar – over a year ago

The Almost Home

This post has taken me forever to write. I have been putting it off for a week and a half. I have to be honest and say that it’s not easy for me to write it.

Oscar had a home lined up weekend before last and things were looking good and then it went sideways.

I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by a single man who was moved by Oscar’s story and wanted to adopt him. He was mature, lived alone, was compassionate, had a cat before, and was a good guy. I asked all the questions I needed to make sure that it would be a good home. I had one or two minor concerns, but even those were solved.

We waited until the weekend and then he came to meet Oscar. It was a good meeting and I got Oscar and all his stuff ready for his trip to his new home. We literally had to shove Oscar into the carrier… it was a big fight. It was hard to say goodbye but we did and sent Oscar to his next chapter. I had a good cry – that happy-sad cry when you have to say goodbye.

Then later that evening, we got a call from this man. He said what he hadn’t told us was that he was going to be moving in a few weeks, and that he had discussed Oscar with the person he was splitting the house with. However there was an investor who had now heard about the cat and this person did not want a cat in his investment. This investor was not willing to budge since he felt that cats would devalue the property.

So, this man said he would need to bring Oscar back. He didn’t even want the money back, but he couldn’t keep him. Of course we said bring him immediately and that it was not a problem. Late that evening, Oscar came home. I honestly think that this person acted in good faith – and that it was just not meant to be. Maybe he didn’t plan as well as I would have –but I won’t judge someone for wanting to help an animal. We gave him his money back… it’s never about the money, is it?

Oscar was fine, but really stressed. He didn’t eat for 1-2 days and hid from us. He wedged himself behind our bedside table and didn’t come out for a few hours. It took me about ½ a week to get him back to his sweet purry self. I can imagine his confusion that day!

To be honest, this was a good outcome in that Oscar had less stress than in other scenarios that could have resulted, he was able to come back to be cared for and settle in, and we’ll continue to look for a new home for this sweet boy. It will be harder and harder for me to give him up as time goes on, but after this attempt, I have not made any efforts to get him adopted.

THANK YOU!

2013 in review. What can I say – thank you for being here! I really appreciate that I’m not writing out into the silence and I am very honoured that you spend your precious time with me. Your knowledge and insights are gold – and have buoyed me so many times.

I especially want to send hugs out to Greece – a gorgeous cat-loving country I once visited who somehow found this little blog to visit and read! Perhaps one day I will tell you how a young back-packer got thrown out of someone’s Mykonos courtyard for sneaking in to play with kittens.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. I’m just brazen enough to share it all with you.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,300 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hissy Fit

Nuala often stands guard outside Oscar’s door. It’s cute and funny. I decided to see what she would do if she saw Oscar. I picked her up and carried her in. Oscar was sitting by the bed and I was standing with Nuala in my arms about 6 feet away. Nuala looked around and saw Oscar and started hissing. Big scary hisses that are far too big for such a little cat. I carried her back out and she took off down the hall all puffy and discombobulated.

J tried the same thing with her a couple of days later… same results.

I should say that Oscar simply sat where he was during both situations and looked at her. He didn’t say a thing the first time, but meowed at her the second time. He seemed calm and somewhat interested.

Nuala snuck into my room under my feet yesterday. She dashed past Oscar to the far end of the room and sat still – completely puffy and hissy. Oscar just sat still. I evacuated her out and she was more than happy to tear away down the hall.

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Principessa Nuala von MeowMeow

She might be small in size, but Nuala has some big cattitude and believes (quite rightly unfortunately) that she is top dog in our house. Alpha cat. Great: we’ve raised a spoiled diva. If she wasn’t so funny, bouncy, sweet and purry, she would be impossible to live with.