Monthly Archives: February 2012

Here, Kitty Kitty

I have a feline-related dilemma.  I think I’ve mentioned before that we have four cats (we had five, until we had to have our sweet boy Sugar put down in November – he was diagnosed with cancer and declining rapidly).  Three of those cats were completely feral when we took them in – a mom cat, Maxie, and her two girl kittens, Alice and Gracie.  The babies were just a few weeks old and still nursing; they were born outdoors (we found the family living in the enclosed area under our deck back in 2006).  Maxie was very clearly part of a feral colony in our area – not friendly to people at all, although she would come up and eat the food we set out for her (as long as we were nowhere near).

We trapped these three cats and set up a fenced-in ‘quarantine’ area in our garage while we had them checked out by a vet, vaccinated and treated for fleas (which they didn’t have) and worms (which they did).  We had the mom spayed and once the babies were old enough, they were spayed as well.  At that point we brought them in and set them up downstairs in our candle workshop to recuperate, since we knew they weren’t going to pass anything on to our current cats (Sugar and Sabrina).

These cats were so wild and completely didn’t trust us – in order to get them to vet visits, we would have to kind of shoo them into the cat carriers which we sat inside the fenced-in area they were living in.  Once all the vet visits were over (and there were MANY) we gave them full run of the workshop area, and they spent a lot of time hidden from view.  I spent some time trying to tame the kittens, which was just not happening – Gracie actually cornered me and SPIT at me while she was hissing.  I never realized they actually did “hiss and spit”!  One of the vet techs grabbed Alice up and cuddled her one time, and she just barely missed getting her eye taken out.  These kittens wanted absolutely nothing to do with people.

We decided that our goal was not to force them to become lap cats or anything, but just see if they could acclimate to indoor living and be happy indoors.  The mom, Maxie, was also recovering from a huge abscess that would have killed her if the vet hadn’t cleaned and stitched it up when she was getting her spay surgery.  I was loathe to put her back outside and back in danger again, so I was hoping she wouldn’t start freaking out about being an indoor cat or have problems adjusting to our other animals (we also have a dog named Toby).  Luckily, all three cats seemed to do just fine being indoors and all of our animals came to a truce fairly easily.

It took a long time – at least 6 months – before the Feral Girls got curious and went up the two flights of stairs to our living area.  We would try to entice them, playing with them and getting them curious about the stairs – the kittens did love to play, as long as we didn’t try to touch them.  Eventually they would come up to explore, and we would do our best not to scare them away.  After a while, they were spending more time upstairs than downstairs, and Maxie was even sitting on the couch while we watched TV in the evening.

Fast-forward nearly six years later, and all three are a firm part of our household.  Gracie is still the most nervous – she will often run out of the room if we come in, but sometimes we can get her to stay and let us pet her.  Alice is kind of aloof but also has moments where she comes around and meows for attention – she especially loves it when Dave pets her.  Neither of the girls will come up on the couch by us or sit on our lap.  Maxie is probably the friendliest – she comes up to us and rubs against our ankles, she will lay on top of us if we’re lying in bed, and we can very easily pet her.  She seeks us out for attention all the time.

HOWEVER…we cannot pick up any of these cats.  And I fear this is going to be an issue when we move in the next year or so…hence, the dilemma.

I suspect we could probably pick up one of the younger girls and have them be startled enough that they would freeze while we popped them into a cat carrier.  But the other two would never let us near them once they saw what we did to the first.

I’ve been trying to get Maxie used to the sensation of having hands on both sides of her – I’ll pet her back, then slide my hands down each side.  Before I can get them under her belly, though, she drops down to the ground and tries to slink off.  Keep in mind, I also can’t trim their nails so these cats have very, very sharp claws!  That’s what stops me from trying to pick them up and get them used to it.  I’m afraid I’ll be badly scratched as they flail around in terror, and I also don’t want to lose this very hard-earned trust that they finally have with us.  So I am really torn…do I try to practice this with them, while we still have maybe a year before we move, or do we just go for it on moving day and chase them into the cat carriers?

Dave, of course, doesn’t waste a minute worrying about stuff like this.  He keeps telling me it won’t be a problem, he’ll take care of it…and I’m sure he will.  I just don’t want the girls traumatized because of it!  I know it’s silly to worry about it so far in advance – our house isn’t on the market yet and probably won’t be until the end of the year or early next year.  But still…

Does anyone else have a cat that refuses to be picked up?  How do you deal with it?  Or…have any of you successfully trained a formerly-feral cat in this area?  Or…should I just have the vet give us some kitty Xanax on moving day?!

Maxie, Gracie and Alice

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A little bit of deja vu

Just about four years ago, I found myself in nearly this exact situation: in a large auditorium, at Northern Illinois University, filled with people who are following directions spoken from the stage.  Four years ago, Dave and I stood there, confused and unsure of which direction to go.  The difference?  This year I was able to hear and understand as they announced that students studying Health Sciences should follow the gentleman carrying the green sign.

This wasn’t exactly the same scenario – we did this in June 2008 when Eric had his freshman orientation at NIU, and Paige is not that far along just yet.  This was for “Admitted Students Day” at the same school – a chance for kids and parents to learn about and visit the school.  So much of it, though, was similar and I really got a sense of déjà vu, especially as we stood in the auditorium waiting to break out into groups based on field of study.  When we did this in 2008, it was just me and Dave; Eric had gone off with the kids to do a separate program.  Normally we would rely on him to be our ‘ears’, because Dave doesn’t hear well in noisy situations with his hearing aid, and I was completely deaf at the time.  We ended up having a little disagreement – Dave was sure we should follow one group, while I was pretty sure it was not the right group (but wasn’t sure which one WAS).  We started off with the (wrong) group and realized it was for the Accounting profession…Eric was studying Fine Arts!  After we asked and got pointed in the right direction, we were finally able to catch up with everyone but still, it was stressful and embarrassing.

Of all the experiences I had during those 5 soundless months, having to go through Eric’s college freshman orientation and both kids’ graduations (high school for Eric, middle school for Paige) without hearing a thing were the hardest.  I was able to get by pretty well with my lip reading, but those situations were just so difficult, especially the orientation which lasted all morning and afternoon.  It is such a relief to know I don’t have to go through that this year because I have my cochlear implants to help me through.

I didn’t do as well as I thought I did – Paige was part of a trivia contest, and she was on stage answering questions along with a bunch of other kids.  (Brave girl!!  There were hundreds of people there and she jumped right up when they announced this contest.)  As the kids were eliminated one by one, it finally came down to Paige and one other girl.  They had round after round of tie-breaker questions, until finally they were asked the average class size.  Paige’s opponent guessed 27, Paige guessed 50…but I was sure she said “fifteen.”  Still, I was close!  Even if I miss a few things entirely, or mishear them, it still beats hearing nothing.

So far, 2012 has been pretty good.  Paige is finishing up her senior year, and has accepted her admission to NIU (she’ll be studying nursing).  She’ll graduate high school in early June, have her orientation at NIU later that month, then move in to the dorm around the middle of August, right after her 18th birthday.  Dave and I are planning to work more on the house through the summer and probably list it for sale sometime this year.  We slimmed down the candle business in order to have time to do the work on the house, so I’ve been working on a new website that reflects the wax melts and tarts we will be selling instead of candles with wicks.

My cochlear implants have been stable and I actually didn’t go for a mapping last year…partly because I didn’t need one, and partly because I’m waiting for ClearVoice (a new listening program from Advanced Bionics) to be approved by the FDA.  Once it’s approved, I can get my mapping and have ClearVoice added at the same time.  🙂  Dave is due for a new hearing aid this year, so we’re excited to see what they have for him at the VA.  He’s hoping this one will have an FM boot, for convenience.

So many changes coming up this year…we definitely won’t end 2012 in the same way we started!

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