Storytime 36

new kitten looking vaguely suspicious
This week’s entry is perhaps only part one of an ongoing story – nobody’s really sure yet. We’ve been playing it by ear.

It started almost two weeks ago when I went into work in the evening to block off some days for students and such. There was a handwritten note on one of our delivery vehicles informing us that there was a kitten up on the spare tire underneath the car, so I got my flashlight and checked it out carefully, seeing nothing. I thought the note might have been hours old or better, since the car wasn’t used at all that day, and didn’t think a lot of it other than vowing to keep my eyes open. But as I was leaving myself, I spotted the kitten underneath the same car and the saga began.

I’ve had a lot of experience with feral and semi-feral cats, meaning those that have acclimated, fully or in part, to living in the wild despite being a domestic species; two of my cats, for years, had in fact started out as feral kittens that never fully tamed down to truly domesticated – one of which would still hiss at me at times when I entered the room without warning. I spent years reassuring her, kindly and gently, that everything was okay, each time it happened, and receiving less-than-acceptance in return – usually she just cried forlornly at me as if I had threatened her. Then one day, intent on doing something and entering the room to this antisocial greeting, I merely said exasperatedly, “Oh, give it up, I haven’t killed you yet” – and she immediately calmed down. I’d discovered, by accident, that my placating behavior was stressing her out more than my normal bluntness.

Anyway, back to the kitten. I immediately called The Girlfriend and asked her to bring cat food and a carrier (we live far too close to where I work,) and while waiting for her to appear, I watched the kitten with some coworkers, talking softly to her from a distance and getting the very-reassuring sign of a raised tail; she wasn’t fully feral and recognized people, even as she distrusted us. When The Girlfriend arrived, we set up some food near the car, with the open carrier nearby, and sat back to watch what happened. In short order really, we’d coaxed her pretty close with food, got her used to our presence, and then trapped her in the carrier with far less effort than I’d ever expected (I was actually trying to dig up some kind of string or wire from my car to pull the carrier door shut once the kitten had ventured within, when The Girlfriend simply crept up from the blind side of it and gently pushed the door closed.)

Back home, we let her out onto the screened porch, separate from the other cats, provided food, water, and a litter pan, and let her settle in for the night. Since I wasn’t working the next day, I could venture out to try and socialize her, and within a couple of days she had become completely trusting and more than a little enamored of people – again, perhaps.

new kitten being mellow
She’s only about eight weeks old, without a full set of teeth yet though fully weaned, and while not exactly hyperactive, it’s safe to say she has the short-attention-span thing going on; she’s started to fall asleep in my lap at least six times, only to suddenly startle herself awake, at no provocation whatsoever, and find something else to do (she’s managed to drift off once, though.) She adores her various toys, and does like having restrained wrestling matches with me.

new kitten wrestling with author
I call this one, “I’m crushing your skull,” but I don’t know how few people will get that reference…

The big question remains now: Are we keeping her? And this mostly revolves around whether the other cats will accept her or not. Coincidentally, it was Labor Day weekend eight years ago that started that whole story and eventually brought them into the house, but their age and the fact that this is another female throws the whole thing into question. We’re not sure how well, if at all, they’ll accept a newcomer.

I predicted that Little Girl would be easier to convince than Kaylee, but so far, Little Girl has been a lot more reserved and reluctant…

new kitten attempting to win friends with Little Girl
… while Kaylee has been showing far more interest than I had given her credit for:

new kitten and Kaylee making first overtures
It probably helps that they have complementary coloration. But it also helps that the kitten is remarkably imperturbable, treating warning hisses as momentary setbacks and not at all shy about greeting the others.

A small note here: If you’re faced with introducing a new cat to established ones, it works a whole lot better to let the new one have a room of its own for a few days, and introduce the established cats into that. To them, this puts them into the new cat’s territory, which dulls their protectiveness and makes then feel slightly out-of-place so they’re less aggressive/defensive. There might still be confrontation, but much less than if you simply drop a new cat into their home.

I am reminded of a circumstance, many years back in my late teens, when we had a young cat that had been retrieved from the middle of traffic and had become established in our house for several weeks; the other cats simply avoided him, so he learned to play on his own. Then we found another, a female, slightly younger and thus a good playmate age, but he wanted absolutely nothing to do with her, even as she was desperate to make friends. The slightly older cat adored wrestling through a quilt that was draped over the upstairs banister rail, fighting mock-fiercely with the amorphous thing (usually my hand) behind the thick fabric, and she discovered this on her own, by accident. They would have fantastic wrestling sessions until one of them would inadvertently peek around the edge and provoke the older male to hissing in defense. This lasted all of three days until he got over it, whereupon they trashed the house each night in their enthusiastic free-for-alls.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes from here.