Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Adventures of Emmylou and Natalia: More at Ease Each Day

Emmylou and Natalia are two cats I recently adopted from BARC Shelter.  They were brought in as ferals some months ago, and were socialized to a certain degree while at the shelter, but getting acclimated to an apartment has been a whole other journey, as has been feeling comfortable with contact with people when outside the cage.  We have been going through a very gradual, slow process of acclimation with them -- starting out by using a Kitty Condo (multi-level cage with wheels), eventually wheeling it to different parts of the apartment, then getting the girls used to being out of the cage.  That's a very quick summary of what has been quite a journey!
Now they are out of the cage nearly all the time, just being put in the cage (lured back into the condo with food or treats) for meals.  They are getting more and more comfortable with us TTouching and petting them when they are out of the cage, and are so connected with each other - playing together, cuddling together, cleaning each other - so sweet!

Our most recent changes have been to give them access to the whole apartment even when we are out, and having them out of the condo at night.  We introduced them to the larger space of the living room/kitchen/bathroom very slowly, first within the condo, then letting them explore for short periods of time, then longer periods of time, etc.  So by the time we felt they were ready for unsupervised access to the area, they were quire acclimated to it, so it didn't feel like a big change.
Before giving them unsupervised access to any area, we did what we could to "cat-proof" it, which is a bit like baby-proofing - putting anything dangerous to cats away, getting most fragile items out of acccess, and we bought plastic boxes called "Mommy's Little Helper Power Strip Safety Covers", because since the cats walk all over the place, this would keep them from stepping on the switch on these strips, etc.  Luckily we haven't seen them chew on electric cords, but that is something to keep an eye out for, especially with feral cats.  I also placed night lights in a few places, so the night environment would not be completely dark.  I think that having a little light has helped them to feel more safe, as everything looks different in the dark, which can be a bit scary for them at first.
The first night with them out of the cage was a little scary for us, as well as for them, but they did very well. They managed to hunt down a water bug, also got in plenty of playtime as well as some rest.  They didn't go crazy knocking things over - they seem to be very polite in that way so far:)  The first few nights we kept them enclosed in the bedroom, so they would get used to the night in a smaller space, then we began to let them out into the rest of the space at night.  It has been a week of that now, and they are getting more comfortable each night.  Last night they realized that the couch is very comfortable, and were resting there part of the night.  They had been avoiding the couch before that.  A similar progression happened quite a ways back with the bed/ When we first started letting them out of the cage, they were very hesitant to go up to the platform bed.  Then one day they began running up and down the stairs over and over.  The next day they spent a good while up on the bed relaxing. Once again, I can't tell you how interesting this whole process is!

We are still very careful to walk quietly past them, as they are still a little scared of feet walking close to them.  Emmylou is pretty comfortable with it now, but Natalia will sometimes scurry away, though we have made some wonderful breakthroughs with Natalia in the past few days.  Sometimes when I first let the girls out of the condo, or return home from being out, Natalia will come out to greet me and, when I slowly crouch down to pet and TTouch her, sometimes she will relax into the touch intead of running away. 

Also, when she is in her cozy place up on the platform bed, she will really relax into TTouch and Reiki (Natalia, right above, receiving TTouch.

Emmylou (above left) has been very comfortable with me TTouching her outside of the cage for a while now, and is starting to be more comfortable with that with my partner as well.  For some reason, she can get a bit more skittish about receiving touch when she is up on the bed, but little by little she has been getting used to that as well, as you can see by the above photo. 

Yesterday I actually ended up taking a nap with the two girls up on the bed, which was so sweet.  When I first got up on the bed, both cats were up there and Emmylou scurried off the bed, running down the stairs and lying down by the cage.  I continued with a relaxed attitude, curling up towards the head of the bed (Natalia was at the foot) and moving away from the stairs up to the bed.  Eventually Emmylou came up the stairs again, peeked, and couldn't resist the coziness.  After a few minutes, she jumped back up on the bed and settled down right next to Natalia.  It wasn't long before all three of us were asleep :)
Much love, Natalia and Emmylou, we are so happy to have you with us in our home, and you are teaching us so much every day.

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