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Kitty & Cocoa 17 - Acceptance

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

This is the ongoing saga of Kitty & Cocoa, two former strays and now pets. This thread series began several yrs ago when a then 1/2 wild Kitty showed up at my door, emaciated and homeless, with 2 small kittens at her side. As she stood there quivering beneath a shrub at my front door, she hissed at me, unsure whether to seek my help or fight to defend herself and her kitten. She had been living on the streets for who knows how long and had grown fearful of all humans, and now she had 2 kittens which she had raised in the wild with no human contact at all.

I started this series then to discuss Kitty and her 2 kittens and the events surrounding my efforts to interact with them. In time I decided to adopt Kitty. One of the two kittens died after being struck by a car. The other, which I ultimately named Cocoa was processed through the county's TNR (trap, neuter, release) program and remained wild for some time more before I finally managed to get through to him. By that time, Cocoa was too old to ever have a chance at being tame enough for adoption, so I ended up taking him in, too.

Cocoa, while afraid of others, grew up to be very comfortable with me. Kitty, on the other hand, was a very 'hard sell'. She remained distrustful for years, until very recently we finally had a breakthrough.

Prior thread: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1264681/

I snapped the pic below of Kitty yesterday as she was navigating a flower bed to come to me.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I do have some news to tell you, some good, some maybe less so, and also some new pics of both Kitty & Cocoa to share. I have some work to do right now but will be back soon to post those things.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Sorry, All,

It has taken me a bit longer than expected to get back here to post some things.

I'll start with some pics:

(1) Kitty washing her face. She is sitting in a flower bed, left hand side of the flower beds at the front door. On one side of her is a crepe myrtle, on the other a bench. Those pale spots on her lower back are actually dapples of sunlight through the trees overhead. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day (day before yesterday) when this was taken. It's not so obvious because Kitty is sitting in the shade of the crepe myrtles. Thus the dapples on her backside.

(2) Cocoa rolling over on his back. He does this pretty much every time he sees me. He wants me to rub his tummy.

(3) Cocoa sitting upright. All of these pics were taken 2 days ago on a bright, sunny day. You can see the sun in this pic, both from Cocoa's shine and from the dark shadows on the walkway. Some of you may have seen prior photos of Cocoa when he was chocolate brown. Note here that he is as black as the ace of spades, as the saying goes, despite being in bright sunlight. Cocoa actually changes color, not from day to day but from season to season. He is black one part of the year, medium brown another part of the year. You may recall that when he is chocolate brown (milk chocolate not dark), he has a visible 'tabby' pattern of stripes, as seen in photos during the brown intervals, and an unexpected Siamese coloring. When brown, his head, tail, and paws are solid black and he has a black tabby pattern over the brown coat. Very strange coloring. As you can see in this picture, he is currently very black (all over) right now with no sign of either tabby or Siamese markings.

When viewing the pics of brown Cocoa, some people thought the color change was due to sunlight, but as you can see in these pics that is not the case, as he is very black here despite the brilliant sunlight. I believe the color change occurs because one of his coats (under or outer, not sure) is chocolate brown, the other black, so that the color change occurs either when he sheds or when he 'adds' a coat. Still trying to figure out which. If you haven't seen the pictures of 'brown' Cocoa, scan the earlier threads for them. There are a number of photos in the Kitty & Cocoa threads of him looking like an entirely different cat.

Although you can't see it from the pics, Cocoa is a very BIG fella now, weighing in at 14.5lbs AFTER loosing his pot belly (too many treats). His head is very noticeably large in comparison to Kitty's. He is easily twice her size.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Update on Kitty:

She remains like an entirely different cat, sitting at my feet, rubbing against my legs, accepting and responding to petting and affection. I can't begin to tell you how much nicer it is to be able to pet her, scratch her head and back, etc and to be able to play with her freely.

I did just recently, however, notice some signs of another, most unexpected problem. Now she is showing signs of being abnormally dependent on me. Boy, that really is something I never expected to see from Ms Kitty. Now I'm wondering if she really was afraid of everything all along, and that tough exterior was just an act, a protective mechanism.

One day when she was sitting on the stairs at about my height (from floor below), I stood beside the stairs and played with her through the banister rails. She was extremely playful and animated. After a while I got the idea to get out that fishing reel toy she always liked and go outside to play on the front lawn, something we did a number of times the 1st year or so she was here. I had no problem encouraging her to follow me outside, but once out there she became visibly afraid (of everything: cars, people, noise, airplanes). For several minutes I continued 'throwing' the toy fish and reeling it back past her, thinking she would soon calm down and start to play, but no luck. I took her around to the side yard, hoping that would help (farther from street, cars, people) but still to no avail. She was so frightened out there that I began to feel sorry for her.

When I gave up and headed back toward the door, she ran past me, eager to get back inside. Once inside again, she was fine. As you may have heard me say before, she has been staying indoors almost exclusively this past year, going out only about once a day and then only for some 15min to do her business. (She doesn't like to poop indoors, and I can't argue with that.) Otherwise, she is practically an indoor cat now. I'm happy that she is staying inside these days, as I know that is much safer for her, but I'm not happy to see her so painfully terrified when outside.

Since then I've begun to notice that, except for her once a day brief excursion outside for, you know, she otherwise follows me. If I go out, she has to go out. If I come back inside, she has to come back inside. The other day I made some 5 trips in/out in 5min or less (out to pick up after Widget, back in to get camera, in again to get missing sim card, etc). Kitty had to go in and out with me every time! That day we were in the back yard. She is less fearful out there away from people, cars, noise, etc but she still had to come back in with me every time and go back out again, 5 times in as many minutes.

The next day I was heading out for a few groceries. While standing outside the front door looking for my keys, I heard Kitty at the door meowing to get out. When I let her out, she hung around with me there on the steps. It was clear she was anxious about being outside. A vehicle went by out at the street, and she quickly hid in the shrubs by the front door. Before I could turn the key in the door to lock it, she was standing on the door facing, her nose pressed against the area where the door opens, waiting to go back inside - she may have thought I was heading back inside since I was facing the door. I let her back inside and left.

Since these events, I've been more aware and more observant of her fear of being outside and her apparent fear of being away from me. While on the surface this looks like a new problem, I'm hoping it is all part of her original problem, having merely become more visible now since she has begun to accept and open up to me. She used to appear ok outside, but maybe she was afraid even then, just not willing to let me see her fear. It's also possible that one or more person in the neighborhood may disapprove of outdoor cats and may have harassed her for such behaviors as pottying in flower beds, walking/sleeping on cars, stealing pet food, sleeping in open garages, and so forth.

Not knowing how else to help her through her fears, I'm just continuing to offer my love, care, and support in hopes that as she did finally learn to trust me so will she also eventually learn to trust that all is well in her life in general. As Liz put it so well, I continue to wonder what she may have endured in those early years that made her so fearful today.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

A few more pics, same day. These were the best I could do. Both cats tend to hang around close to my feet, where it's impossible to get a photo except of their backs. Note here again that Cocoa is very black. Also all pics, these and earlier ones, were taken with the same camera (the Nikon) and with the same settings. I was particularly unable to get Cocoa to pose for a decent shot of his face. I'm posting this one to show, again, how black he is at present.

After sitting in that flower bed some 10-15ft from me just long enough to wash her face, Kitty then walked over to me, which is where the cover photo originated (her walking across flower bed toward me). In that photo, she looks to me as though she is hunting prey, perhaps because her gaze is so intense, but in actuality, she was just walking (from that spot where she sat washing her face) over to me where she remained until I started back towards the door. Then she made a bee line for the door and back inside to her cozy bed.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Cocoa is doing really well. He has been spending his days snoozing indoors for several days now and then going out to prowl at night. Other times he will just come in twice a day, morning and evening, to eat. Sometimes, when the weather is nice, he will hang around in the back yard all day coming inside every few hours to look around, nap a bit, and then go outside again.

He passed a big milestone recently, one I wasn't really expecting. You may recall that he was always uncomfortable coming into the MBR. The rest of the house is very open with high ceilings and missing walls. For a semi-feral cat such a Cocoa, that probably feels less restrictive. The MBR, on the other hand, is more closed in, more cave-like, I figure, from his perspective. A couple years ago in an effort to help him get over his fear of the MBR, I started feeding him in there. Not an optimum solution, but I hoped it would help him to see the room in a more positive light. For a while he ate and left quickly, so that it didn't appear to be working.

In time, he learned to feel safe in the MBR but only if I was in there with him. When he came in each morning, he would sit and 'holler' loudly (no way I can call that a meow) until I would followed him to the MBR so he could eat. If I was busy cooking or dressing or something, that could be quite annoying. Not wanting to condone his impatience, I would continue with what I was doing and try to ignore him (not easy). Then one morning when I was fixing breakfast, I noticed that he just came in and quietly disappeared. I was shocked to find him in the MBR alone, just sitting on the bed waiting for me. For Cocoa, this was a big step forward for him to be willing to go into the MBR alone like that.

After that day, he has been fine in the MBR alone ever since. Now after he finishes his breakfast, many days he curls up in a chair in the MBR where he sleeps all day long. I go elsewhere in the house, do housework, cook, work in my office, etc while he remains in the MBR alone. Recently, I've even gone outside, taken Widget for a walk around the block, etc all while Cocoa was napping in the MBR alone. I think he really has conquered that fear now.

Loudonville , OH(Zone 5b)

Siamese cats become darker colored in cool temperatures and lighter in color in warm temperatures. People that are showing their Siamese cats always have very warm homes.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Interesting, slvrwilo,

I didn't know that. Of course, Cocoa is not by any stretch of the imagination a Siamese, but it's abundantly clear from his brown pics that there was at least one Siamese somewhere "in the woodpile". The boy clearly has a couple Siamese genes. While the black on chocolate brown coloring is not as obvious as Seal Point, Chocolate Point, and so forth, the pics of Cocoa in his brown coat show an unmistakeable Siamese pattern.

Cocoa's 2 'coats' differ not only in color but also in texture. I like both of his coats, equally well. His black coat is very sleek and shiny with hairs that lay flat against his skin. His brown coat is much more dense, bordering on fluffy, with hairs packed tightly together so that they tend to stand more upright. The brown coat does not have the lacquered shine of the black coat. The black coat feels silky smooth to the touch, while the brown coat feels more like an ultra-plush stuffed animal or a faux fur coat. Like having 2 different cats.

I looked around for some of his brown pics. I didn't find the one I wanted, but here are a couple. in the 1st one he was pretty young (under 1yr). In both you can see the distinctly black 'points'. In the 2nd one you can see some of the tiger or tabby striping on his legs. I never said any of these were particularly attractive markings, just interesting. When these photos were originally published, many people thought the sun was bringing out the brown coloring, like the way velvet is darker or lighter depending on which way you look at it, but, hopefully, it is clear from a comparison of both sets of pics that the sun was every bit as bright in the pic above where he is jet black. During those times when he is brown in photos, he is also brown when viewed with the naked eye, brown with unmistakable black points.

I rather enjoy his changeable coloring. It is certainly not boring.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Hi Cheryl,

I didn't realize that Cocoa is so much bigger than Miss Kitty! As Silvrwilo mentioned, my Siamese mix get much darker during the winter. In the summer, he has the typical coloring, but in the winter, the tips of the lighter fur are dusty brown. His daily habits are similar to Cocoa's current habits, he generally sleeps inside during the day (especially this time of year) & goes out (often to hunt) at night.

Now, that you have a new perspective into Kitty's personality, it's all the more important & wonderful, for her happiness, that she trusts you & can rely on you! Her face looks more content/happier, to me, in her pictures. If she lived in a constant state of fear/anxiety, living outside, & she wasn't yet used to you & your home, she never really had any peace - poor girl! So glad that she's found peace with you...

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

that is interesting about Miss Kitty's phobias.

My guess is that just showing her love... that will help keep her content.

I know I've said it before... you have beautiful kitties. I think Kitty is stunning.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

I'm thinking that you and your home are the only safe and loving experiences she's ever had. Perhaps she has a touch of PTSD, and the sounds etc of outdoors induce flashbacks. Before knowing and trusting you she had a protective emotional 'shell' that allowed her to function. However now that she has her guard down to be free to love and relate to you, she feels more vulnerable out side without her prior aloof, 'tough gal' shell.

This message was edited Feb 8, 2013 6:24 PM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Liz,

You can't really get any size info from the close up pics I've been posting. For a long time I didn't realize the size difference between them either. They very rarely stand beside each other. I knew Cocoa was larger, but I didn't realize just how much larger until I did finally see them next to each other. That plus weighing him recently, made it obvious.

Oh, I'm so glad you think she looks happier and more content. She would almost surely have to be happier. I've become like this giant Santa Claus to her. Any time I'm in the kitchen cooking, she is at my feet rubbing on me as industriously as possible. It's like I'm one of those Genie lamps, and she is hoping for 3 wishes - all of which will involve meat scraps. I give her a bite sometimes but not always. That doesn't stop her from trying though. When I come home from the market and am repackaging meats for the freezer, sometimes I will cut 2 or 3 tiny, bite-sized pieces off for her, pop them in the microwave for 20sec, cool, and give them to her for a special treat.

It's just so wonderful to have her rubbing against my legs, something she never, ever did before - no matter how many treats I gave her in those days. It's also wonderful that now I can reach down and pet her and pet her and pet her, and she will just stay there rubbing me as long as I will keep petting her - and she holds her head high looking so proud and so happy. I wish I could figure out a way to take a picture of that look. (Hmm. maybe I can. thinking...)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, Terese!

I've been thinking about doing a pastel painting of Kitty from one of the better photos I took a few years back. If I do - and if it turns out decent - I'll post a copy. I used to think she was ugly, but now I'm biased. I see her through different lenses now.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Sheri,

I'm thinking it may be something along those lines, too. Kitty does still go outside daily. She seemed fairly ok in the backyard today when she went out alone.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Aastel painting will be nie to see...now will this be before or after the Heidi book? :-)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

:-)

Probably before.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

LOL....Have great fun. I look forward to you sharing that pastell. Do you use pastel chalcs and spray fixitive over the medium? That's what I do when I do.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Sheri,

(edited to remove my lengthy OT stuff)

I use soft pastels; however, while they are sometimes mistakenly associated with chalk, they really are not chalk. This is especially true of the professional grade pastels I use (because my teacher at age 17 stressed that we should only use professional grade products).

I rarely use fixative. I have a can of workable fixative and use it only if necessary to gain more 'tooth' (get the paper to accept more pastel). I don't use it over the final layer of pastels to 'fix' the pastel to the surface, because fixative tends to alter (darken) colors and in so doing may ruin the painting.

This message was edited Feb 12, 2013 7:41 PM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Sheri,

Tell me about your art work. How did you get started in pastel? What do you do with your work? Have any you might like to post?


Edited to remove my OT stuff.

This message was edited Feb 12, 2013 7:43 PM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Kitty came home shortly after I posted that she was out. There was a decent lull in showers, and that's when she showed up, soaking wet and starving. I toweled her dry and fed her, twice, since she gobbled the 1st serving down quickly and asked for more. I figured she probably needed it, since she didn't get dinner last night. As soon as she ate, she went directly to her LR chair and has been napping there ever since. Cocoa came in early this morning and has been inside snoozing since breakfast.

It has been a wet, dreary day here today. Hoping for sunshine tomorrow.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Cocoa came in yesterday morning around 8AM and went out again a few minutes ago when the rain finally stopped and the sun came back out. Kitty went out shortly before him. Both cats spent last night inside, and both cats stayed inside while I was out running errands earlier, and both were inside for over 24hrs before going out.


Edited to remove all of my OT stuff. I was having a very bad day. Arguing with insurance carrier, postal carrier put my mail against the front of the box where it got soaked so bad I had to carefully lay the wet pages out to dry, left my car window down so my car also got soaked. One of the few positive outcomes is that someone saw my open car window and went out in the rain to cover it with plastic. I'm thinking it was either my next door neighbor or a guy I met recently (the brand on the plastic pointed to one or the other of them). And my back/hip has been hurting again the past couple of days. So, bad day. Hoping for a better day tomorrow - and more sunshine.

This message was edited Feb 12, 2013 7:52 PM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Ok, now this was cute. Wish I had a camera with me at the time.

Sometime mid to late afternoon the rain stopped and the sun peaked out for a bit, and both cats seized the opportunity to go outside. A few minutes ago, I went to the front door to turn on the LR light (so the house doesn't look so dark from the street). By that time it was raining again. (This is beginning to look like one of those 40 days and 40 nights kind of rains. We're on about Day 3.)

Through the narrow window flanking the front door, I caught a glimpse of Cocoa's head. He was sitting patiently at the front door, in the tiny corner that is protected from all but blowing rain. I opened the front door to let him in. As he moved, I saw that Kitty had been sitting there very close beside him, the two of them sharing that tiny space while waiting to get back inside and out of the rain. I almost couldn't believe it. Clearly, when the situation warrants it, they can get along after all. Once I opened the door, both cats leaped to the door and inside, happy to get out of the rain and back inside where it's dry.

The sight of them waiting together to get back inside was unexpected not only because they were out there huddled together (getting along) but also because both cats had already been inside for more than 24hrs when they asked to go out, yet both had come back an hour or two later eager to get back inside.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Cheryl, I found your information on pastels VERY interesting. I got mine while attending NC School of the Arts back in.......(tmi)....and they are carefully packed away somewhere in in my house. I do remember that they seemed extreemly costly for a 10"-12" long box of perhaps 10 or so vivid and multicolored cylindrical things (not chalk) about 4" long each. They came from a small art shop near the school that had many artist's tools (brushes, easles all types of medium) etc. We students got a special discount but the pastel assortment box was still over $100. All of my works were lost in a housefire 1/82. As that was over 30 years ago I think they must have been the good ones. Two assignments I particularly remember were simply after that color renderings done at 5 minute intervals during sunrise and sunset on three different days. Prior to that I knew that each were beautiful to behold, butnever in my wildest imagination had I any idea of the spectacular light show that is created each day for us. If I remember correctly each event required 5-7 separatet pages utill I decided to divide each page in half to save paper. I have not done much (a few sketches ) since then. There's always tomorrow though. Lighting designe was my major with Costume design next.

OT Sheri :-)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Sheri,

Thanks. I found that very interesting. It does sound as though you were using the professional type. Incidentally, prices on pastels and other materials have gone up a LOT since I was 17, so you can't compare what you paid then with the prices I gave (which were today's prices). I have one box, a very large assortment of 400 or so colors that I bought in the late 90's for $400 - which seemed high to me at the time. That same box is now selling for nearly $2000. Needless to say, I'm glad I bought them when I did. They last forever, so it's practically an investment.

I removed all the info I posted earlier on pastels, because not only was it OT (and a lot of it) but also because I was afraid it made me sound like a snob - and that couldn't be farther from the truth. I've had times of plenty and times of extreme scarcity as I imagine is true for many people. These days I'm pinching pennies and living the frugal life, trying to save as much as possible for hard times. Were it not for my teacher (at 17) who stressed the need to buy professional grade materials, I imagine that I would have bought the cheaper products, thinking those expensive, professional products were for successful, professional artists. Were it not for my former teacher, I doubt I would appreciate the reasons for buying professional products.

I wanted to stress to everyone who may read this the difference professional grade art products make and why you should use them if you can. On the other hand, I do understand that sometimes we just can't afford $100s of dollars for the best products. I'm not able to lay out that kind of money right now myself and am just lucky to have bought my supplies in years back. If student/hobbyist products are the best one can afford (and I'm speaking now to everyone out there), then by all means use them. Better to use student grade than give up art altogether. I just wanted people to know that student grade art products work against you. If you are using student grade paints, pastels, etc and are experiencing a lot of frustration in your efforts to produce the desired results, know that the problem may actually be the product. Even your favorite artists probably couldn't produce a good painting using student grade paints or pastels. Also, one really shouldn't use student grade products if there is any chance you might want to sell the painting, this because student grade products will most likely fade over time (some colors, not all), thus changing your work.

Thanks for filling me in on your art experience. I found it very interesting. Incidentally, the latest group that is having difficulty gaining professional acceptance for its work is the color pencil group. Have you seen any of the recent results professional artists are now producing with color pencil? It's unbelievable and quite impressive. They have developed methods for producing works (with color pencil) that look like oil paintings. Awesome. But it takes a LOT of time to produce such results in C.P. Just as with pastels, they are not using the color pencils you might buy for kids but rather professional grade pencils with light fast pigments.

Thanks again.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Anyone who reads even a bit of your writing would already know that you are a very sensitive and special person! Snob? No way!
I have been asked how I knew so much about so many things. My response is that I am very interested in life, and the world around me. This makes for a great beginner and therfore have tried, taisted or experienced many things. A Jill of all trades yet an expert at none. LOL

Sheri

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Sheri,

Thank you so much for that wonderful compliment! I'm a bit of a 'Jill of all trades, expert at none' too. If only there existed a good career path for people with that knowledge set. It often seems like many of us on this and the Heidi threads have a number of such things in common.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I have several things to tell you about Kitty & Cocoa - so please don't run away. I would like 1st to share with you that (w/reference to the other day when I was so frustrated) (1) the insurance glitch finally got worked out, (2) the soaking wet mail dried and though a bit crumple here and there seems no less valuable for the wear, and (3) while my car may be a bit soggy for a day or two, it's times like these when one can really appreciate the true value of an old car. Each time I find myself all flustered as was the case the other day, I try (even if often in vain) to remind myself that these things always get worked out one way or another and being upset never seems to help the process along one bit. Maybe someday I will learn not to get upset by such things, things which although they may seem huge at the time, are really but trivia in the larger scheme of things. Maybe someday...

Now on to cats:

Cocoa: I'll begin with Cocoa who has been staying indoors almost as much as Kitty this past week or so. Although I figure this is due in large part to current 'monsoon season', he did also spend 2 beautiful, sunny, warm, & dry days indoors as well. Maybe he is learning from Kitty that there are numerous benefits to being indoors, like access to food, clean water, climate control, and a soft, dry bed for napping away from cars, people, other animals, and so forth. Again today, he is asleep in his favorite chair. He has spent every day asleep in that chair for nearly a week now. Sometimes he goes out and about at night. Other nights he spends still napping in that chair.

Cocoa has finally shown improvement on that incessant meowing (more like a high pitched cry) when he doesn't get his way immediately. He used to sit and scream endlessly until I let him out or fed him or followed him to the MBR or whatever he wanted at the time. As difficult as it was to ignore him and go on about my business (until I was ready to tend to him), I've stuck to my guns on this issue, and it has finally paid off. Now, when he wants out, instead of sitting in the hall screaming endlessly, he meows once and then sits patiently in the hall or by the door waiting. I like this new behavior and want to encourage more of it, so now I curtail what I'm doing a little sooner to reward his patience by getting to him faster.

Cocoa is smarter & more trainable than I realized. Since he grew up I've had problems feeding him & Kitty together. He thinks he should be able to eat his pick of the food from both dishes, and Kitty doesn't argue with him on this. She just walks away looking annoyed while he licks the gravy off her canned food as well as his own. In case I didn't mention, he likes the canned food now. For the longest time he would have nothing to do with the stuff. Those were the peaceful times. Then he started eating a taste now and then. Finally, now he loves the stuff and will eat a serving any time he can get it.

For a while now I've been feeding Cocoa in a separate room from where Kitty eats. That helps, but now that he is older, I can no longer get away with giving Kitty her canned food and then giving him his dry food in a separate room. He's too smart for that now. He knows she gets canned food, so he often likes to go to her room to check it out for himself. If he smells the cat food, he will stick his big head in her dish, gently displacing hers, and proceed to eat his fill before coming to his room to eat.

When he would hop up onto the chair (where Kitty eats), I would tell him, "No" calmly but firmly and then either make him get down or pick him up. When I pick him up from the chair, he holds on to the upholstered dining room chair with his claws, so I just calmly and quietly lift him AND the chair - until he finally sees the futility of his efforts and drops the chair. Then I take him to his room to eat his food. To be fair, I grab the can of cat food as we pass through the kitchen, and serve it to him in his room along with the dry food.

After doing this a few times, Cocoa has finally reached the point where if I say, "No" when I see him getting ready to jump up onto the chair with Kitty, he will actually back away and follow me to his room - as long as I grab the cat food can and show it to him as we pass through the kitchen. He seems to understand very clearly that (1) I'm not going to let him eat Kitty's food and (2) I'm going to give him some in his room. Even if he has already jumped up onto the chair beside Kitty, if I say, "Down" he will actually jump down and then as long as I show him the cat food can, he will follow me to his room. He understands the entire scenario quite well, and obeys my commands. He just needs to see proof (the can) that if he behaves he will get some, too.

I really didn't know such things were possible with cats. I always figured cats did as they pleased regardless. I also didn't realize Cocoa was that smart. I've underestimated that boy.

More on the Kitty side of things a bit later...

Odenton, MD(Zone 7b)

I thin the question is "Who is training whom?". You may be teaching Cocoa 'Down" but he is teaching you to pick up the can of cat food, lol.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Catbird,

Yes, I agree. I think that goes to what I said earlier. Cocoa is pretty smart, smarter than I realized. For a long time he didn't want the canned food. I tried to convince him to taste it, but he was adamant in his resistance. More recently, however, his taste matured to the point that he learned to love the taste of canned food. Once that happened, he became aware that he was being 'cheated' in that Kitty was getting the good stuff while he was being carted off to a different location and fed only dry food. Clearly, he didn't approve of the situation, so he set out to fix it.

Many days upon coming inside he would insist on going to Kitty's dish to check for canned food - and eat any he found whether Kitty was there or not. Absolutely, Cocoa took the initiative to get what he wanted and to let me know it. By 'trainable', I didn't mean to imply that I was somehow getting my way or controlling him. Rather my use of the word 'trainable' was meant to compliment his ability to understand the situation and make the more complex decision to walk away from food 'in the hand' realizing I was promising him the same food in another room. None of this was about me. It was all about him and his ability to reason in more complex ways than I believed possible.

I really never expected a cat, any cat, whose face was only inches from a highly coveted food item to make the decision to get down and walk away w/o even so much as a taste and do so only because he was asked to do so by a human, a human who at the moment didn't even have the can in hand to offer as an alternative. When he gets down like that, however, he remains in close proximity, still in the doorway to the room with the food and will agree to leave the room only if I show him the cat food can or a bowl of the food, thus promising to give him the food in another room. To me this ability to understand the promise and to make the decision to walk away from the item he wants and do so for something as abstract as a promise shows a degree of complex thought that goes beyond what I previously believed possible with cats. I'm thrilled to be wrong, btw, and thrilled to be having this level of communication with Cocoa.

I'm happy to give Cocoa some of the canned food, btw. Like I said, a couple years ago I tried to get him to eat it. I don't, however, want him to take Kitty's food, so I'm happy that he listens when I ask him to get down and walk away. I don't give him canned food every day, because I don't want him to learn to expect that. Kitty 'must' have canned food for breakfast every morning. Cocoa is happy to eat his dried food, unless he smells canned food down the hall, that is. He sees it more like something we might have some days but not everyday, like a special treat. I would like to keep it that way. It's bad enough that he thinks he 'must' get a Temptations treat (dessert) with his breakfast daily. Cats seem to form habits very easily. I don't want him to form the 'I must have canned food for breakfast' habit like Kitty.

Now that Cocoa has learned to enjoy canned food, I give him some any time he comes inside while Kitty is eating hers. To do otherwise would seem unfair. I never want him to think that I'm treating him unfairly. He & I share a very special bond. However, to keep him from forming the 'must have canned food everyday' habit, some days I avoid feeding Kitty her canned food until after he goes back outside. (Kitty has access to dry food any time she is indoors, btw.)

So, yes, the training goes both ways, but I'm happy about that as real communication goes 2 ways.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

The other day I promised to return with some info on Kitty. Sorry I'm running a bit late with that, but here it is...

I'm happy to tell you that Kitty has been going out a bit more the past few days. She seems to be doing pretty well in the back yard. When I reported on her apparent fear of going outside and, worse, what appeared a potentially unhealthy dependency on me, this was something I had noticed only recently, something I hadn't been observing long enough to be sure about it. I'm now happy to report that her fear is not bad enough to keep her from coming and going as needed or desired.

I don't think this is a new fear. I think there were signs of this fear in her all along. It's just that before she became sufficiently comfortable with me and with being indoors, she really had no other choice but to cope with the outdoors, fear or no fear. As for signs this fear was there all along, recall that when I 1st found her, she was crouching in the shrubs near my front door that night looking clearly frightened at the time. She even hissed at me, sending mixed messages. On the one hand she had brought her kittens to my door in search of help. On the other hand, she was hissing to say, "Don't mess with me, Human!"

She had given birth to and raised her kittens in my backyard under a large clump of prostrate rosemary, yet until that night I had never seen her or the kittens. I now think she had probably come to my backyard originally, lured by the frequent chicken I was putting out back there for the raccoons. At that time I was buying 1 or more rotisserie and/or fried chickens weekly and tossing not only the carcasses out back but often the thighs and legs which I did not like, especially since the deli often cooked them without removing the fat. While raccoons will eat chicken and chicken bones, they preferred the dry cat food and some of the other items I was offering them at the time. so they often left the chicken behind, which was perfect for a half-starved cat trying to make it on her own while pregnant and nursing (any dry cat food they left when full was also perfect for Kitty). I recall at the time being somewhat surprised that the chicken was being consumed so dependably even in winter when the raccoons are far less hungry and often don't even finish their cat food.

What is amazing is that Kitty managed to live and eat in my backyard all that time w/o being seen. It was only after the fact that I was able to put all of this together to realize she was living back there and it was she who was consuming the chicken. During the time when I was putting chicken and bones out there almost daily (a few pieces at a time), a time or two while in the front yard after dark I had seen the silhouette of a cat going down the edge of my property line, apparently headed for the backyard. I never saw the cat in the back yard, but I figured it was headed back there, lured by the chicken I was putting out at the time. Around that same time I had seen a Siamese from down the street in my front yard a time or two during the daytime. At the time, I figured it was she whose silhouette I was seeing at night. Now, in retrospect, I suspect it was probably Kitty on her way to/from the den where she was keeping her kittens.

It wasn't until after I had met Kitty and was feeding her and planning to adopt her that I learned about the den under the rosemary where she was keeping her kittens in my backyard. I learned this when I extended my contract with my gardener, who had previously been maintaining the front yard only, to include the backyard. while cleaning up the backyard, he stumbled upon the den and reported it to me. I told him to mark off an area around the den and leave it untended to allow the kittens to continue to live there.

It was only later as I put all of these pieces together that I came to understand that Kitty and her kittens had been living and eating in my backyard all along. The night she appeared at my door finally making herself known to me occurred when I tired of chicken and stopped buying it. For a period of some 2 to 3 months there I had been on a chicken kick, buying 1 and even sometimes 2 rotisserie chickens weekly from the grocery deli plus a fried chicken. Some days I also stopped off for a 2 to 3 piece box of chicken on my way home from work. All of the bones plus the uneaten chicken (legs/thighs) were deposited out back in the area where I fed the raccoons. For a starving, homeless cat, this almost daily meal of chicken and/or chicken bones was a godsend which made it possible for her and the kittens to survive.

When I tired of chicken and abruptly stopped putting the leftovers out back, Kitty & her kittens suddenly lost their meal source. The raccoons would not have left even so much as a single piece of dry cat food for them most nights, as that was the raccoons' favorite meal and to avoid leaving food to attract rats, I was careful to give them only the amount I knew they would eat. Once the chicken was gone, Kitty would have gotten nothing most days/nights, and she probably couldn't kill enough mice, rats, and birds daily to feed herself and her kittens who by that time were on solid food but still very much dependent on her for their survival.

It was then that she came to my front door, kittens at her side. I remember at the time equating the two, her appearance at the front door with the cessation of free backyard chicken. I'm guessing during the time when she and the kittens were living and eating in the backyard, she had been watching me, observing my interactions with the raccoons and how I fed them. She had, no doubt, noticed that the raccoons were not afraid of me, that they freely walked right up beside me, crowded around me even, and that some even took food from my hand. I believe it was for this reason that she connected me with the food offerings and had the tinniest bit of trust necessary to reveal herself and her kittens to me at the front door that night. When the chicken offerings stopped, when she and her kittens were starving and desperate, I think she came to my front door hoping I would give her food as she had seen me do for the raccoons daily. She was still very much afraid of me as evidenced by her hissing, but given that she was desperate she had gained the barest modicum of trust needed to approach me, and that's where it all began.

This isn't what I had actually planned to tell you, btw. It's just part of my offering of 'proof' that Kitty was afraid all along. She lived in my backyard w/o ever being seen by day and was only seen as a silhouette once or twice at night. She taught her kittens to hide under the rosemary at the back of the property, coming out only at night to eat. She taught them to fear, avoid, and flee from humans, a lesson which plagues Cocoa to this day. Gladys and some of the neighbors had seen Kitty and her kittens when she took out at night in search of supplemental food from pet food dishes (especially after the chicken was cut off). Gladys referred to Kitty as "that wild cat" and was shocked to see me interacting with her up close when I began feeding her and her kittens at my front door. One evening as she was walking by while I was feeding them Gladys said with disbelief, "That isn't that wild cat is it?" She went on to comment that I must have a special way with animals because no one had been able to catch Kitty before. (Kitty was smart enough to know who to trust and not trust.)

There is more but, hopefully, this is sufficient to show that Kitty was afraid all along, hiding out by day, sneaking around at night in search of food, not allowing others to get near her, teaching her kittens that their lives depended on avoiding humans at all costs, and so on.

...I STILL have some recent news to tell you regarding Kitty. Not sure if I will get to that tonight...

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Not sure if I mentioned this yet, but I think I know what has ratcheted up Kitty's fears outside. 1.5yrs or so ago the city erected a stop sign 1 house down from me. We all hate it and wonder what the city was thinking. The stop sign is in the 'middle' of a 20mph street (not an intersection). It's a very quiet neighborhood with almost no traffic. The street is an effective dead end as it goes no where looping back onto itself a few blocks down from my house, so that it is only useful for residents. I have never seen more than 1 car at the stop sign at any time, yet now every car has to stop there just the same. As soon as I back out of my drive, I have to stop at the [stupid] stop sign (alone, no less). I'm guessing the city had some left over signs and nothing to do that day...

The stop sign probably benefits the cats by making it less likely they will be run over, but I think the noise made by the cars and especially the trucks taking off again from that stop sign is what I think is scaring Kitty (and Cocoa, too, for that matter). There are more trucks (moving vans, furniture deliver, appliance delivery & repair, UPS, FedEx, etc) than you might expect, and they are much noisier when taking off from a stop than you might think. Trucks strain mightily to overcome inertia and get going again. Several times when Kitty went out and then quickly fled back inside, it was due to just such a truck engine straining noisily. This new 'predator', the noisy trucks, is, after all, relatively new on the scene, having shown up only in the last year. If you listen to Gladys, Kitty may have lived in this neighborhood (alone) for a number of years, and all that time w/o the noisy trucks taking off from the stop sign, until now. Trucks were here all along, but w/o the stop sign they go buy quietly.

I even notice the difference from inside my house, btw. Before, whenever I heard the sound of the UPS truck straining to take off or of its breaks squeaking to stop, I recognized this as an indication that I was probably getting a delivery, but now that the truck has to stop at that stop sign, I hear that sound several times a day when I'm at home. I also hear the cars taking off, not to mention all the other trucks. It's not loud enough to be bothersome to me from inside, but I'm noticing that it does scare the cats, always when they are outside and sometimes even when inside. I'm pretty sure that stop sign is the major reason for Kitty's heightened fear outside now and the reason she is especially fearful in the front yard.

Edited to add: I apologize if this is a repeat of information I may have already posted. I recall type some of it up already, but don't recall if I actually 'sent' it. Sometimes I start posts w/o finishing them. Some of these get lost during reboots, etc. Basically, I was too lazy to go back through the recent posts to see if this info got posted. Sorry about that.

This message was edited Feb 16, 2013 5:44 AM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

The other day, I was out in the back yard photographing flowers. Kitty was out there with me. She always enjoyed hanging out with me in the garden, except she used to stay mostly just out of reach, rarely allowing me to pet her. On this day, she was right against my ankles, and when I reached down to pet her, she was soft and relaxed as she rubbed against me. I was SO awesome. I had almost forgotten what it was like to be able to pet your cat at will. So nice. I could almost just forget about photos and just enjoy stroking her soft, silky body - but after a few minutes I did get back to the camera.

As I walked around the yard admiring plants and taking pics, Kitty walked with me, stopping off now and then along the way only to catch up with me again a few minutes later. I didn't realize Cocoa was even out there with us until my path led me to the auto hose reel housing upon which he was sunning himself. "Cocoa!" The words escaped my lips before I had a chance to think. I glanced over at Kitty nearby and saw the unmistakably displeased look on her face, but it was too late to take the words of excitement back. "Kitty!" I said, turning my attention to her in hopes of making up for my error. Almost instantly, Kitty came over to me and jumped up on little table beside me and lying down there. This was new. This was a definite change in behavior for Kitty. She had always been jealous, but whereas before she had dealt with it by acting disinterested, now she was asking for the attention she craved.

I stopped and petted Kitty for a few minutes. When I had 1st seen Cocoa out there with us, I had been excited at the opportunity to maybe get a picture of him, too. I had been taking pics of Kitty all during my outdoor photo session with the flowers. Upon seeing Cocoa I had simply been thrilled at the prospect of getting some pics of him, as well. Now I realized it was important that I give Kitty LOTS of attention. I could snap a pic or two of Cocoa but he shouldn't appear to be the center of attention. So that's what I did. I even took a bunch of extra pics of Kitty to keep her in the spotlight, and I actually believe she knew the difference and appreciated the attention. I did get some pics of Cocoa, but I got a lot more pics of Kitty whom I lavished with back to back pics as though she were a super model, stopping only briefly to grap a quick pic of Cocoa.

Cocoa, btw, is not jealous. I've heaped attention on him since he was just a little fella. He is very self confident. He loves to be rubbed and petted, messaged and 'scritched', but sometimes he has to get up and walk away, going over to his spot to sleep as if saying, "I know, I know, You love me. I'm just going to step over here for a few minutes to get some space. I'll be back after my nap." Since Cocoa isn't the least jealous or insecure, I figure I can afford to heap a little extra attention on Kitty for a while in hopes that maybe someday she, too, will know without question that she is loved.

This is the story I had been waiting to tell you. I sort of glossed over the important point of this, that being the extreme difference in how Kitty handled her feelings of jealousy this time, the fact that this time instead of sulking in silence she was able to ask for what she wanted. I was very impressed with this change in her.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Here is a photo montage from that event.

Pic 1: Kitty immediately after I saw Cocoa and spoke his name. She is looking over at him.
Pic 2: Kitty after hopping up on the table next to me
Pic 3: Still on table, casting a glance over at 'that rogue'
Pic 4: Cocoa in the Adirondack chair (where Kitty is looking in Pic 3)
Pic 5: Kitty starting to enjoy the attention being focused on her

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Has anyone out there seen the sun lately - like in the last 2 to 3 wks? We have had dark, overcast skies and endless drizzle punctuated here and there with outright downpours. It has been like that for weeks, so long that I'm starting to worry that the sun may not be up there anymore, may have exploded and fallen from the sky or burned itself out and gone dark. Help. I need to know that somewhere out there sunlight still exists.

All this endless drizzle plus periodic downpours, the whole world being soaked and icky even during the occasional 10min or so w/o rain. Both of my cats have taken up near permanent residence indoors as a result. If this continues I may have to raise my rates for litter box pickup.

So all this time inside has lead to a couple of interesting changes. Before Cocoa started spending all day and 1/2 the night indoors, Kitty's goto sleep spot had been a chair in the LR. I figured she chose that spot for the sunlight. The LR is on the S & SW sides of the house, and I usually leave the blinds in there partly open to admit some light. It has always been Kitty's favorite room. A while back I put a very snuggly, shaggy rug over that chair to make it more inviting for Kitty - no, it's not an attractive feature, but who among us doesn't do crazy things for her kitties?

Unfortunately, the LR is on the front of the house, and I spent almost all of my time in the back of the house (great room, kitchen, MGR, etc). I could probably rent the front part of the house out and never miss it. None the less, Kitty was always quite content alone in the LR - until HE moved inside. Cocoa's goto spot is in the MBR. He sleeps in there night and day. In the evenings, I often watch TV in the MBR. This means Cocoa is 'with me' for several hours a day, while Kitty is way down the hall on the other side of the house. I could tell she wasn't happy about this arrangement, but sleeping in the LR was, after all, her choice.

A few days ago Kitty began napping in the master bath (instead of the LR), curled up on an padded, tufted, upholstered, vanity stool where she has been a constant fixture now for some 3 days. Her motives seem obvious. She wanted to be closer to me. She didn't like being so far away on the front of the house while Cocoa was in here with me. She came into the MBR a few times looking around. Apparently she didn't find a comfortable sleeping spot in the MBR. She probably didn't want to nap that close to Cocoa anyhow or that close to the noisy TV. She chose the master bath because it is close but separate by a wall, attached yet around the corner, close enough for her to keep an eye on things, separate enough to allow for some privacy.

It's clear Kitty still harbors some jealousy. What I like about New Kitty is that instead of pouting and being angry, now she takes action to improve things and/or get her needs met. Much better way to handle things.

Today something REALLY big happened, something most of you probably take for granted with your cats, but something HUGE for Ms Kitty. Today for the 1st time EVER, she rolled over onto her back, legs apart, and relaxed to allow me to rub her tummy!!! Never before had she bared her vulnerable tummy in this manner, inviting me to rub it gently. Never before had she trusted me this much. In fact, I had no idea what a lovely, light beige color her tummy really is. It was awesome to finally be able to rub her tummy. :-D

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Isn't it amazing how once they start to trust you, that trust just seems to build almost daily! Sounds like you can all relax more now & be one happy family (most of the time)!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

So true, Liz,

So true. I'm really optimistic about things now.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Liz,

How are things going with your kitties?

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

After 3yrs of not even being permitted to pet her [head] most of the time, finally being invited to rub her vulnerable tummy was like winning a long coveted prize which always seemed to lie beyond one's reach.

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Things are going well with my kitties, considering that it's only been six months since I brought the little one home. I let the little girl out a couple of weeks ago & she freaked out & spent a day & a half under the deck, so I guess she's an indoor kitty for the short-term at least. But she's an absolute joy - playful & affectionate - on & off my DH's & my laps constantly! We still play musical doors, so the oldest & youngest never have access to each other, when we're gone or asleep. But we have an open door policy, when we're home & awake, & it's nice to see the eldest venturing into the house more & more, and the youngest starting to become a bit more comfortable with him around. I took the attached pictures, last weekend, as proof that they can co-exist (for when we need a reminder) & that there's hope for a permanent open door policy in the future.

Thumbnail by lizzipa Thumbnail by lizzipa
Dover AFB, DE(Zone 7a)

Kitty sure has come 'full-circle' and I am so happy for you two!!! There is a good chance that you will be able to call her to the bedroom or carry her in there to a comfortable spot and settle her in for the night. Gosh, this is so great to see! This shows that with the right communication: even the most resistant individual can change.
And Liz, it looks like your two are building tolerance for each other and that is good news!

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