Kitty & Cocoa 18 - MIA

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

This is the ongoing saga of Kitty & Cocoa, two former strays and now pets. This thread series began 3 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.

Both cats have been with me ever since, living here as indoor/outdoor cats who come and go as they please, or at least as they can get someone to open the door for them. Cocoa (the 'kitten') grew into a big, lovable fella, who, while comfortable with me, unfortunately, remained feral to all other humans. For years Kitty would have nothing to do with me besides seeing me as her waitress/doorman. This past year she finally came around and is now very lovable, wanting to be rubbed, scratched, and petted endlessly, something she abhorred before.

It seemed things were going really well at long last, but now Cocoa has gone MIA. We had a bit of an emergency here last week. The water heater exploded filling the garage and sending torrents of water out into the street. This ultimately led to a crisis for Cocoa, as numerous people came to our house over the next few days, 1st to alert us to the problem and then to fix it. The home which had been a safe haven for Cocoa had now become suspect. It smelled of strange humans. Now he has been missing since Sunday (June 23). He has taken these 'vacations' before and usually shows up tired & hungry right about the time I give up on ever seeing him again. Well, it's that time ...

Prior Thread: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1297254/

Pic below is of Cocoa

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Pretty boy

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

The day of the water heater incident, I was taking a much needed late afternoon nap following a day of strenuous activity. Cocoa was snoozing blissfully on the bench at the foot of the bed where he had been all day since breakfast. He had been alone in the MBR most of the day as I was outside working. We were both roused all too suddenly from blissful sleep when a neighbor, unable to wake us from the front door, began to pound suddenly on the MBR window.

The sudden intrusion of an unknown entity banging relentlessly on a nearby window frightened ME momentarily, so I can only imagine how it must have terrified poor Cocoa. After years of teaching him that the house was safe, now a strange human was, it seemed, trying to break into our paradise.

At the moment, I forgot about Cocoa altogether. Still groggy, I hurried to the front door, closing the MBR door behind me to keep Widget contained. Water was gushing out from under my garage door and forming a river out in the street as far as one could see in all directions. A sizable and excited crowd had gathered on my front lawn. Within a matter of minutes, the fire department arrived - in a large fire truck with bells and whistles (poor Cocoa trapped in the now unsafe house and surrounded by strange sights, strange sounds, strange smells, and a growing crowd of strange humans!)

The firemen waded through water and searched frantically for a shutoff valve both inside and out. Unable to locate the shutoff outside or in the garage, they even spent time in the mud room (also deemed 'cat room') searching. We did finally get the water shut off. At some point in the commotion (but before the crowd had dispersed), I ran across Cocoa while I was walking through the house (it's all hazy in my memory now) and he was frantically searching for a way out. I opened the nearest door and let him go outside to 'safety'.

The next day a couple of guys arrived to remove the old unit and install a new one. They spent 1/2 the day or more in the garage, and I allowed one of them to come into the house several times to use the restroom (still not thinking about how all of this might effect Cocoa.) Then there was the cleanup effort - more strange people in the house. Forgot to mention that my sister and her husband also came over the night of the original incident. From Cocoa's perspective, they, too, are strangers.

The incident occurred early on Thursday evening, shortly before dark. Countless humans left there 'excited' and upset scents inside and all around the house that evening. The following day, Friday, the house was 'invaded' by the cleanup crew and the plumbers. One of the plumbers left his hammer behind that day. Completely oblivious to the side effects of my actions, I haphazardly set the hammer down on the end of the chaise lounge, one of Cocoa's favorite spots in the house for napping.

Over the next day or so, Cocoa continued to come home to eat, but I quickly noticed that he had changed. Whereas before he would spend hours & even days lazing about the house after eating, now he would come inside, quickly scarf down some food, and then rush to the door, screaming loudly and insistently to be let back out once more. As you may recall, Cocoa is given to crying out loudly to get what he wants, although over this past year or so he had finally grown more patient, having learned to meow once, maybe twice and then wait calmly for me to get around to him - but not anymore, not in the days after the water heater incident. Now he had to be let out immediately, and the sound of his voice as he screamed for me to come open the door was now panic-stricken, almost blood-curdling.

Sunday, the last day Cocoa was here to eat, I picked him up from the foyer rug where he was waiting to be let out. Still clueless about the effect this might have, I carried him to his favorite spot on the chaise lounge and set him down there, hoping he might lie down and take a nap like he always loved to do in the days B.I. (Before the Incident). I had already moved that hammer to another location, btw, but when I put Cocoa down on the chaise, he put his nose down to the fabric in the very place where the hammer had lain. For a few long minutes he stood there, his back strangely rounded, his nose to the fabric drawing in the scents the hammer had left behind, perspiration and skin cells from all those who had held it.

After a moment or so, Cocoa jumped down from the chaise and rushed back to the door where he stood all the more insistent about going outside. I opened the door and let him go.

The next day, Monday, the plumbers returned for the hammer, and once again I admitted them into the garage, this time to adjust the water heater thermostat. (More humans. More scents. More intrusion into the house that had previously been a safe haven.) Cocoa did not show up that day for breakfast and has not been seen since, despite the many trips I have made to the front and back doors to check for him through the day and even a couple trips to the garage to make sure he hadn't been accidentally trapped in there.

No sign of him anywhere. This is the 4th day, and I am growing concerned now. Although he hasn't pulled one of these things in a while now, Cocoa has left home before. In the past he has always shown up again about the time I had decided he was gone for good. Well, it's about that time now - time to come home, Cocoa. I am never more excited to see him than after one of his impromptu vacations, and I would truly love to have one of those reunion moments again now, right now.

All of this is further confounded by the fact that it is now quite hot outdoors, 90ish but made to feel much hotter due to the suffocating, near 100% humidity. When it is hot like this, the cats can only be found in the yard in the early AM or evening. Otherwise, it is just too hot out there for them, and they are off hiding out somewhere cooler. Worse yet, Cocoa's black coat soaks up the sun's heat like a dry towel soaking up water. Just a week or so ago I picked him up when he came in from outside and was shocked at how HOT he felt in my arms, hotter than a towel that had just been removed from the dryer, almost like a heating pad.

Worried...

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Sheri!

How ARE you?! I was just thinking of you the other day, wondering how you were doing, and wishing I had thought to ask for a way to check on you. Are you doing ok?

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Hopefully, now that you've expressed your worries, Cocoa will show up! That seems to be the way it works, often... At least you know he's not cold & I imagine there are plenty of little critters out there for him to hunt, if he's hungry. :-( Cocoa, go home to your mommy right now, you rascal!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

LOL, Liz,

Thanks. I needed that chuckle.

You are right, btw, Cocoa is apparently doing a brisk business as a predator this time of year. Before he pulled his disappearing act, I noticed that he was putting on weight again, not huge and roly-poly, not round like a ball with feet, but I could see a little 'pudge' starting to show when he would lie down and/or roll over on his back. I've always provided unlimited dry food for both cats. In an effort to nip Cocoa's recent weight gain, a couple weeks before his 'vacation', I decided to measure Cocoa's food out to insure he did not overeat.

As you might imagine, my effort to control Cocoa's food was a complete failure and made it very clear that he is supplementing his diet with prey items. I measured out 1c of food and placed it in his dish. It took him 3 days to consume that qty of food, and there was still a small amount left over. This result was repeated over and over. Every 3 days his dish would be nearly empty, and I would measure out another 1c of food to fill it. After about 2wks of this, I quit measuring. Basically, he was eating only 1/3c of dry cat food per day - and staying fat. (That's 1/2 to 1/3 the recommended amount for a cat several pounds lighter than Cocoa.) Clearly, that boy is snacking when he is outside.

It occurred to me that the fact that he really is not hungry right now, combined with the scary things that happened here recently, may be why he hasn't bothered to come home lately. He is clearly able to make a very good living on his own right now. Also, the current heat makes it uncomfortable for him to wait around outside for a chance to get into the house. There just isn't any really good shade in my yard.

So, yes, you have sized the situation up perfectly. Even those last few weeks before the scary water heater incident, it seemed to me like he was coming home more for attention and a hug than for food. As long as he isn't hurt or sick, that boy is probably living it up out there somewhere, just wandering around the community and doing what male (fixed) cats do. Hopefully, he heard you and will come home soon - if only for a hug. Thanks again for the laugh (that last line where you addressed the 'rascal' himself).

Durhamville, NY(Zone 5b)

I hope he comes home soon. Besides hunting hd me may have other humans that he can do the "staving cat" act on a maybe score treats like tuna fish.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Doug,

I would be so happy for him, if that were the case, but Cocoa is feral. I know it seems unlikely, since he is fairly comfortable around me, but his gut wrenching fear of humans (other than me) is so deeply entrenched that I have never even been able to hold onto him while walking to within 30ft of any other person.

His mother (Kitty) raised him & his brother in the forest behind my house. They had no human contact. They were taught to hide out by day, go out hunting only under cover of darkness, and flee for their lives should they see a human. When she could no longer catch enough food to feed them and herself, Kitty brought them to my front door one night (and hissed at me when I came outside). By that time the kittens were weaned and eating solid food.

Over the next few months, I put food out for them each night (the only time the kittens would come out of their hiding spot in the forest) and sat nearby. I devoted a lot of time to them, trying desperately to establish some kind of relationship with the kittens before they were too old. I got this chance to try to earn their trust only because the mother brought them here to eat.

When their mother sent the 2 kittens off on their own, they clung to each other until one was hit by a car and killed. It was then that Cocoa, alone for the 1st time in his life, decided he wanted to try to trust me and join our little family. By that time I had officially adopted his mom (who would no longer let him hang out with her). I was still feeding him then but otherwise leaving him alone. A few days after his brother's death I was walking my little dog Widget when I turned around to see Cocoa, then a larger kitten, following us down the sidewalk. He was staying some distance behind us but following us just them same.

That was the turning point when I started working in earnest to try to tame Cocoa as much as possible before he grew up. It took lots of time and patience but I was eventually able to touch him and then hold him and finally bring him inside the house. In the beginning, I would just sit in the foyer holding him just one step inside the house and with the front door open. The house was so terrifying to him that he would bury his face in the crook of my arm like an ostrich. With a LOT of work Cocoa has managed to accept me and even be reasonably comfortable inside the house, but I ran out of time before I was able to try to introduce him to other people, and now he is essentially too far past the window of opportunity for accepting people.

Cocoa isn't like tame/pet cats that hide when company comes over. He panics when confronted by other humans. His terror is such that he literally believes his very life depends on putting distance between him and other humans. Many times I have tried to hold him and carry him toward another person, but I can't get w/in 30ft or so before he totally panics and flees for his life. I spent a lot of time getting him to accept me, but I don't have another person who is even willing to put that much time into him, even if it were possible. It is for this reason, because Cocoa will not allow other people to get anywhere near him, that I don't believe he is being fed by someone else - plus, strangely enough, he won't eat meat (other than what he catches, that is).

Cocoa will only eat dry cat food (and some types of dog food if he can get it). He does have a weakness for tuna, though, and he also loves (and begs for) Temptations cat treats. Plus he will drink a little milk. (Yes, I know about the milk thing, but it does not upset his tummy, and I only give him a small amount every few months or so, a very rare treat.) For the most part, he won't eat chicken, beef, or pork. Oh, and he also likes a little yogurt, but that's about it. He will occasionally nibble a teaspoon full of canned cat food, but most of the time he just likes to lick the gravy off of it and leave the rest. That's about it for foods he will eat.

I have considered that he might be eating cat or dog food elsewhere in the neighborhood, but I seriously doubt that he is interacting with another person. A more likely scenario is that he may be stealing another cat's (or dog's) food, somewhere in the area where food is placed outside for another pet. There is a female Siamese down the street who has to stay outside because the child there has allergies. He may be eating there. It's also possible that some very kind person may see him around and put food out for him, thinking he is homeless - from a distance they may not be able to see that he is too fat to be homeless (and may not realize that no hungry, homeless cat could have such an incredibly shiny coat - like black lacquer).

I would be thrilled if Cocoa were able to form a relationship with another person, or,better yet, many people. I have always lamented the fact that I am his only link to humanity. If something were to happen to me, he would probably be facing the life of a feral (and homeless) cat. But I have seen his reaction to other people, and I don't see that happening. He panics and has to escape the house if someone so much as rings the doorbell. When he was still a kitten, the SPCA told me he was already too old to ever be tamed or adoptable. His options, according to them, were either to be feral or be put down.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I still haven't seen Cocoa. This is the longest he has ever been missing, and I am definitely worried.

One other factor that may be effecting all of this is the storms. It's like the end of the world here or something. For weeks now we've had blood-curdling, electrical storms pretty much every afternoon and evening. Lots and lots of thunder, often going on for hours and hours - along with torrents of rain. Yesterday the thunder and lightening started in the late afternoon and continued all night long, having only slowed a bit w/in the last 30min or so. It's a daily occurrence lately. I've never seen anything like it.

By mid morning it is already too hot for him to be out and about. Then in the late afternoon before the mercury has a chance to begin dropping again, the powerful storms begin, often lasting well into the overnight hours. That leaves Cocoa with only a very narrow window of opportunity in the early morning to get my attention and get into the house - except that Cocoa has never been a morning 'person'. Plus he doesn't like to wait. He's impatient that way. Kitty will be at the door very early in the morning (just in case I get up early) and will wait there until mid morning if I have a lazy morning. Not Cocoa. He'll show up about 9AM or so. If I get up super early, he'll miss his chance completely, and if I'm late, he'll leave. Of course, knowing these things I've done my best to check for him several times each morning and again each night if it isn't storming.

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

He is probably standing near by watching you. Several day & nights I looked all over for Izzy and I think she was close by all the time. But she is not a feral. One night I was looking for her and saw her shadow in the moon shadows. She was on the roof, walking above me and not saying a word. When I saw here, after looking for hours, I was ready to shoot her. Now if she comes in any time after 2pm she is locked in the house. Doggy door is closed. Today she is laying on the foot stool because is 118 degrees outside. She went out because she will not use the litter box but as soon as she had done her thing and scanned the landscape, she came right back into the house. I have closed the doggy door so she cannot get back out. In desperation, she has used the litter box. Hopefully, today will be one of those days.

Please keep us posted if he does come home. I will keep checking here. Hugs, Sharon

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Thinking lots of positive thoughts for Cocoa's safety & safe return.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Sharon,

I sure hope you have A/C there! I saw on the news about the heat wave you folks out west are experiencing - and esp Vegas and Death Valley. Several years ago we had a horrible heat wave like that, got up in the mid 120's for a couple of weeks with nighttime lows near 100. It was a miserable time here - even WITH A/C. In fact the strain of running almost 24/7 caused both of my A/C units to die in the middle of the heat wave. It was just a nightmare, so I feel for you folks out there going through the same thing now. It has not been that long since our last heat wave, and it makes me hot just watching the news footage about the temps you are experiencing. Be careful, and try to stay cool if you can. Drink lots of water, and think cool thoughts. During our heatwave, I asked some of my DG friends up north to send a care package of cool air and ice, but none ever arrived.

Glad you were able to locate Izzy. Kitty loves to hide out and watch me when I don't know she's around. I catch her doing that a lot. My great room is a 2-story room with 22ft ceiling and about a 2ft ledge running around 3 sides of the room at about the 12ft height (where the 2nd story floor would have been if there were a room up there instead of the high, vaulted ceiling). That ledge, which is well beyond my reach even with a ladder, is tailor made for a cat. Kitty loves to sit up there and look down at the goings on in the house, watching me while I'm oblivious to her. Must be a cat thing - or maybe a female cat thing. I've never noticed Cocoa watching me that way.

When Cocoa goes MIA this way, I really do think he actually takes a trip, on foot of course. He's neutered, but he, none the less, seems to get that male cat wanderlust every now and then, and then he just has to go where his instincts take him. He always comes home hungry and tired, starving for both food and attention, looking every bit as happy to be back home as I am to see him.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, Liz!

I really do believe in the power of those positive thoughts...

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

Cocoa you better get your butt home NOW.......

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

:/

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Sunday marked 1 week since I last saw my missing Cocoa. This was well beyond his previous record of 4 days. I longed to see him sitting at the door waiting to come inside, but I had begun to accept that this time he might really be gone for good. I was sad, to say the least, as I reminisced about all of his adorable - and sometimes annoying - eccentricities. Oh, how I longed to hear him 'holler' incessantly again, as is his often impatient tendency. The thought that I might again never hold his soft, warm body against my cheek or that he might never again nestle his body into my lap, curling himself into a tight ball close against my upper body was almost too much to bear, as was the thought that he might never again lie just inside the bedroom door waiting for me to get up and follow him to the door to let him out.

Shortly after my post Sunday morning, in which I said that the thunder and lightening of the overnight storms had only just quieted, the sky began to rumble all over again. This led to yet another series of T-storms, this time lasting all day from around 10AM until late afternoon. During the storms, I took an afternoon nap, rushing to the patio door to check for Cocoa upon awakening. What I found there was not Cocoa but a very hungry (and friendly) raccoon. (For details, read my 'Heidi' thread in Wildlife.)

I fed the raccoon on the patio, and while I was sitting there beside her enjoying her company and watching her eat, I suddenly heard a loud wailing sound emanating from the back corner of the yard, back near the forest. At 1st I could not even hazard a guess as to the origin of the strange sound, but as the sound continued it drew nearer and began to take on a familiar form. Was it...could it really be...

About the same time that the raccoon turned and ran, apparently frightened by the wailing sounds which now grew closer with each iteration, I called out into the early evening air, "Cocoa? Cocoa?" The timing was awful, as I had been so happy enjoying the visit with my little, raccoon friend whom I hadn't seen in a month or more, but, none the less, I was also elated at the realization that the wailing sound now seemed to be the familiar sound, sometimes annoying, sometimes humorous, of Cocoa hollering at the top of his lungs on this the very last steps of his journey home.

A few moments later, a perfectly healthy, albeit very hungry and tired Cocoa emerged from the brush and shrubs and the back of the lawn and made his way toward me. Only someone who has known eminent sorrow of a lost pet followed quickly by the unexpected return of said pet can ever truly understand the flood of emotions I felt at that moment. I picked him up and hugged him and hugged him and hugged him some more until I thought surely he would protest such treatment, but he did not.

In fact, Cocoa seemed to have arrived home as starved for attention and affections as he was for nourishment. When I finally stopped hugging him, he started 'hugging' me, trying to elicit yet more hugs and attention. And did he ever EAT.

As I mentioned before, Cocoa normally eats just a tiny bit, averaging slightly less than 1/3c daily. I only had about 2/3c food left in his container plus a small amount in Kitty's bowl (which I dared not take). Cocoa doesn't eat a lot in one sitting. He always eats a tiny bit, waits a few minutes, and then comes back for a little more and then a little more and a little more. If he is particularly hungry, he may do this over and over through much of the night. It can get a bit annoying at times, since I still feed him in the MBR, something I started a year or two back as a way to help him get over his fear of the MBR and have continued since then simply because it also helps to keep Kitty & Cocoa separate while eating. To keep Widget from sneaking some cat food while I'm not looking, I have to put the food away each time Cocoa 'finishes' (for the moment) and take it out again 5min later when he returns, over and over and over.

Upon arriving home, Cocoa ate in one sitting all but a small handful of the 2/3c I had on hand for him. He also plowed right through the couple handfuls I sneaked from Kitty's bowl along with the countless handfuls of Temptations Treats I added to try to keep his bowl from going empty AND the 1/2 can of Fancy Feast I opened in desperate realization that he was going to run out of food before he even took the 1st break. He was obviously hungry now after his week 'in the streets', and I could not bare the thought of facing his cries should the food run out before he was finally filled. Realizing I probably only had 1hr to run out for more dry cat food before the market closed, I grabbed my keys and took off, blocking Cocoa from going out as I exited the door. After 'loosing' him for so long - trust me a week is a very long time to be w/o a beloved pet - I wasn't about to let him go again so soon and certainly not w/o satiating his hunger.

I returned with a goodly sized bag of food and refilled Cocoa's dish, and he continued to nibble and nibble and nibble repeatedly throughout the night. Suffice it to say, in that one night he consumed well in excess of 1c dry cat food plus 1/2 can of FF and numerous handfuls of cat treats. He had most definitely been quite hungry, and I was very glad I had risked leaving the 2 cats in the house alone to run out for that much needed bag of cat food.

There is more, but I will have to take a break now and get some work done before I return to tell you the rest of the story.

south central, WI(Zone 5a)

Tears of joy..so happy that he found his way home.

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

Thank Gott!

But this is now funny for me - having to go back and forth to find out what is happening in your life. Maybe I have to go to your gripe thread too? :D

xox

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Oh, you just made my day & brought the biggest smile to my face! Welcome home Cocoa! Now, off to read the raccoon thread...

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

Hooray. Cocoa, you bad boy. Good thing you returned. Izzy and Sharon

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

Cheryl -- i knew he'd come home... but any person would be worried after that amount of time.

an aside... I recall a few yrs back I read a story in the Pets Forum of a member who thought they'd lost their cat.... 2 months later it showed up!!

when you get a chance, give Cocoa a hug from me too.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Good boy Cocoa. Just wait long enough before coming home so you get lots of hugs n special treats. You're 1 pretty smart cookie you are

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

The other day when I told you the story of Cocoa's return, I ended with an indication that there was more to the story. I would like to tell you the rest now. But 1st, I need to take a slight detour to update you on how things are going with Kitty.

Kitty and I have been getting along wonderfully - and no one enjoyed Cocoa's vacation more than she did. For several weeks there I was going out early each morning to do an hour or two of yard work before it got too hot. That not only did wonders for my yard but also for my relationship with Kitty. We had a standing morning appointment then, and each morning after breakfast she would wait for me on the patio, if I wasn't already out there working, that is.

While I worked, manning the string trimmer, power hedger, and 36in ratchet loppers, Kitty would nap close by, often on a nearby chair or small, outdoor, side table. When I would stop for a break and sit down on my little Garden Buddy (seat), she would come over and either rub on my legs or lie down up under my legs. When I would pet her, she would rub herself on me and lie down between my feet, rolling over to expose her lovely, cream colored tummy. When I would scratch her back, she would pose with her butt in the air, front shoulders on the ground, to let me know she wanted me to scratch the area at the base of her tail, a spot she can't scratch on her own. And when I would scratch that 'IT' spot, she would just hold that pose indefinitely, her eyes rolling back in their sockets to reveal the "Out To Lunch" sign.

If I stopped petting and scratching for a minute, perhaps to take a drink, wipe the sweat from my face, or clean my glasses, she would look up at me as if to say, "what are you doing? Scratch! Scratch!" When I started to collect my tools and put my gloves back on, she would head back over to her resting spot in preparation for another work period. We were a team, out there every morning, same schedule, and it was more than obvious that Kitty was loving it. For her, this was the life.

When Cocoa disappeared, Kitty just moved in to take up the slack, so to speak. With him no longer hanging out in the MBR with me at night, suddenly there was room for Kitty who had previously been napping on a padded vanity stool in the adjacent master bath. In his absence each evening she would curl up on my side of the bed in the area where my feet would normally go, even though there was plenty of space elsewhere on the large, king bed. She would sleep there until morning. During the daytime, she also spent a lot of time with me. Whether hanging out with me in the kitchen or the garden, she would sleep nearby while I worked.

To be continued soon.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

ROTFLOL, Amanda!

I totally understand your frustrations on this one (my life segmented into different threads). Trying to find the separation points between the various stories that comprise my life can often be a challenge for the writer, as well, and never more so than with this story in which 2 very suspense-filled events became so completely intertwined as to defy almost all attempts at separation. My reluctance to have the revelations of one story destroy the suspense of the other only served to further complicate the surgical extraction.

With so many hours in the day and so many days in the week, who would have thought both Desi and Cocoa would have chosen virtually the same moment to come home? I puzzled over how to explain the sound that cut my joyous reunion with Desi short and do so without 'letting the cat out of the bag' too soon for readers of the Kitty & Cocoa saga. Oh, and how to explain to 'Heidi' readers what event could be so important as to take me away from my time with Desi - and do so w/o revealing that the cat I thought was surely dead had suddenly shown up in the midst of it all?

As you may know, I started out with only the one main thread, the Heidi series. In those days with everyone so conveniently gathered in the one place, it just seemed natural to tell my life's story in the one place, sprinkling in my rants and raves, my daily joys and disappointments, and the various other stories of my life here and there in the Heidi threads as they occurred. In fact, that's where the Kitty & Cocoa story was actually born, in the Heidi series, but once it became clear that the cats' story would not be the brief encounter I 1st thought, I decided I should move the ongoing feline saga to its own thread so as not to force those who were only interested in raccoons to sift through cat tales, too.

Severing the two stories seemed like a great idea at the time as did starting a 3rd thread to encompass my many OT rants and raves, but, truth be told, the separation has often proven more difficult than expected. As you so correctly point out, I have but the one life all parts of which are necessarily conflated. Parsing its components out into individual and, hopefully, unentangled threads is not for the faint of heart be they reader or writer. ;-)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

...and now back to the continuation of the story of Cocoa's homecoming, as there are still a few things I've wanted to tell you.

So in Cocoa's absence, Kitty was elated and she and I became closer than ever before. She became my shadow practically, sleeping on my feet, following me about the house and yard, and always sitting somewhere nearby. During that time it seemed she absolutely could not get enough hugs, kisses, and attention. No matter how much time I spent just petting her and kneading/messaging her, she begged for more still - but she was always mindful to stay quietly out of the way anytime I was working. She is very 'adult' and respectful that way.

I've learned, btw, that to Kitty, it is important that I not only pet her but also look directly at her while doing so. She likes to look up into my eyes while I'm petting her, and is considerably disappointed to ever catch me gazing elsewhere, as if the latter would render my intentions less than pure. She is a complicated one that Kitty.

That 1st night when Cocoa came home, he was a bone dry attention sponge. He could not get enough of my undivided attention. I wondered at the time how this would square with Kitty. She, after all, had been sleeping cuddled up close to my legs (and even on them) during his absence. What, I wondered, would she do now that Cocoa was once again a fixture in the MBR, on the bed even?

As I mentioned, Cocoa eats his food in a dozen or more tiny snacks, each 3-5min apart - always has. Undaunted by his return, Kitty merely slipped into the room and curled up in her spot at my feet during one of Cocoa's brief intermissions between snacks. What happened after that was both amusing to watch and though provoking to analyze.

Ist, after Kitty snuggled up in her spot on the bed, I lay down on the bed, too. I lay on my side facing toward the center of the bed. I lay very still, eyes nearly shut, and pretended to be asleep. Cocoa always stops asking for yet another snack once I fall asleep, so I was hoping this would signal him to go to one of his favorite spots and take a nap. Eyes almost closed, body still, I proceeded to watch as Cocoa returned to the bed, probably for another snack, only to find Kitty snuggled up at my feet.

Cocoa stepped up onto the bed from the bench. As he looked over at the sleeping Kitty (who was probably also just pretending to sleep), it was clear he had not expected her to sneak in and grab that spot, and he was NOT at all happy with this turn of events. He had always had me and the MBR to himself. Kitty had always stayed out. Now Kitty had pulled a fast one, and from Cocoa's initial expression, he had no idea what to do to counter this one - and set things right so that he would once again be the center of everything. Kitty had stolen his moment, after all.

Cocoa walked over to the other side of the bed, the side opposite Kitty, and sat there for a few minutes, thinking. What to do. What to do. Then, he stood up again and looked over at me as if to make sure I was truly asleep. Having reassured himself that I was in a deep slumber, Cocoa walked stealthily over to where Kitty lay curled up and sleeping. Quietly, he reached his paw over to her and then very gently bopped her over the head.

I do so wish you could have been there, could have seen that for yourself. It was too hilarious. It was the 1st time, the only time, I had ever seen Cocoa in the act of aggression against Kitty, although for some time now I had surmised that this was likely going on in my absence. It was funny because I knew he hadn't hurt her and probably hadn't even surprised her. It was just funny to finally catch Cocoa in the act of being Cocoa. He resented Kitty sleeping at my feet. He wanted her to go away again, so he could once again be the center of attention. So he bopped her on the head and stood there looking at her as if to say, "You awake?"

Kitty raised her head and hissed at him. This is the precise moment where I always walk in to find them arguing, the moment after Cocoa has instigated things, the moment when Kitty is hissing and looking like the problem maker. "Be nice, you guys, " I chided gently, followed by, "Cut it out, Cocoa." It was the 1st moment when Cocoa realized this time he was busted. This time he had screwed up. I had seen him do the dirty deed. Oops.

Kitty stayed for a while and tried to sleep as she had so many nights before, when Cocoa wasn't here. Cocoa continued to needle her. After that initial bop on the head, Cocoa didn't do anything else so overt, not now that he knew I was awake. He just made it his obsession to annoy her constantly and in a million tiny ways, just to make it impossible for her to enjoy her nap. He walked around her, sat looking at her, and walked around close to her some more. Kitty tried to ignore him.

Then Cocoa decided if he couldn't get Kitty to leave, he needed to get past her. If he could get in my lap, then even with her sleeping at my feet, he would still be the center of attention. The obvious route to get to me would require walking very close to Kitty's face. He looked closely at that option and decided against it, apparently figuring that would make him too vulnerable to attack. Then he looked around for an alternate route and chose one that required a bit of a tight-rope walk but which did not leave him vulnerable to assault (from the cat he had been provoking for a while already).

Cocoa got in my lap. Kitty was still sleeping (or, at least, pretending to do so) at my feet. This was perfect if only we could keep it this way, but I doubted Kitty would be very happy if she woke up. I petted Cocoa & hugged him. He ate another mini-snack. This went on for maybe 30min. Then I decided to go to sleep (for real this time). Cocoa was lying on my chest as I drifted off, and Kitty was still on my ankles. This was too good to be true...

I was barely asleep good when Cocoa started. It's hard to explain the details of what Cocoa does. I was, after all, trying to sleep at the time, but Cocoa was not ready for his homecoming and grand entrance to end. Essentially, now I was Kitty, with Cocoa sitting there at my head watching me sleep and trying to figure out how to right this situation, how to get me to wake up and pay attention to him again.

He tried poking me with his head. You know, that thing they do when they use their head like a wedge or a battering ram. When that didn't work, he went down the hall and began screaming at the top of his lungs, calling me as if to let him out. Earlier in the night I had decided not to let him out, not wanting to risk loosing him again when I had only just gotten him back. Now with him screaming incessantly in the middle of the night, I changed my mind. I got up and went down the hall to open the door.

Cocoa was standing at the door but refused to actually go outside. I stood there looking at him and realizing this never ends well. Any time Cocoa calls me to the door and then refuses to go out, I know I will be called back again and again - as if he just enjoys seeing that he can rouse the human from sleep and get the human to open the door, over and over and over again. Bad attention, it seems, is always better than no attention.

The next few hours are very jumbled up in my head, a mixture of 'Cocoa moments' mixed in with sleeping moments, a mixture of moments of blissful sleep pierced by moments of Cocoa screaming loudly. I know I got up a few time to open the door, and I know Cocoa each time refused to go out. I even tried to nudge him out once, but he quickly diverted to one side of the door, clearly determined not to go outside as that would certainly end his homecoming night and the attention once and for all.

Somewhere in the midst of things with me getting up several times, Kitty finally relented, deciding to go sleep somewhere else. I continued trying to rest, and Cocoa continued trying to get back to that moment of his initial return, the moment when he was THE only thing in my world, the center of the universe. Watching me sleep was no fun for him. It was a most anti-climatic end to his special day. He had to fix this.

On one of my trips to the door to try to let Cocoa out, he tried to get me to play, and for a few minutes I actually did play with him there on the foyer rug. He likes to play there (or do anything there), because it reminds him of all the time we spent there on the foyer rug, playing and hugging, back when I 1st brought him into the house. I had spent countless hours and days sitting on that rug with him in those days, just trying to help him get beyond his fear of the house. He had been the center of attention then, as I had concentrated all of my attention just on trying to help him get comfortable in the human world. So I played with him for a few minutes that night, before returning to my bed to sleep. It was, after all, the middle of the night, and I was sleepy, very sleepy.

As Cocoa continued screaming at the top of his lungs, trying to wake me, swearing he wanted to go out and then changing his mind once I got there, etc, etc, at some point he went from the cat I was SO happy to see again, the cat I wasn't even going to let out for a while for fear of loosing him again to the cat that was keeping me awake, the cat that absolutely MUST GO! Finally, I got up and walked patiently down to the foyer where Cocoa sat calling me. I opened the door and, when Cocoa stood there looking out but refusing to leave, I calmly and gently picked him up and put him down outside the door before closing it once more - much like that opening scene from the Flintstones cartoon. And then I turned around and went back to bed where I slept blissfully the remained of the night and awoke to find Kitty sleeping soundly on my ankles.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

As you can see, Kitty & Cocoa could not be more different - except that they both want attention.

Kitty is a good girl. She is very loving now, and she always tries to follow all of the rules and not make me unhappy, probably out of fear that I might toss her out on the street as her prior owner did. After all, I'm sure even to this day she still has no idea what she might have done wrong and what might have caused them to throw her away.

Cocoa is also very loving, but he is a bad, bad, bad boy. He is spoiled. He likes to have me to himself. He likes to be the center of attention. And he often gets his way, after all, he is very persistent. Widget is afraid of him, so when it's just the two of them, Cocoa gets his way most of the time. Cocoa has only to reach out and lay a paw on Widget ever so gently, and Widget gives in afraid that Cocoa will scratch him otherwise. The dynamics between the 2 of them is quite interesting to observe.

I love them both, each for his or her individual merits - and even for their downsides. Both have come an incredibly long, long way from that 1st night when I stepped outside to find Kitty standing there hissing at me, baby Cocoa up close under her haunches.

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

The scenario you describe the night Cocoa returned is hilarious! I hope Cocoa calms down soon...

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

never dull at Cheryl's house & buffet

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I was going to post earlier today. If I had, the title of my post would have been, "It's Not Easy Living With a Feral Cat in a Human World." The main topic would have been "It's no telling WHEN Cocoa will be back again this time."

This was all prompted by the train wreck that occurred when Cocoa showed up for his afternoon 'breakfast' about 45min after I ordered pizza delivery (a free one I had to order by today or loose it). Almost as soon as he got inside, he seemed to know something was up. I'm guessing he 'read' this from my behavior, even though I didn't think I was behaving any differently - but I was a bit concerned knowing the Pizza guy would be ringing the doorbell any time.

Cocoa knows the sound of the doorbell means humans will be at our door and maybe even coming inside our home. This makes him feel trapped by the very walls that should represent a safe haven. Poor Cocoa freaks out when he hears a doorbell on the TV.

It had been a couple days since I had last seen Cocoa. He comes home a couple days in a row and then misses a few before showing up again. I still think it's the combination of punishing heat, daily Tstorms, and his being a little pudgy already that prompts this behavior, but I doubt all the scary run-ins with humans is helping much either.

Cocoa didn't stay long on his visit earlier today (while I was waiting for my pizza to arrive). He ate a scant handful of kibble and decided something was up and he should leave. Just as he was heading toward the front door to demand to go out, the doorbell rang. Instead of running in the opposite direction when he heard the bell and freaked out, he raced to the front door all the more determined to exit the house by this route.

Not knowing what else to do, I opened the front door to receive my pizza - STILL believing Cocoa, who was standing at my feet at the door before I opened it, would run the other way when confronted my the human on the other side of the door. But I was wrong. When the door opened, and he saw that human standing only inches in front of him, Cocoa went ballistic. Not wanting to be trapped in this wooden box with the scary human at the door, Cocoa bolted out the door in a manner that 'screamed' crazy, wild animal on the loose and which even caused the guy standing there holding my pizza to execute some kind of weird backward broad jump just to get out of his way.

I just looked at the guy and shook my head. He tossed the pizza my way and hit the road. I figured the guy would get over it. (although I do expect to have a new delivery guy for my next order.lol) Seeing my poor 'baby' Cocoa flee from our home in such terror, however, left me more than a little concerned. How long would it take him to come home again THIS time?

After the guy left and even before I opened my lunch, I headed outside to call Cocoa, hoping he would come to me but knowing all the while I was dreaming. I just hate for them to go away after a bad experience. I like things to always end on a positive note. That might be a throwback to things my Mom taught me when we would take home new and frightened kitten or cat and she would say we needed to keep them inside or on the porch until we fed them and petted them (so they would have good memories to bring them back again once we let them go). And now just look at all the bad experiences Cocoa had lately to associate with home. Would he ever feel safe in the house again? And would he even come home again?

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Since Cocoa had eaten at least some food before he fled for his life in the pizza incident, I figured he would be gone for a few days at the very least, but go figure. I could not have been more wrong.

Around dusk when I was sitting on the patio with the raccoons, I heard a faint sound in the distance that sounded a lot like Cocoa wailing loudly on the last leg of his journey home as he always does. It's like he does that so I will answer back, "Cocoa! Cocoa!" to guide him in like the feline version of GPS. And I did just that, I called out to him upon hearing that sound that was so faint I wasn't entirely sure it was really him. Minutes later he appeared behind me on the patio, his presence sending the raccoons for cover.

I opened the door and let Cocoa inside, and he is now snoozing on the MBR bench, apparently oblivious to the threat of humans at the door. Looks like I overreacted. (Yeah, that never happens.) Now that he has survived a couple of these 'near death' encounters with humanity, I'm thinking maybe these things are good for him. I'm thinking maybe we need MORE of these scary encounters, thinking maybe after he survives enough of them he might eventually learn that humans really aren't so scary, after all.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Did I mention that it's not easy living with a feral cat in a human society? This morning both Kitty and Cocoa were waiting for me at the patio door, eager to come inside for breakfast. I let them inside and then went back to the kitchen for a minute to finish fixing my breakfast before feeding them.

I had barely gotten to the kitchen when Cocoa began to call out loudly. I ignored him as I normally do, but this time something was different. This time his calls were even louder than usual, more persistent, and denoted serious anxiety. This time he wasn't just calling me impatiently. Something was wrong, very wrong. I went to the patio door where he had been standing, but he was not there. The loud and distraught screams continued, but in part due to the very open nature of my house, I was unable to determine just where they were coming from (his location w/in the house). I called out to him, but he did not come to me. He just continued shrieking in an apparent panic.

About that time, Kitty also became alarmed - I'm guessing due to the frantic sound of Cocoa's screams - and she hurried across the downstairs sort of crawling on her belly in a manner similar to how military recruits are taught to crawl on the ground to avoid gunfire. I headed to the stairs, still calling out to Cocoa, and still hearing him cry out. At the same time, Kitty was hurriedly belly-crawling past me and up the stairs, while Cocoa came down the stairs, also moving low to the ground.

As I watched and heard all of this transpire, I was at a total loss as to why the cats had suddenly become so terrified and/or what the heck was going on. It was a complete mystery to me, and yet now both of my cats were in a state of total panic. I followed Cocoa to the back door where he stood demanding to be let out. Instead of letting him out, I picked him up and attempted to calm him while carrying him to the MBR. I wanted to see if I could determine the problem. I wanted to try to calm him down. I also wanted to see if I could get him to eat. He had come inside to eat and had not yet been fed.

After petting him and talking to him, the best that I could manage was to get him to eat a bite or two in between repeated attempts to flee. I had to hold him in my arms to keep him from running back to the door seeking to go outside. He was somewhat less panicked than he had been at the start but was still quite distraught. At this point, after I had petted him and talked to him for a few minutes and had gotten him to eat a bite or two, I decided to let him go outside. He had calmed down a bit, and I didn't want to force him to stay inside any longer lest my actions might result in greater trauma and fear of being inside.

When I let go of Cocoa, he headed directly to the back door, and I opened it letting him go outside. It was then that I found that Kitty was hiding somewhere unwilling to come to me to eat her breakfast. I remain even now quite perplexed as to what happened to set all of this in motion. My best guess after having some time to think it over is that Cocoa lost track of me when he 1st came into the house and I left him to rush back to the kitchen. Thinking he was inside alone, Cocoa panicked and began wailing to go outside. When I ignored him (as I usually do), he became so panicked and so distraught as to be quite beside himself thinking he was in the house alone (w/out me). I think Kitty freaked out due to the very serious sound of Cocoa's cries - In other words, she convinced him there was a serious threat, and thus she also panicked. Seeing Kitty in a panic probably only served to further convince Cocoa of the gravity of the situation. Essentially, they were feeding off each other at that point. each cat's panic serving to further terrify the other.

Sadly, very sadly, I think all of this ultimately ties back to recent events in which humans have repeatedly 'invaded' Cocoa's space w/in the house, adversely effecting his previous trust regarding the safety of the house. I think the events of yesterday may also have had an effect.

Yesterday Cocoa showed up to eat late in the afternoon when I was going out to photograph some flowers. I let him inside and then went on taking photos for another 20-30min, before going inside to feed him. When I opened the door he raced out, and it took me a while to convince him to come back inside to eat. Prior to the water heat & pizza incidents, he had been comfortable staying inside alone and even napping, but yesterday he panicked when I left him inside alone even briefly. He did finally come back inside yesterday and eat, but I had to follow him around the yard talking to him for a while and then carry him back inside once he finally let me catch him.

This morning when I let him in and then quickly disappeared into the kitchen to finish cooking, I'm guessing he panicked thinking I had again left him (as I did yesterday). With the threat of humans coming into the house fresh in his mind, I think he is now terrified to stay inside w/o me there to let him out again should he need to flee from invading humans. Basically, it seems like resent events involving humans have set him back years w/respect to his ability to be comfortable in the house. I just hope I will be able to reassure him again (slowly) so that this thing doesn't get so blown out of proportion as to render Cocoa unable to ever feel safe inside the house again.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Well, go figure. Not withstanding that total meltdown he had in the house earlier today, Cocoa is back inside now eating his very late breakfast (the breakfast he missed earlier Tues morning when he panicked and had to be let out). I went out to walk Widget, and there he was meowing to come back inside.

I guess what I have learned here is (1) don't leave him inside alone until he gets over the trauma of recent events, (2) coddle him a bit in the mean time, (3) let him go out if he gets upset, & (4) don't worry if he runs out of the house all upset. I think it was a wise move to let him go earlier today, even though he was still quite upset. I think it is helpful for him to feel that he can leave the house if he gets scared - rather than thinking he is trapped inside. I will also probably need to stay with him (not just in the house but in the same room) for a while when he is inside, until he has time to overcome his recent fears.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, motts,

I was pretty teary-eyed, too. I was almost sure he wasn't coming back.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thanks Sharon & Izzy!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thanks Liz,

Thanks for all of your support.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Terese,

Thanks for posting that about the cat coming home after a couple of months. I know that will help me in the future when Cocoa stays gone for a while. It's good to have an idea as to how long they might be gone and still come home again. (When one is gone that long, I have to wonder if the cat may have been carried off by mistake, perhaps under the hood of a car, and it just took him/her that long to find his way home again.)

In that 1st night, I gave Cocoa enough hugs for every man, woman, and child in the entire country! :-)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thanks to everyone out there for worrying with me while Cocoa was gone and for your many positive thoughts and prayers on our behalf!

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

I'm so glad he is home and calmed down a bit... How is Missy Kitty after that last incident, when even she was doing the comando-crawl ? Poor girl must not have known what the matter was.

I was also glad to read you were able to pick him up and try to console him a bit... I assume that would never work with Miss Kitty.

I have no idea if this was true or not.... But was reading that Sheila [meezers5] youngest Tao got out and she was terrified, of course.... he was only gone 1 day or so... but someone replied that they had read a story on FB that someone's cat was gone for 2 yrs, when it came home, it just hopped on the couch as usual and took a nap, just like nothing happened.

I have to say, I am so glad mine are more "house cats" -- only let out with supervision.... though I do know your case if very different, since yours 'came from' outside.

Hope things calm down for you soon.... that all had to be so heart wrenching to watch.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Terese,

Oh, my, I am so sorry to hear that about meezer's cat getting out. Even a single day is 'forever' when you aren't used to one being gone that long. I'm accustomed to Cocoa not showing up for breakfast/dinner for a couple days, but I went through a lot of stress and worry getting used to that. I'm so glad to hear that her cat did come home eventually.

I still think those cats that return after months or possibly even years were probably carried off by mistake under the hood of a car, and it just took them that long to find their way back again. Good to know that even 2yrs may be a possibility though. In Cocoa's case, I think the problem occurs in part because, even though he may show up for a meal, he isn't hungry enough to be motivated to wait around for me to open the door (i.e. we don't always meet up at the same time). I think this is especially true this time of year when it is so hot outside, and we are still having Tstorms daily and for such a large percentage of the day. Even after all the time he spent away recently, Cocoa is still overweight. When he lies on his side, he looks like he may have a litter of nursing kittens somewhere.

Cocoa will usually let me console him. Sometimes when he is outside, he may not let me catch him if he is upset, but I've never had that problem inside. The only situation in which I am unable to console him is when humans get too close. Their is no consoling him then, just have to let him flee the situation. His life or death panic will only continue to rise exponentially until he can get away. Although he freaks out in this type situation, he still never scratches me or attacks me. I am just unable to hold him.

Kitty has come a very long way. Since Cocoa returned from his recent 'vacation', she no longer sleeps with me, but she is still unbelievably loving and eager to be petted/scratched any time I spent time outside. Even when I'm not actively petting her (outside), she will lie between my feet and under my legs. I tried to get a pic of this the other day, showing her lying against my shoe. It's probably still in the camera. I should probably try to get a video of her begging to be petted (outside). I would love for you 'guys' to be able to see her do these things. All these things not withstanding,

Kitty is still uncomfortable being held, but I am optimistic now that she may even get beyond this fear in time. At this time, the most that i can do to console Kitty when she is upset is to talk to her and tell her it's ok. She does now actually respond favorably when told, "it's ok". If I'm there when she starts to get upset, I can usually talk her into ignoring whatever was scaring her, but once any animal (even a human) reaches that stage of total panic, there isn't a lot anyone can do except wait for them to calm down on their own.

Some 15-20min after I let Cocoa go out that day, Kitty was fine, and I was able to feed and pet her once he was no longer sending out messages indicating a life-threatening event. At 1st they were even starting to scare me, as they were clearly in such a panic state, and I could not figure out why. At 1st I didn't know if there might be some actual emergency which required attention. That was the most stressful part.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Here are a couple of pics I took the other day when I was outside working. The 1st 2 show Kitty lying on or near my foot (blue croc). These were taken while I was resting between work episodes. I was sitting in a chair w/Kitty at my feet. I took the pic looking down at Kitty. I took these 2 pics to show how she stays so close to me when I'm outside sitting (resting).

The last pic shows Kitty lying about 15ft away while I'm working. She is an excellent workmate, because she comes over to be close to me when I'm sitting down to rest and goes 10-15ft away when I'm working with power tools (stays out of the way but always close by).

I don't know if I made this clear in prior conversations, but what you see in those 1st 2 pics, Kitty lying on my foot that way, would never have happened a year or two ago. The old Kitty often hung out with me in the garden in those days, but she was always careful to stay just beyond arms reach. This is the new Kitty 2.0, Kitty after I gave her that slow eye blink that fateful day that changed everything.

Edited to add: as mentioned above, I will try to get a video of her rubbing/loving behavior next time I work outside.

This message was edited Jul 10, 2013 2:44 PM

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