This is the second post on Sasha and Nina, our new (still scaredy) cats.
Step two: Cohabitation
Day six and things are progressing slowly. We seem to be getting into a routine:
Rule one: The bedroom is yours, with minimal disruption, during the day (we leave the door slightly open) and the rest of the house is entirely yours at night.
Rule two: We are not after you: we also live here and we won’t bite you. We’ll say hello if we bump into each other but not stare at you or anything silly like that.
Rule three: You need to get used to us so, although we’ll keep out of your way for most of the day, we’ll spend a bit of time in the bedroom so that you get used to our voices, the way we move, smell etc. This afternoon I put the laundry away sitting on the bed while you were tucked in the cardboard box I’d prepared for you in the bedroom, Nina. How lovely to see you use it for the first time.
What is reassuring is that you both seem to enjoy the run of the house at night – and run is the right word: you running up and down the stairs is great to hear. Last night I heard one of you play with Cato’s dangling Christmas ball so I went and got another five balls so that you can have more fun. I also cut holes in a cardboard box for you to do your gymnastics at night. This morning we were woken up by a bang in the office: Sasha, the acrobat, aiming for the very top shelf in the office record shelf!
I also invested into a cat fountain in an attempt to get you, Sasha, to drink more. I was told at the Mayhew Animal Home that you’d had cystitis before and should be mostly on wet food but the two of you seem to prefer dry food (which makes me think you were fed dry food only in the past).
My only regret so far is that you don’t seem interested in fresh chicken – something which Cato would have killed for. But otherwise you seem to like what our timid Cato liked: cardboard boxes, chunky chicken croquettes and space – space to take things slowly.
Cato was so affectionate in the last few years of his life that it’s hard to remember that he didn’t like being picked up and kissed at first. Within four months Cato and us were very good friends though, so my aim is still that you are feeling better around us by Christmas. We’ll grow to adjust to each other’s needs and preferences slowly but surely.
We are very fond of you already – even if you are only up and about at night like little vampires (your first nickname, I’m afraid). And in the meantime we’ll wait patiently for you to come to us.
Day seven: Last night Nina lay down on the landing at the top of the stairs in the evening (around 6). I didn’t know she was there. I looked up and briefly looked at her; said a few words to her and went on. This was the first time she did not run away. A bit later, before going to bed, I went to top up the croquette bowls and she was sleeping on the office chair. Again she did not run away. When I offered a croquette, she flinched a little so I quickly left the croquette in front of her and left the room. Again,this cheered me: she had not run away.
Tonight I got home and Sasha was downstairs and dashed back upstairs in a panic. I went upstairs to have a cup of tea in bed (our bed is next to the cats’ cupboard) and to read in bed. I read Pagnol outloud to them for a bit. I wondered both if they’d heard French before and if they liked Pagnol (smiling to myself) then continued to read silently. After a while Nina emerged and checked that I still meant no harm to her (watching me cautiously – at last a good view of her beautiful face) and she went to sit on the stairs for a bit. No sight of Sasha.
I’m surprised Nina is the first to steady her nerves after a week – I was convinced Sasha was bolder. Turns out he’s more adventurous but just as dead scared!
Day 12: Nina is still doing better. She tends to leave her den around 5 pm now and hangs around upstairs on the bed. When I come into the room she hisses at me but now accepts me if I don’t approach her too much. I talk to her gently, telling her we mean no harm and doing my best not to stare at her. And she’s able to cope with that. She’s also able to cope with Gareth in very small amounts, also trying to make up her mind if he’s all right or not. So she is gradually doing better. However Sasha is not doing so well: after his initial frantic search for an escape in the first few nights he now seems to have quieten down, only coming out of the cupboard after we have gone to bed and returning well before we wake up around 5.30 I think.
It’s a bit difficult to decide what to do next. I have removed dry food from upstairs (except for where it is hidden in boxes, window sills etc.) but it feels like they are not ready for the cupboard door to be shut – nor for a visit to the vet which I have postponed for another 10 days.
They are still very scared of us (they remind me of how pathologically scared Cato was of any person on a ladder, except for Gareth and I) and I don’t think I could pick them up to put them in a carrier just yet.
I hope that I can shake that fear of us out of their systems soon as they need to see the vet for a vaccination and flea/worm treatment. So they both need to learn to allow me to approach them and pick them up. Tall order!
Day 13: Last night I was alone at home so the house was dark and quiet as I was reading. Nina came down at 7pm for a pee. I knew she’s been up since 4.30, presumably on the bed, and had been on the first floor landing since 6pm. (I have started removing food from the bedroom from around 4pm when I’m at home to lure them out of the bedroom.)
After her pee she went to the window for a bit of cat TV: watching street people getting home, her face alert and ears twitching at the slightest noise. I didn’t make any sudden movement but watched her throughout, and she accepted that on the understanding that I don’t approach her. And so she climbed down and settled herself on the nice big armchair and stayed there for two hours, cleaning, resting a bit, doing cat things. Her brother finally emerged at 9pm but did not want to be in the same room as me yet, although she encouraged him by making those sweet gurgling noises. When he climbed back up she went to join him at the top of the stairs. When I finally got up they both stared at me from the top of the stairs (one on the top landing and one of the highest step) with that same expression of mingled fear and curiosity. They are definitely siblings: the markings are different but the expression on their faces are comically identical.
It’s good to see that things are slowing moving along.