We’ve passed a number of cool, cloudy, rainy days and warm sun fills the basement doorway. All Mewsette and Mimi want is OUT. I’ve been curtailing our out time for my own selfish purposes, or so they think, but I wasn’t going to get away with it today. Still, it was much later in the day when I saw the fawn that we actually did get to go outside for any length of time. I have photos from that event, but this morning was wonderful, and rich in memories of many other cats who spent time at the basement door.
Hamlet joined us. He is friendly nearly all the time now and loves when I scratch my fingers into that deep ruff he has grown, purring, blinking, kneading with both paws. I finally got a good photo of this.
Then in two different views we watched the girls at the door. I love the silhouette of Hamlet’s furs.
And he watches them for instruction.
It’s interesting to compare Hamlet’s fur from last year and this in the photos below. Some long-haired cats take two years to develop their full coat, and he certainly bulked it out.
What other photos have I shared around this date?
Who’s in That Basket Today? It’s Hamlet! 2016
Hamlet and Ophelia have been making amazing progress over the past few weeks. They are out in the house between breakfast and dinner, and along with some vigorous play in my bedroom and studio they visit downstairs and explore and have found some comfortable spots. And, as you can see, Hamlet discovered the yellow basket. And they have also discovered the grapes box, and other special spots where they look absolutely adorable. I have found stern and serious Hamlet to be a total goof, really playful and curious, and Ophelia silly and quite talkative. All the photos in this post are from the past week.
They’ve been with me since mid-September 2015, which is quite some time for them to be in socialization with me and all the other cats. Initially they barely made eye contact and kept plenty of distance between me and them, and most often I’d find Hamlet in the cubby beside the tub and Ophelia behind the toilet. I could handle Ophelia when she was ill in September, but when she felt better that was reduced to petting, now and then. Until recently, the sound of the shower or bathwater sent them into hiding too.
By the holidays and the time I was preparing to take Simon and Theo to Savannah, I could pet Ophelia and she would approach me and ask for affection, purred nicely, meowed now and then and was very playful, but one wrong move and she was back behind the toilet. Hamlet continued to eye me from the tub but at the same time was very playful with toys dragged along the floor and through the air and both seemed to completely forget I was the devil. Neither was ever hostile in any way. I did not push Hamlet’s boundaries to find out if he would be hostile, but instead I noticed he was making eye contact and sometimes gave me a few eye blinks.
Still, by the time I was back from Savannah it had been four months that they’d been stuck in the bathroom. I usually don’t like to release cats in socialization from their foster room until we have a trusted physical and emotional bond; I may not be able to touch or pet them, but they will come to me or at least respond when I indicated it was dinner. Four months was long enough and it seemed their socialization might benefit from a change of scenery and getting to know more of the house and household, and even though I could not touch either of them when outside the bathroom I hoped we could be better friends when they had a little more freedom and could see what they could only hear and smell beyond the door.
Also, I had run out of my flower essences, Feral Flower Formula and Trauma Free from Spirit Essences that worked so well with Bert and Ernie and Alvina, Simon and Theodore and decided to reinvest in them for Hamlet and Ophelia. They responded positively and I could actually pet them both liberally inside the room, though I had to let Hamlet run away from me a few times and then he stood and waved his tail while I massaged his face and stroked his back. From that time until just recently, Hamlet was terrified of my camera, and the way I would “stare” at him with it and track his movements. I stopped photographing them as often, and my phone photos aren’t the best, but all I would typically catch is a blur anyway.
Well, introducing them to the upstairs happened several times in several ways. A slow introduction is like this: I block off the landing with cardboard and open the bathroom door for them to look out for a few minutes for a day or two, then finally they get to go out and smell things. Once they seem comfortable with that I move the cardboard a step each day into my bedroom and then let them have the whole room, then do the same with my studio. It’s understandable if they hide or seem a little scared when they explore, but extended hiding and obvious fear is traumatic. Both of them ended up under the bed after about a half hour, and then after a quick look out the window went straight under the bed and stayed there. Hamlet was a little bolder, but Ophelia was wide-eyed and frightened. I had to block the steps and the studio to shoo them into the bathroom. They regressed in their reaction to me too.
That would last a week, to the point where they would practically run right under the bed, and then I would keep them back in the bathroom for a few days to a week. Because Ophelia was friendlier I tried letting her out alone to see if I could bond with her better away from her reluctant brother. If I had been able to separate them completely for a few days it may have worked better. She was only more frightened when she was alone. Then I tried Hamlet on his own. He did well, but wanted no parts of me.
So I kept them in for a week or more, spent a lot of time with them, lots of essences, treats, and play, until Hamlet started rattling the door and let me know he was ready to give it another try. Around the end of March I gave step-by-step integration another try and they both did very well with the upstairs, and we kept it at that for a couple of weeks. I started out with the upstairs blocked and lured my cats downstairs when I was to let them out, but eventually I let them stay upstairs and everyone got to know each other. I worked in my studio as much as possible so I could play with them and interact with them even more.
Then my cats discovered how to push my cardboard around and Hamlet and Ophelia were regularly appearing downstairs, but would run back upstairs when they saw me at my desk. I decided it was time to add the first floor to their repertoire and blocked the basement door, but only let them explore for a short time each day, confining them to the upstairs again. Hamlet was reasonable with exploring a little bit, then running back upstairs, a little farther the next time. Ophelia was frightened again, but found her way around, though she was terrified of me when she was out of the room. I still had to shoo both of them into the bathroom, and nothing would help me lure them toward me, not even food.
Then after a couple of weeks it seemed appropriate for the basement to be available. This worked well for Hamlet who did the same quick explorations as he had with the first floor, but Ophelia was really traumatized by all the extra space (in this little house). After a couple of days of quick explorations she would disappear and I would find her crouched under one of the tables down there, and I would have to wave her out of her crouch so that she would move out from under the table and then run upstairs. When I would let them out, she would run straight down to the basement and hide, much as she had done with hiding under the bed.
I again confined them upstairs for a few days, then once again let them both downstairs but played with Ophelia for ten or fifteen minutes after I had let them out. She did end up in the basement a few times, but then decided to spend all her time upstairs, but seemed happy and confident, and finally I could approach her, most of the time, and pet her, and she would run into the bathroom when I stood in there and called her.
Hamlet continued coming downstairs for quick explorations and discovered more catnip toys, other toys, the windows, the kitchen, the basement door, at first staying on the floor but finally getting up onto my desk and tables, the cabinet and table in the kitchen, I just found him everywhere. Last week they both began coming downstairs together and settling by the big window. Each day they are more comfortable and spend more time down here, then go back up and play upstairs, usually staying together. I can pet them all the time in the bathroom, and Hamlet comes over to me and gracefully walks in circles and figure 8s to get his pets. Ophelia talks to me all the time and waves her plumy tail happily when she greets me.
At the rate we are moving now I don’t think we’ll regress at all. Hamlet has lost the startled, distrustful look in his eyes. He is absolutely silent, but Ophelia communicates with me all the time, and today I heard meowing from upstairs that I didn’t recognize, and it turned out to be her walking around and talking. I think we’ll just keep moving forward, and I hope they are as relaxed when they meet other people. Adopters are interested in both of them, but when they kept regressing I had asked for them to be taken down from our Petfinder page because I had no idea when or if they would be socialized enough to go off to be adopted. In a few weeks and meeting a few other people I think I’ll feel confident about their socialization.
In the meantime, it’s fun to watch them explore.
And a few more photos, just for fun!
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