How do you like that? They’re not black! I’m enjoying it. Meet Ernie and Bert, chilling in the tub, rocking their ear tips.
How many other cats have been named for those two characters from Sesame Street? Ernie is on the left and Bert is on the right, and they’ve actually been with me since the day before Thanksgiving. Yes, for almost three weeks I’ve kept these two hidden from my readers. I’ve actually had one of my annual very busy times in my studio with finishing art and portraits and making custom gifts, and shipping things out.* I barely had time to sleep let alone come up with a post about two new cats on Thanksgiving, then decided I’d let it go until I got to know them. I’m pretty caught up now, so here they are.
These two are about seven months old and are brothers who were surrendered to the Western PA Humane Society in August 2014 (as close as I can figure, they are about the same age as Smokie, all of them little May kittens). Apparently they weren’t pleased to be there and were put in the “hissy kitten” category, meaning they were unadoptable and would be euthanized unless a foster could be found. They were rescued by a call to the Pittsburgh Feral Cat Movement, a foster home was found, they were neutered, ear-tipped in case they could not be socialized, and transported there.
When I was to transport the four hissy kittens to North Charleroi the day before Thanksgiving, that foster home was where Bert and Ernie had gone. Bert and Ernie were friendly with the foster, but she was concerned they needed a little more socialization in a home where they’d meet more people, especially since Ernie had a place in an adoption cage at a pet store. I would pick them up when I dropped off the four hissy tabbies and we’d ask around the group for someone who could give these guys a little finishing.
Kitten season is not over. Everyone is full. I knew I could hold them in my bathroom over Thanksgiving and assess them for socialization, but whether or not I could foster them for a longer term in my little bathroom, I really wasn’t sure. If they needed a safe place to run to like a cage or carrier, that would be in my tub, and relating to a cat who’s huddled in a carrier in the tub is usually a little weird for the cat, especially when I have to remove it from the tub with the cat in it to bathe.
Then there is the stress on my regular household and my two other fosters. Bert and Ernie made nine cats in the house, and one room completely closed off in a six-room house. For most of the years I’ve lived here I have had nine cats in my cat family, and there were many times when, for a while, I’ve had well more than nine cats with extra fosters. But I’m also no stranger to the stress it puts on them in this little place, especially with my boxes of merchandise and materials taking up much of the floor space all over the house making it seem much smaller.
As it turned out, they both went back to hissing and hiding when they got here, though they were gentle, only frightened. But right at Thanksgiving I had to finish up and frame and ship portraits, make a few custom items and ship those and other things off, and had practically no time to spend with the two except when I ran in there with an inked linoleum block to wash off, or paint brushes to be washed or paint to be mixed, or my very late night shower. They ate everything I gave them, hissed at me when I came in, then watched what I did. And listened to me talk to them and sing to them, and accept treats from my hands which were covered with a couple of different flower essences. Good kitties. It was the best I could do, and they were okay with it, but socializing very slowly. Dr. Michelle stopped by once or twice a week to help me with handling them; above she holds Bert for a nail trim. His expression needs no explanation. It’s pretty much directed at me. Below, Ernie just gives in.
If kitties who have some socialization don’t relax and at least look at me and play on their own in a few days, I’ll usually go along with their running and hiding for about a week and then I’ll start to handle them, but I’d really rather they made the first move. I’ll at least spend some time in the room with them reading or sketching or something, and sleeping on the floor, just to get them used to my presence. With all my opening the door and stepping over the baby gate and running water in the sink and such, either one or both were still running in the carrier last week. As I finished things up this weekend I decided the carrier had to go and I set up a bed in a basket outside of the tub, tossed a bunch of treats into it and hoped for the best. They were right in it.
Ernie, who had always been the one to run into the carrier to hide, suddenly let me pet him, and pet him some more, and he purred, and gave me nose kisses. In two days, no more hissing, though he still hops in the tub when I come in and looks a little startled. I can pick him up and carry him around. But look at that face! I smile whenever I see him. The black drips down off his nose all over his chin. And he has white mittens. He is adorable!
Bert still hisses a few times a day, and isn’t so sure about this socialization stuff, but each day there are fewer hisses and I can pet him longer. Today I picked him up and he was relaxed but would not interact with me until I put him back down. But that beautiful red tabby fur and his deep orange eyes! He is so handsome!
Bert and Ernie are brothers and are friends but don’t need to be adopted together. The foster home where they’d spent a few months had many cats and each of them had a favorite place and favorite cats to hang out with. They have a little more time for socialization but Ernie should be ready for adoption in a week or two, Bert will probably take a little longer. They are both domestic medium haired cats, neutered and microchipped and are up to date on all her vaccines. They are located in the Pittsburgh area and can be adopted through PittsburghCAT. If you are interested contact me for more information or an adoption application.
We’ll be sure to see more of them too!
*In addition to the art and work, I manage matters for my disabled brother. It was time for Medicare re-enrollment, yet I could find no medical cards, but I did find medical bills…and that he had lost his medical card and was going to doctors without insurance. And then Medicare told me I wasn’t his representative, he had apparently answered questions incorrectly…And he forgot how to use his Tracphone and that he needed to plug it in to charge it…and he totally messed up his DirectTV. Sigh. It’s far easier to socialize cats.
Read about other foster cats and read other stories in my Rescue Stories series.
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