Friday, April 19, 2024
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New Fosters: Hamlet and Ophelia

They settled briefly in the basket that first day.
They settled briefly in the basket that first day.

I have two new foster cats in the house, two older kittens/young adults who need a little bit of socialization, brother and sister Hamlet and Ophelia.

These two had been trapped as part of TNR but were brought in to be socialized. After months they just weren’t socializing, so their foster decided they needed to go back out as community cats and found a barn where they could be placed.

Community cats who are to be moved from their original site are placed in a socialization cage at the new site for at least two weeks to a month to help them become accustomed to the new place, then released. These two were in the cage, but were terrified of the life and were not growing accustomed to the site and life outdoors, in fact they were both very frightened.

I had offered months before to help socialize these two if I had the space but I’ve been full since then with Charm and her kittens and then Alvina, Simon and Theodore. When the three were just about done with socialization I got a request to see if I could still help these two. They were moved from their site to the clinic on a Sunday and spent the night at another foster’s house, then arrived here on September 16. Their paperwork had given them the names of Blackbeard for the larger black male and Casper for the smaller gray female. I’ve been so busy since then with work and extra cats that this is the first chance I’ve had to introduce them, and because those names really didn’t resonate with me from the beginning within a few days and the black cat’s actions, “To be socialized, or not to be socialized, that is the question…”, I decided to change their names to Hamlet and Ophelia and see if that was more suitable.

In the carrier, big eyes.
In the carrier, big eyes.

I looked at them inside their carrier, talked to them and slowly reached in to touch them. They were terrified of my hand, the black one hissed once but neither growled or swatted at me so I decided I would remove them from their carrier right away rather than let them use the carrier for a protective area. A carrier big enough for two cats would take up nearly all my floor space or the entire tub, and with the space that’s left it’s difficult both for me to maneuver in the room and to relate to them face to face and touch them and encourage them to play with interactive toys as I’d need to do to socialize them. Worse, I’d need to pick up the carrier and move it regularly in order bathe, even if it wasn’t in the tub. The bathroom is small with areas they could use to hide in and they were socialized enough that it would work out for all of us.

The first few interactions are so very important. I had wiped the room with pheromone wipes and then doused myself and the room with a couple of flower essences, smiled and talked to them inside the carrier without a lot of eye contact and tried to release the lid of the carrier and take it off, which would be a lot less threatening than reaching in to pull them out. I couldn’t get the top loose without using tools and actions that might frighten them while they were trapped inside, so the only other choice was to reach inside and pull them out, risky for injury for me and them, but though they might not be socialized they seemed only frightened as I interacted with them. Done carefully and with confidence, I could at least pick them up and remove them without harm to any of us, and it would give me a better idea of where they were with socialization. I composed myself for a quick response just in case I needed to avoid a scratch or bite and reached in to pick up Ophelia, closing the cage door.

Though Hamlet hissed at me and plastered himself against the back wall, Ophelia, surprisingly petite, curled herself around my hand and closed her eyes and tucked her face as I gently cuddled her. I stood up to look in the mirror, which is a better way to see their actions when they are in a ball in your arms. I could see her tail was tucked, but she was peeking around just a little, though she was purring nervously. I held and petted her for a bit, then put her in the basket in the tub which I’d prepared for them to hide in if they found it comfortable. She curled in a ball and stared at me wide-eyed.

Now for Hamlet, and the last thing I wanted to do was to be intimidating or threatening by reaching in to drag him out, but he was not coming any closer on his own. Treats and toys made no impression as he alternately stared at me, then blinked and looked away. The blink let me know he was scared, but unlikely to attack me, so I reached in and gently slid him forward with one hand, and then picked him up when I had him near the door. He was very tense but allowed me to hold him, and looking in the mirror I could see he was doing the same as Ophelia had, but perhaps seeing the movement in the mirror he looked up at the mirror. Undecided, he was by moments angry, frightened, moving to get away, tensing and holding still. That was when I quoted the lines to him and called him Hamlet. At that moment I don’t think he cared what I called him, but at least I knew he wasn’t aggressive unless startled or provoked. He felt much larger than his sister, and very muscular. I put him in the basket with his sister and left them to adjust to the new space.

They found the cubby.
They found the cubby.

They didn’t stay in the basket but after some exploring which I could follow by listening to their movements, they found the cubby next to the tub, and there they stayed for a day or two, then I most often found them behind the toilet.

Look closely, my toilet has eyes.
Look closely, my toilet has eyes.

I talked to them as if was perfectly normal to have cat faces staring from behind your toilet bowl, and gently reached down to touch each of them each time I came in. I occasionally heard scurrying in the room, and the food wasn’t moving very fast, neither dry nor wet, so they were having a little trouble adjusting to the space, but after a few days they seemed to settle into a routine which included exploring, eating a tiny bit at a time, and tolerating me. They are very nocturnal, and one night I heard what sounded like play as a bizzy ball went jingling around the room for minutes at a time. Finally, they were relaxing.

I'm just a little girl.
I’m just a little girl.

I began to make progress with Ophelia, picking her up and cuddling her briefly though they stayed in their safe spots when I was in the room, and Hamlet I could only touch and pet briefly. Just a week after they’d arrived I found them oddly in the basket in the tub and could see Ophelia had developed an eye discharge, and as the evening progressed noticed that she was either pretty relaxed in the basket or something was up. I could hear a loud purr, which is not the reassuring purr but rather the one that indicates a cat is in some discomfort, and Hamlet was sitting next to his sister and glowering at me, as if I wasn’t doing something I needed to do.

The night Ophelia needed to go to the vet.
The night Ophelia needed to go to the vet.

Upper respiratory infections and herpes flare ups are not uncommon when cats are stressed and for the most part I let my vet know and simply observe and treat symptoms and add lysine to their food unless they stop eating or develop a fever. Ophelia was rather limp and continued to purr when I picked her up. I checked her hydration, wiped her eyes and finally decided to take her temperature, all of which she tolerated without complaint, continuing to purr loudly. The thermometer raced up to 105.

In the afternoon she had eaten and even taken a few treats from me, and now she had a dangerous fever which had apparently come on quickly and could go higher. For me, that means veterinary action as soon as possible because it could be a quickly moving infection where a few hours could make the difference between life and death, but it was 2:00 AM and my car wasn’t available. I put some rubbing alcohol on her paw pads but the fever combined with her tolerance of all this handling convinced me I needed to get her to a veterinarian and not even wait for morning. I tried to call and message a few people who might be able to take us to the emergency hospital, took Ophelia’s temperature again and it was unchanged, then finally found another rescuer who was awake and agreed to pick us up and get us to emergency.

Ophelia really didn't feel good.
Ophelia really didn’t feel good.

It turned out to be a pretty severe upper respiratory infection and after treatment at the vet her temperature was dropping and I was sent home with antibiotics and eyedrops, and continuing the lysine.

She likes her pets.
She likes her pets.

Sometimes being treated for an illness is a great way to become socialized and it’s been working well for Ophelia, and even Hamlet seems to appreciate the help I gave his sister. She tolerated seven days of antibiotics and eye drops and improved, but over the weekend when her eyes seemed to be getting worse, truly frightening, and she sounded congested I consulted with Dr. Morrow about seeing Ophelia in case something else was developing and to get more of the medications if needed. Dr. Michelle stopped by on Saturday and we did a little acupuncture and started an herbal treatment and as we finished up the antibiotics that seemed to help Ophelia finally kick this infection. Her eyes are still a little weepy but no more redness. She has an enthusiastic appetite for canned food  and actually gets up on the sink and eats from the food bowl while I’m mixing supplements into it and eats right in front of me when I put it on the floor.

Ophelia is getting very affectionate.
Ophelia is getting very affectionate.

They are still quite nocturnal and during the day stay undercover, but in the evening and at night I’ll find them up on the cabinet or in the tub. Ophelia often gets up and greets me with her tail up and a cat stretch, and though she is still timid I can pick her up, hold her and cuddle her and she purrs comfortably. Prince Hamlet is far more reserved, though I gave them both bright orange sparkle balls and he finds them irresistible.

Handsome Hamlet.
Handsome Hamlet.

As always, I had no idea what they looked like before they arrived, and maybe I’m not surprised to see they are black and gray, and medium-haired. I guess it’s my era for black cats, and even gray cats are really a dilute black! Right now, until the other fosters actually go to their adoptive homes, I have ten black cats in the house and two gray ones!

I'm such a pretty little girl.
I’m such a pretty little girl.

. . . . . . .

Friendship Friday.
Friendship Friday.

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Bernadette

From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

5 thoughts on “New Fosters: Hamlet and Ophelia

  • bluemoonalone

    Well now Hamlet & Ophelia…I do apologize for missing your introduction…you are both quite beautiful and I am so pleased to meet you…I hope that your troubles have cleared up by now Ophelia…you are such a good girl to take all of your medications and treatments so well…The two of you couldn’t ask for a better foster mom than Miss Bernadette..I will be looking to catch up with your new adventures in learning to love…Hugs..

    Reply
  • hay ewe guys….furst up we asked R rockin awesum pal St Francis ta send sum blessings yur way Ophelia…..we hope ewe continmew ta get better & better each day…we will all sew ask him ta leed ewe both, two gether, two yur new foreverz…we wish all de veree veree best ….rite now yur both in eggz cell ant hands ~~

    heerz two a frigate mackerull kinda week oh end ♥♥♥

    Reply
    • Ophelia is feeling even better today than yesterday when I took the update photos at the end! And they are both making little steps toward socialization each day. Thanks, Tabbies!

      Reply
  • They are beautiful, I love how they are always together and pray they will get a forever home together eventually. I am adding them to my prayer list.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the prayers, Pilch92. I can’t wait to see them learn to love living with humans.

      Reply

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