Old triggers and conditioning

By | December 12, 2021

December, 2021

How many hours have Wim and I spent musing about Mitsy’s history? How did she become an outdoor cat? Did she ever live with people? Did she always live in our area? We will never know…

But there are some things that we feel fairly certain about, due to her consistent reactions to certain circumstances. Such as?

When the kittens were still with us in the cat room, we went shopping for different types of wand tools. We bought the ones with fluff at the end, we found simple thread varieties and other materials. Then, remembering how much Suzi always liked to play with feather toys, we ordered some on Amazon. They were knock-offs of the wand toys that Jackson Gallaxy always showed in his television shows. Those are crazy expensive, and many of the cheaper knock-offs work just as well. Not for Mitsy, it turned out! It was really strange. She loved the wand-toy with the fake feather fluffs, but when presented with real bird feathers, she ran off and hid! It happened every time. So, here is our explanation.

Bird bully trauma

We never found her first litter. When she kept coming to our house and became pregnant again, she ate vast amounts of wet food. And she slept under our AC unit in between meal-courses. Sometimes there she left some of the wet food in the bowls. It never took the starlings and the black birds long to sniff out the leftovers. They were ferocious. And it was very clear that Mitsy was deadly afraid of them. If one of those would find a small kitten, they would kill it, for sure. And if they did not do the job, the turkey vultures that live here would do it. Or other bird of prey. We have seen them swoop down from the skies to hunt small rabbits, so a kitten would be no problem. It would certainly explain Mitsy’s fear of these creatures and anything that reminds her of birds. It’s not as if she never caught one, we saw her walk off with on once, but she would have no defense against a flock of them. Sometimes, when I walk in the park behind our house, I see little birds trying to ward off a bird of pray. And it is no joke: the bird of prey nearly always takes off!

Sliding door trauma

Here is another thing we have repeatedly seen in the past few weeks.
Every time we put out fresh food for Mitsy, after the security cameras had alerted us of her arrival in the yard, we had to open and close the sliding doors to the yard. This became a strong trigger to her: she knew the sound and recognised it to be the signal of fresh food. But now that she lives indoors, these doors have the opposite effect on her. We had to do some work in the yard and kept our eyes on Mitsy before opening the doors. We don’t want her to escape in the middle of winter. But we need not worry about that. When we open those doors, she takes off in a hurry, eyes wide open. Our thoughts are that, on some dark day in the past, this was what happened to her. Somebody kicked her out of similar doors and never let her back in. The reaction is too strong to be random. It is as if she says: “Please don’t make me leave!” This has now happened more than once and to us that looks like a sliding door trauma! She is perfectly find looking at the yard from behind the window, but the sound of the doors opening freaks her out…

Our assumptions might be wrong, we realise that. But it makes total sense to us…

One of Mitsy’s playgrounds…