A full circle moment…

Day 125

Surgery and healing done, back in the cat tree. All is well.

Today (Thursday 11 November) it is exactly 2 weeks since Mitsy was spayed and I can truly say that she is healed from the surgery. We expected her to stay ‘coned’ for at least 1 week, but after only 5 days madame decided to take it off herself. That was a scary moment. We had watched the incision site carefully all of those 5 days and we thought it looked really good. It looked healed, at least at the level of the skin. But we had been warned repeatedly by the vet to take things slow, keep the cone on for at least 1 week to minimise the risk of her meddling with the incision.

We checked her day and night until we got to the 10 day mark, but she never seemed overly interested in the wound. Going by how she moved around, it even looked as if she had no pain whatsoever, despite the fact that she was only on painkillers for 3 days.

“Try to limit her activity level”

That was another strong recommendation of the vet. Right. But with a cat that feels good, has lots of energy, that is no easy feat. We decided that a bored cat would be more inclined to start licking and obsessing about her belly, than one that is kept busy and entertained. So we re-introduced play, but just at ground level.

A power of towels

Lucky for me, Mitsy has always liked to play-hunt toys that are hidden under a towel or a blankie. So I spread a bunch of old towels on the floor of the cat room, only gave her the very softest of toys and bought a ‘cyclone carrousel’ for her to play with.  The old one went to the Adoption Centre with the twins, so that they had something to do in their condo. It is a round contraption with a kind of heavy pingpong ball that goes around in circles (you can see it in the video below, it is a blue circle with a scratch pad in the middle). But the ball cannot be removed by the cat. It makes a sound that triggers play, but it will not cause her to jump and run.

It worked out brilliantly. She engaged in play, even when we were not around, and basically did it all while sitting or lying down on the towels, with just an occasional low jump. And the strategy of toys hidden under some towels also worked perfectly. Any excess energy or frustration she had, she took out on the towels, kicking them with her hind legs and biting in them. The result was a fairly contented little cat that enjoyed this limited version of play.

Soft-style play at a somewhat lower gear than usual, due to the surgery
With this crazy look on her face, it is not hard to see that there is some pent-up energy to get rid of!

Let me out, please!

As time went by, it became more and more clear that Mitsy was quite fed-up of being locked in her room day and night. Under our supervision we started letting her out upstairs. We did not want any confrontations with Suzi at that point so the stairs were off limits. We realised that the surgery was still very fresh and from time to time, as Mitsy stretched out, we could actually see the inside stitches. Brrrrr… They stayed in place, thank God, but it made it very clear to us that the site was still vulnerable.

Please? Can I come downstairs?

I want to go downstairs!

Ultimately, we started leaving the cat room open after we had reached the 10 day mark. And we gave her mornings and evenings to explore the house, only under supervision. It was quite natural for her to retreat to her cat room for her long afternoon naps and then we closed the door for a while so there were no distractions. She had some ‘distanced’ encounters with Suzi, but neither one of them was in a hurry to go too close. But it is obvious that both are curious…

Suzi is eating and has no clue she has an audience… but Mitsy does not go further than this and keeps her distance…

This is where we are now

In the past days we have noticed that Mitsy is very respectful of Suzi, but there is an undercurrent of something else. Impatience perhaps? She is inviting Mitsy to play. She is trying get up close and personal. We have seen her prepare to jump on the chair next to the one where Suzi sleeps, and then see her change her mind. When Suzi is on her cat tree downstairs, Mitsy sometimes stands upright against the scratching pole to watch her. Suzi condones it all but does hiss or growl when Mitsy oversteps. And then Mitsy retreats and often uses the towels in her cat room to release what must be a level of frustration and anxiety. She basically hunts and kills the towels and then gets herself back into a more mellow state of mind. And goes for a nap.

The cat tree is back

To add a little more excitement to Mitsy’s world, I have put the cat tree back into her room. I was interested to see if there was any reaction that would indicate her recognising the scent of her kittens. The whole litters used this tree extensively and I am sure Mitsy can pick up on that. But it did not look like a traumatic experience and right now the big afternoon nap has started and she is sleeping in the little hamac. She has been all over the tree earlier this morning, in play, jumping and climbing and had sat on all of the surfaces without any trace of being reminded of the kittens.

Before spaying…
…and after spaying

Full circle

So it is probably true what I have been reading in several books: that after a separation of two weeks, mother cats are fine with the empty nest. It is completely normal for them to ‘lose’ their kittens and they do not grieve about it like humans might, for instance, after dropping off their kids at university. So this is where this nursery blog ends. It has come full circle. We have reached our goals quite smoothly and feel so blessed.

Healthy kittens were born in a safe environment for mom and babies. They grew up surrounded by human interactions and there is nothing feral or aggressive about them. Mitsy kept them to herself for the first 2 weeks, and then allowed us more and more direct contact. I am sure that seeing us handle her kittens has demonstrated and taught her that not all humans are bad. The roughhousing of the kittens, especially after moving to the upstairs cat room, has triggered her own playfulness. These days, she sometimes looks like a kitten herself and that is delightful!

What a journey it has been for all of us! 

And it is not over yet… 

The journey continues

A new chapter has been added to Mitsy’s blogs and it will focus on furthering Mitsy’s socialisation and her relationship with Suzi.

The primary objective of this foster project was always to keep her and her litter safe and then have her spayed and the kittens adopted. We did not really allow ourselves to look beyond that. But here we are… What we have seen the past few days gives us hope. She might indeed become a friendly companion for our resident cat Suzi and easy enough to handle for us, so that we can take her to the vet in a carrier or have a cat sitter look after her without the situation possibly become dangerous. I am convinced Mitsy is not a completely feral cat. She is a stray cat that had her own private reasons to distrust people. She chooses her own moments to reach out to us and enjoy cuddles and play. If she is not in the right mood, she simply walks away. Or sits down just out of reach of our hands. But a foundation of trust and affection is firmly in place. And look how fast that really went… we have had her in the house for 4 months now. We have known her for a mere 9 months… It is a demonstration of the power of loving patience and respecting a cat’s boundaries, interpreting as best as we can the physical signs she gives us to indicate where these boundaries are. She, in turn, also makes very apparent efforts to ‘read’ our behaviour. She is sensitive to mild corrections and enjoys when we reach out to her. What more can we ask for?

One more post to come…

I am working on one more post for the Nursery blog, that shows some never-published materials and some fun pictures of the feline family.

Wim and I thank you for following us and hope you will keep coming back regularly to this website.