The magic of my extendible spoon

July 2021

We were working on our relationship with Mitsy every single day. We were very aware of her reactions, her body language and tried to understand the look in her eyes. I am a fan of Jackson Galaxy, an American ‘cat whisperer’ who used to have a television series called ‘My cat from hell’. He would visit people with cat problems (which often used to be cats with people problems… :). ) One of the tools of his trade was an extendible spoon. He would use it to offer a treat to a cat in a bad mood, to see if food could win them over. I looked literally everywhere to find a spoon like that, but to no avail. The ones I found were either too short (which meant my hand would be within claw range), or the spoon part was wobbly which would make the treats fall off. So I decided to make my own.

A long time ago I had found an in-tact extendible radio or car antenna. Here in suburbia there is always some kind of construction going on and things tend to ‘fall off the wagon’. When I saw that antenna, I picked it up and kept it. I played with it while on conference calls, but I had no special purpose for it. Until Mitsy was trapped. I used a plastic disposable little spoon and duct-tape to create my own extendible spoon and it worked really well. It was stable and nice and long.

My cherished extendible spoon. It was long and narrow enough to stick through the sides of the crate and keep me at a safe distance

The first time I presented it to Mitsy I knew it was going to be swapped away. And I was right. When I slowly moved it in front of her face, she hit it. When I moved it back, she sniffed it, hissed and hit it again. When I tried it once more, this time with a treat in it, she sniffed it and took the treat!

It was very clear to me that she had never had a treat before. She loved it. This cat’s love goes through her stomach, as my fellow countrymen in The Netherlands say 🙂 This was the start of a series of interactions where that ultimately led to me feeding her a treat off my hand.

The very first time that happened, the cratedoor was between us as you can see in the video below. I was ready to remove my hand and it made me a bit too tense. Mitsy ate the treat and then gave me the slightest bite. It was not meant as an aggressive gesture at all, but it made me pull back my hand quickly. That set us back a couple of days, because that movement triggered her to withdraw. Made total sense to me at the time. Cats always react with their hunting instincts when something moves quickly and jerkily. I think now that she was just double checking for more treats, I barely felt her teeth and her whole demeanor was mellow at the time. After two days, we were back on point and it became a routine to give her a treat off my hand from time to time. It may seem like a little thing to you, but for me it was a huge milestone. I still had not touched her in any way so this was the first and closest contact between us. Having the second crate in place, which we called ‘the Ensuite’, was very helpful during these interactions. It also instantly ended her annoyance with the litter boxes, as they were now at a good distance from the kitten shelter. It created a healthy tolerance barrier for all of us. We could hang out IN the main cratespace, through the side door, without being on top of each other.