“The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. I love that expression! Especially when I think of the milestones that happened right under our eyes with Mitsy. I could swear that this is how she processes changes: she notices something new, withdraws a little bit, observes, but takes no immediate action. The new development marinates in her brain until she is ready to experience it. And then she acts quickly and decisively and adopts the change as if it has been there for ages. Does that mean that we have taken a big step, or was it coincidence that she accepted the change?
When the Ensuite became too small for 6 very big, healthy and active kittens, we had to make a choice. Were we confident enough to sacrifice one of our carpeted bedrooms to convert it into a cat room? What were the risks? We had only ever interacted with Mitsy within the safety of the crates. What would she do with an open room? Would she demolish it? And how would she behave towards us? There is, after all, a big difference between being confined to a small space and having an entire room to move around in. What if she was going to attack us when we entered the room? What if she would escape? How would our resident cat react? Living in the basement is very different from living in an upstairs room, where the cats would be able to see and sniff each other through the narrow space underneath the door… What if, what if, what if… Again lots of nerves and stress.
We took the plunge, hoping the move would not cause a major upset and setback. The kittens were no issue: we had been handling them for weeks now. But Mitsy? She surprised us. We lured her into a carrier, placed within the crates, with the use of our trusted sardines in water. 2 Kittens walked in with her. The others got their own carrier and off they went, up the two flights or stairs, on the way to their new room. When we put the carriers in the crates upstairs and opened the doors, Mitsy stormed out with a huge hiss and hid in a corner. The kittens were slower to come out – this was their first big adventure in life. But there was no drama. None at all. We were able to handfeed Mitsy a treat after a few moments, and before long the kittens were playing in the crates as if they never moved. Some of them sat on their bums, looking around. So they were certainly aware of a change.
We opened the crates after a couple of days, with a bit of trepidation, but were delighted to see that Mitsy was not giving us the cold shoulder; or worse. On the contrary. Her new room started a chain reaction of positive events. The extra space allowed for more play and more places to lounge when the summer heat hit the room.
The new cat tree gave her a few days of relief from the always nursing and demanding kittens. And then all of a sudden the whole family was everywhere all the time.
It was the start of the most delightful phase in kitten-caring. Mitsy adjusted smoothly to every change and it was clear that we had built a solid foundation of trust with her. We were never attacked. Sometimes we got warnings and she only let us touch her at mealtime. But we felt we had started a new stage in the socialisation process. Now all we needed was time. And hours and hours of hard work. Up and down the stairs after poop-scooping, bringing new food, clearing out old food, coming in for play, cleaning towels and spilled litter, and watching the room cameras when we were not in with the cats ourselves. It was wonderfully exhausting and rewarding!