August / September 2021
It happened by accident and it was a spur of the moment thing, but I picked Mitsy up once…
In the first week after the crates were moved to the upstairs cat room, we still crated the feline family at night-time. It quickly became clear that this would only be a temporary solution, mainly for our own reassurance. Although we had cat-proofed the room as best as we could, kittens are unpredictable and we would rather have ‘accidents’ happen during the day so that we could spring to action if necessary.
For Mitsy, being crated at night increasingly meant that she barely had a moment of undisturbed sleep. The 6 kittens got the ‘zoomies’ a couple of times per night and she often got run over while they played incessantly. We could tell that at moments she was close to exhaustion. She hardly ever lost her patience, but did give the kittens the occasional warning bite. They were very respectful of her then. For 5 minutes. Then the circus came to town again.
The helicopter move
So it is not surprising that Mitsy was more and more reluctant to be crated at night. One of the last evenings of night-time crating, we had real trouble getting her in. She was right in front of me and I had just refreshed a cushy bed in the crate. Without thinking about it too much, I picked her up with my hands underneath her belly, and basically helicoptered her over into the crate, on that cushion. It was like she dropped from the sky 🙂 I could feel her muscles bunch in response, but before she knew it, she had landed on the cushion, looking at me with a bit of puzzlement. I quickly closed the crate door….
Wim and I both wondered if this would have consequences. And it did. For the next couple of days she shied away from our hands. But then she forgot about it. The freedom era started: all cats were out in the room day and night and they truly enjoyed it. A lot of the kittens still voluntarily slept in the crates though, which is a testament to how we handled them during the whole project. The crate remained ‘basecamp’ and ‘ensuite’ that represented safe places.
The magic of sardines-in-water
Early September we were preparing for the very first vet visit. First vaccinations, preventative flea treatment and deworming for the kittens and, if possible, vaccinations and health check for Mitsy. To get them all in a carrier, we turned to our trusted sardines-in-water trick again and we were relieved that it still worked. We were very curious to see how they would react to the new room. The vet told us he was basically unable to handle Mitsy. I don’t know their full book of tricks, but they managed to get her the vaccinations she needed but only did a cursory health check on her. She fighting them tooth and nail when they tried to get a hold of her, which was no surprise to us…
When they came back home, the kittens and Mitsy stepped out of their carriers quietly and before long we were able to fondle all of them, even Mitsy. She had gotten into the habit of making herself available for a pet but then, when our hands were just about to touch her back, she would walk off outside of our reach. So still some uncertainty there… But the feeling I got upon that day of homecoming after the vet visit was that she was relieved to be back. We don’t really know what goes on in the minds of cats, of course, it is all guesswork and conjecture. But it feels as if we are starting to better understand her body language and facial expressions.
We expanded the feline freedom even further after a few days. We removed the crates. The room now seemed even bigger, with lots of new spaces to play. And even then, the kittens started to grow in spurts and filled up that room. We knew that we were approaching the moment of saying good bye to some of them, if only to give Mitsy some well-deserved relief… Not something I looked forward to…