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Wildlings in the House

Octavia has long been coming inside to visit, sometimes for five minutes or fifteen other times for over an hour. Lately though she has started just slipping inside whenever we open the door. Last week I was on my way to run errands and I closed the door and realized that I didn’t see Octavia anywhere and she had just been standing there! I unlocked the door to be greeted by Little Miss “I Was a Wild Kitty” just hanging out in my foyer. It took a little convincing to get her to go back outside. Note to anyone I might have a date with in the near future, the cat may make me late, the struggle is real.

Bellamy is always a bit behind trying out the things Tavi does. Historically with him, it has been two to three weeks behind but this time I feared I’d traumatized him.  When the temperatures were sub zero a few weeks ago, I grabbed him and dragged him inside, it set me way back with him to the point that he wouldn’t let me pet him. He would rub his head against me but he didn’t want to take a chance on me grabbing him again.

Today, we had a huge breakthrough! I opened the door and Tavi came strolling in and I invited Bellamy who then put his head and front feet inside. He was specifically looking to see if the TV was on because it freaks him out. He stepped inside but I let the door move a little and he heard it and raced back out onto the porch. I talked to him calmly and told him he was very brave and would he like to come in again. This is crazy cat lady talk if you don’t recognize it.  He sat looking longingly inside then suddenly just bolted through the open door! I closed it and he headed towards it in a mild panic but I reassured him that he was fine and that Octavia was inside with him so he explored. I snapped a few photos while he was roaming, and got a beautiful shot of Octavia too and I’m sharing them with you here, because I know you came here for the photos!

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They ran to greet us in the driveway today, they always come running but usually meet us on the porch, it’s not okay to touch them unless they are on the porch.

Bellamy’s in the house! Look at him just chillin’ in the kitchen!

Just hanging out with Tavi and checking out the grasshopper.

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My gorgeous Octavia, practicing her “I’m a lioness and don’t you forget it” pose! I love this girl.

 

We move forward, we move back, sometimes by a leap and sometimes by a small paw. For over a week we would open the front door and Octavia would just waltz in uninvited, and with calm assurance. Sometimes she wandered around sniffing this or that and sometimes she stayed firmly in the foyer and played with her grasshopper toy. Recently though she needs a little more coaxing and the only reason I can come up with is that we spent the night away and our sweet neighbor Angel cared for Princeton that night. It appears that when we travel or in this case, go away for a night, it sets the cats back almost as if a switch flips and their earlier mistrust of humans kicks in.  Bellamy has made a tiny bit of progress, allowing himself to be coaxed into the house for treats and on two visits he actually looked around a little and sat for a few minutes in the foyer before freaking out and begging to be set free.  He wants to be inside, yearns to come in where it’s warm and there are snacks and scratches under his chin, but his self-preservation screams for him to be cautious. Winter is coming my handsome boy, winter is coming and I expect you to be lying by the fire sooner rather than later so be warned!

I’ll leave you here dear Octavia and Bellamy fan with some photos of them to warm your hearts.

 

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That’s Bellamy trying out the idea of being a house cat. He’s warming to the idea but slowly.

 

My goal as the bitterly cold weather is quickly approaching is to have the Ferals, Octavia and Bellamy, spending many long hours inside the house, perhaps laying by the fireplace. That goal isn’t being met quickly enough for me, but as a friend reminded me; a few months ago I couldn’t get within several feet of these two. These days they sometimes “knock” on the front door, meow to get my attention if that doesn’t work, and they rub around and in between my feet talking and purring. Bellamy is as he has always been, more cautious and it takes him longer to decide something is okay and can’t or won’t hurt him. I insisted on him allowing me to pet and scratch him by first touching his back in such a fleeting way that he would look around confused, wondering if I’d really touched him or not. Then we progressed to something more like a fast brush down his back until one day I decided to scratch his neck, he started to bolt then suddenly just relented and leaned into me and began purring. It sounds easy but it took literally months.

I’ve said before that for every step we take forward, we then go back about seven. Each trip we took out of town and some loving friend, family member or pet sitter looked after them, it unsettled their perception of normal and became a cause for starting all over again. It’s been frustrating and rewarding at the same time. I’d feared that trapping them and having them neutered and spayed would make them suspicious of us forever, it didn’t even seem to bother them at all, weird kitties but I’m grateful that I didn’t have to track them down and coax them back to my porch.

We had been able to coax Tavi inside several times and she very cautiously would sniff around the downstairs. Those of you who have cats or have experienced cats would recognize the posture of slinking around and startling at every little thing then bolting. Then suddenly one day she came in and looked around but in an upright confident posture, then lay on the rug in the hallway and bathed, she even rolled over and invited me to rub her tummy. I’m not that dumb Tavi, but well played nevertheless.  Something set her back, she stopped being willing to come in when invited, but she would step in and eat breakfast if I insisted. Bellamy would WANT to but couldn’t bring himself to cross the threshold with more than a delicate paw. Last week that all changed, at least for now. Tavi will just march in the house with hardly any encouragement, Bellamy most of the time sits outside the door looking in and crying. He breaks my heart that one.

Yesterday I used “kitty crack” also known as Cat Treats to lure Bellamy inside. He also ate breakfast and a snack inside but just barely and the door was required to remain open as he had to keep checking that his freedom wasn’t in peril.

Tavi, on the other hand, came in and stayed again for a long time, she even visited the Christmas trees and paused to be a true indoor cat by tasting the live tree. Yes, I let her chew on my tree, what was I going to do?

I’m including a bunch of photos, most of them aren’t all that good, but they document Octavia’s exploration of the house and Bellamy thinking about it.

 

The pics above were on Friday when she decided to just waltz in and look around.

 

That is Tavi on YOUR left and Bellamy on your right. You will notice he sort of hung back then settled in. You will also notice the door propped open for his comfort.

 

Bellamy can’t quite make himself stay in the house, but you see he did come in without the inducement of food. He wants to be inside, he is very fond of us and seems to crave our company but you know it’s a big space there could be any kind of dangers in there, rugs on the floor, heat vents, hats, blankets and things that make noise! He will get there, it’s just taking so long!

While Bellamy waited outside, Octavia made herself at home.

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I’ll just sit right here and be handsome while I wait for Octavia, you can come pet me though.

 

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It’s an abnormally warm November morning, Octavia and Bellamy have been fed, offered treats to come inside, (Tavi did but the TV freaks Bellamy out completely so note to self, turn the tv off before opening the door and inviting them in.) petted multiple times and engaged in silly conversations. In spite of the warm and overly full tummies, these cats hunt. It’s a common misconception about cats, the idea that they hunt because of hunger. Cats hunt because they are programmed to hunt. When Miss Kitty who lives in your house and sits on your computer keyboard, is chasing that laser you’re shining on the floors and walls, she’s hunting, think on that one.  I’ve called Bellamy and Octavia out of my bird feeding stations more times than I can count, as a matter of fact, I first saw Tavi hunting my birds long before she presented me with her five babies. Looking back I wonder now if in some way the kittens were an exchange for any birds she may have snagged or permanently chased away.

 

 

“No Mom, I’m not hunting, I’m a scarecrow keeping squirrels out of the birdfeeders.”

 

 

While Tavi pretended to be a scarecrow, Bellamy came out of his hiding place in the overgrown Lemon Balm plants and visited with me on the porch. I tried to coax him inside but this time the floor vent was cause for concern. He is brave though and keeps trying.

Note the little wet paw prints all around the boy. This one tugs at my heart in a special way, it’s shocking to me sometimes how much he makes me smile.

 

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My phone, and the sounds it makes taking pictures is still a concern for Bellamy but every now and then I can catch a great photo of him. Isn’t he handsome?  He really has come a very long way in his trust of us, greeting us at the door and rubbing against our legs and pushing his head into our palms asking to be scratched. All of this must be done with great care though, as you can see by his expression in the above photo, he is still very wary. Tavi too continues to warm up by small increments. Yesterday she let me come to her and pet her while she lay on top of the winter box. It’s important to note that prior to that moment we weren’t allowed to touch her unless she and we were standing, heaven forbid you try and pet her when you were sitting on the steps or standing out in the yard. So, the invitation from her to ‘come over here and pet me’ was a wonderful surprise and a great show of her trust for me. We did this twice before I made the mistake of approaching her while wearing my Carolina Panthers hat, no she has no dislike of my team just a fear of the new and different. She studied the hat with a lot of panic written all over her and finally decided that it wasn’t safe and she fled.

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  • On a Thursday night, the crowd is very young, I think the regulars give their tickets to young people. Those young people were so excited to be there, they brought great energy!
  • I understand something like 35% of the Spanish spoken around me. I sat beside two Hispanic men who were very openly pleased when I sat down and said “Hey Y’all.” 😉 They were so excited about the game and while they spoke English to me (and danced and double high-fived me multiple times) they enjoyed the game in Spanish, and by ‘enjoyed’ I mean, they cursed a lot which made me laugh because I was cursing in English along with them.
  • Sports Fans are (generally) a great slice of America, they take their hats off and put their hand on their heart when the National Anthem is sung (Sang? Sung.) On a personal note, that particular National Anthem was my first since the election and I was so proud to be standing there with my hand covering my heart, hyper aware of the two Hispanic men doing the same and the Carolina Panthers ALL on their feet. Sports Fans in America applaud the Military, current and former attending the event, they stand up and they applaud and they are humble and appreciative. They may turn into jerks five minutes later but by golly, they get it.
  • While much booing and even a little name calling can be directed at the opposing team, when one of them is injured and laying on the field, people go silent, they pray, they watch and wait and hope they get up and when they do, they applaud, and they mean it.
  • You can ignore drunk people and they don’t remember it. The guys behind us, they are always there, they talk too much, they drink too much and they get stupid, but even when they attempt to interact with you, because they are drunk, you can ignore them, ask God to forgive you and know that they really won’t remember in the morning. I should note that God has nothing to do with whether or not they remember.
  • When you don’t have much faith left in the people in the world, go to a football game, people hold doors for you, tell you to have a great day, hug you when your team scores, they sing and dance with you and don’t really care what color you are, what language you speak or who you voted for; you share the love of the team!
  • There is a rotten apple in every group; even with all this fun and camaraderie, there is almost always someone who is a jerk, just ignore them.

For every step forward with Octavia and Bellamy, we go backward at least seven times before firmly moving forward. I have patience, I do, but I’m a little weary. One day Bellamy will climb my window screen, crying and calling until I come outside to spend time with him and the next day he will run from me when I open the front door. I’m beginning to have deep concerns about the onset of winter, I’m not sure they are or have gone in the box and now Mark thinks they may be sleeping underneath our wooden sidewalk in the back yard rather than in the Bolton’s shed like we were certain they were.

Progress is slow if not stagnant although Bellamy has started sometimes bumping his head against my hand asking to be petted, though sometimes when I pet him, he smacks me to ask me to stop. He never puts his claws out, and he doesn’t look terrified all the time, but it’s such a slow, slow progress.

I did manage to get some pretty cute photos this week and I know that’s what you are here for.

 

 

I think Meeko and Octavia are really improving their relationship. ❤

 

Bellamy enjoying the afternoon sunshine AND not freaking out because we are not on the porch, normally this is cause for alarm in both kitties.

 

Mark and I have both struggled with the on and off attitudes of these two sweethearts; it wears you out, one day they are in the house sniffing around and the next day they run when you open the door. This is where the Gorilla analogy happens, it’s something I tell myself and Mark daily.

If you found yourself suddenly in the company of gorillas or just one gorilla and that gorilla was kind and calm, bringing you food and making nice sounds at you; how long would it take for you to become comfortable with that nice gorilla wanting to touch you? How about scratching your head? I think most of us can understand the reluctance of Octavia and Bellamy to surrender their fears. This particular “gorilla” is going to keep being kind and patient, lives depend on it.

 

I’ve been hearing a car alarm going off at random times lately, by the time I get to the door to try and track it, it stops. The one thing I have noticed is that when this happens, Octavia and Bellamy show up really quickly. I’ve been a little slow to come to this conclusion but either the neighbor’s toddler is playing with the key ring, or my ferals are setting off the alarm, I’m going to blame the toddler it’s easier that way.

Today I surrendered to Molly’s need to be wherever I am, even if that means on the kitchen counter. She’s old, that has earned some privilege, right?

 

 

Meeko and Princeton, the honorary cat in this house, have been steady friends for a long time but they have never quite spoken the same language. Princeton is a butt sniffer and Meeko likes to rub his head on Princeton in a show of affection, this always freaks Princeton out and makes him do the alarmed “WHAT is he doing?” dance. Today, they didn’t need an interpreter, Meeks offered his head and Buddy (that would be one of Princeton’s many names) licked him.

 

In a really fun development, Meeko seems once again to have given up hissing at the Ferals and instead is ‘hanging out’ with them.

 

 

This is progress. This is a household struggling to come together peacefully. Today is election day, we can all learn from these kitties.