Socializing

You are currently browsing the archive for the Socializing category.

This is an update on our foster cat Wally (aka “Wally G”, “Supper G”, and “The Cannon Ball”).  Brief recap:  this boy is from a hoarder.  He is very much of two minds of people:  part of him is wary of people and part of him loves to be pet by people.  Other cats from this site became supper affectionate but Wally remains mixed.  Other cats from this site also had good litter box habits but Wally:  mixed.

While his buddies from the site were here we kept the whole group together downstairs over night.  Wally spent a lot of time by him self but he also spent some time snuggled with his buddies.

Wally liked to sleep with his site-mates.

Wally liked to sleep with his site-mates.

Since the two ladies have been adopted we integrated Wally entirely – he how comes upstairs with our two resident cats.

Wally has presented us with some challenges.  He is wary of being touched.  I (Tom) put him in carriers several times and lost all his petting privileges.  He can get restive and somewhat noisy, particularly before meal times.  But worst of all: occasionally he pees on furniture.  There can be weeks between incidents but then he goes and does it again.  We don’t know why and are not experts on dealing with inappropriate elimination.

On the other hand he is a darling boy deserving of a good life.  I love Wally.  What a dear, beautiful cat.  He has the energy of a somewhat nerdy, awkward boy who does not know how to interact and make friends but has a good heart.  He is a happy and gentle boy who’s biggest offense is not knowing what to do.  Where he grew up he never learned not to pee on the couch, never learned to fully trust people, and somehow never learned to skillfully greet other cats.  With other cats he has two modes.  He either does an enthusiastic head-butt and body rub or cautiously shies away.  He does not seem able to distinguish another cat soliciting play vs intimidating him.

Wally

He got adopted once and returned 2 days latter.  His main offense was peeing on the bed but he also complained loudly about being shut in his “sanctuary” room.

Since that time we have not posted him for adoption.  We don’t know what to do with him.  We think he wants to live with other cats – but they have to be gentle cats.  We would like to place him as a companion animal but know it will be difficult to find adopters who will take a cat who is known to pee on furniture and have patience to socialize him.  He might do well in a shop home…

On one hand he is making great progress.  He lets us pet him more often.  He is very playful and often seems quite relaxed.  In just the past couple nights he has joined us on the bed and cuddled with our resident cat Annabelle.  He loves this and has purred louder than I have ever heard him purr.

Annabelle and Wally snuggling

Annabelle and Wally snuggling

On the other hand he is an un-repentant pee-er.  I have video of him peeing in a cat bed which he was just sleeping in.  My best understanding of this is that he never learned to pee ONLY in litter boxes.  He will use them in general but if another soft surface presents then he will use that.

We are not sure what to do with this boy.

November of 2012 the Seattle Animal Shelter received a number of cats from a hoarder.  We got the 5 most likely candidates for socialization:  4 adults and a kitten.  We set the adults up in carrires in cages in the basement.  Initially they were too shy to come out of their carriers but 3 clearly loved to be pet.  All were undernourished, had URI, and needed time to recover and get healthy.  After a while we moved them to an upstairs room where they all hid under the bed.  Now they have full run of the house and are some of the sweetest, quirkiest cats we have fostered.

Lucy (left) and Lily were too shy to come out of their carrier at first

Lucy (left) and Lily were too shy to come out of their carrier at first

Lily

Lily relaxed by me on the couch.

Lily relaxed by me on the couch.

Lily shared a cage with Lucy and the two would sit at the door of their carrier with little tortious shell faces looking out.  I could reach in and they would both head butt and crowd up to my hand for pets but they were too shy to come out.  After a couple days they got bold enough to come out for their meals.  I would sit by and pet them while they were eating.  At first this was too much and they would scurry back into their carrier but then they could stay out to eat while being pet.  Lily was the first to come out to greet me and seemed interested in exploring outside of the cage.  We called her “Ms Adventure” because she was the boldest of the two ladies.

Now that she has run of the house she has shown a unique blend of shyness and boldness.  She hides inside a livingroom chair most of the day and is the hardest to approach.  But, in the evenings when we settle she is the first to jump into our laps for pets.

Lily has a very soft, down, medium length tortious shell fur – just a delight to pet.

Lucy

Lucy always has a serious, shocked expression.

Lucy always has a serious, shocked expression.

Lucy is my particular favorate.  She supper loved head rubs but was more wary coming out than Lily was.  Now that she is upstairs she is the one who is most likely to approach me for pets and the one who will sleep on the bed with me.

Lucy has not one tooth in her head – we speculate an effect of in-breeding that happened in the hoarders.  She has a tendency to wheeze and snort – we think related to the structure of her mouth and nasal passage.  Her purr is a charming cooing snort.  Lack of teeth, however, does not much impair her abiltiy to eat.  We generally feed her pate which she gums down with gusto.  She is the thinnest of the honeys but slowly putting on weight.

Lucy’s coat is a little coarser than Lily’s but has a beautiful mahogany color and is a pleasure to pet.  She has a of a disheveled, serious look, but is always ready for a head rub.  If my attention lags she will tap our arm with her paw to pull our attention back to petting her.  (Lucy and Lily have since been adopted together.)

Wally

Wally at a cat adoption event.

Wally at a cat adoption event.

Wally is a black boy, shaped like a cannon ball.  He had a big appetite so got a cage by himself.  He would sit head out the door and hiss at us when approached.  If we just held our hand above him Wally would give it a moment consideration then headbutt us and purr.  He would come out for his food then notice that he was out and shoot back into his carrier.  He would then notice that there is food and come out to eat.

Once we gave them free run of the house he immediatly adopted the space under our dining room table as his safe spot.  He can watch the world go by but has protection of all the chair legs.

While all the honeys are playful, Wally is the most.  A toy pulled across the livingroom floor will always lure him out.  He must never have had a chance to chase a toy as his first attempts were clumbsy.

Charles

Charles cleaned up by Chip

Charles cleaned up by Chip

Charles is a beautiful long legged grey boy.  He was the most shutdown of the adults and got his own cage as he was reluctant to eat.  For the first several days he gave no response to any pets and I considered him the most at risk.  Then I made a point of spending some extra time with him, petting him regardless.  Some switch seemed to flip and soon he was head butting and rolling around with the pleasure of being pet.

Chip, who came over to spend time with the crew, took a particular liking to Charles and spent extra time with him.  Upstairs he was always the first to come out and would come right up to us for pets.  When Chip became a SAS foster parent we transferred Charles to her.  Charle’s now has his own web page to facilitate his adoption.  (And has since been adopted.)

Shadow

Shadow soon after arriving

Shadow soon after arriving

We put the kitten in his own room.  Shadow clearly had no idea how to live inside and was scared and shutdown.  Marie spent a lot of time with him, showed him how to use the litter box and how to receive pets from people.  When we first let him roam the house he hid in and under things but always came out for play and meals.  Over several weeks he shifted dramatically and was soon out and confident all the time.  Shadow revealed a delightful, balanced personality.  He could play by himself, he could play with people, and he could play with other cats.  He could sleep by himself, he could snuggle with us on the bed, and he could snuggle with other cats.

Shadow became good playbudies with another foster, Bubbles. Bubbles was somewhat dominate toward the other cats but always very affectionate and tollerant of Shadow.

These two have been adopted together.

Sammy on the pedestal

This is a follow-up on my work to socialize Sammy.  During work days I isolated him upstairs with me for about a week.  Other cats could come and go but I made Sammy stay upstairs with me.  There was a pedestal in my office with a view outside and this became a favorite perch of his.  Every morning I would sit right next to this for over an hour to meditate.  He grew more comfortable with me near by and soon let me pet him.  Before long he was making a point of showing up on the pedestal before morning meditation so he could get pets.  Once he even followed me upstairs and jumped on the pedestal.

However, in other context he did not want to be approached by me.  He loved pets on the pedestal but not anywhere else.  I do believe that over time, perhaps a year, he would grow to accept pets in other places.  He is very affectionate with his buddy Maggie and I believe this would transfer to people, eventually.

After about a week I decided that Sammy was a long-term project.  He was not going to have a quick change of mind about comfort with people.  I wanted to prevent him from hiding from us and push his comfort level a little, but not too much.  And I wanted him to have fun.  Cat’s lives are fairly short.  I always want them to have as much enjoyment as possible.  I stopped closing the stairway door but continued to closed off our bedroom so that he could not hide out there away from people.  Sammy could be upstairs in my office or downstairs.  In both places he had to encounter people.  He was about 90% comfortable with this.  He and Maggie spent a lot of time running around our house with their tails up, looking for the next adventure.  And they spent a little time slinking under things to get away from us.

Sammy being pet the pedestal

A year ago we fostered two fierce orange tabby boys.  I worked to socialize Winnie and used that experience to write about how to burrito (snoggle) a cat.  We currently have a semi-feral cat, Sammy, and I’m going to some of the different techniques I use working with him.  I should say up-front that I’m no expert at this.  I have some advice from experienced people and am learning as I go.

It turned out that burritoing Winnie did not provide any benefit.  Initially he would start to purr as I wrapped him in the towel and seemed to relax after 20 minutes.  5-6 days later he would purr less and escape more.  I decided that I had mis-read the purring.  Cats purr when they are comfortable and happy but also when they WANT to be more comfortable and happy.  It is also called “stress purr”.  Winnie was purring because he was stressed by the contact.  As he got more comfortable with being burritoed he purred less and asserted his desire to be free more.

Forced contact, of which burritoing is one technique, may work well to overcome fear of humans in cats who have had little human contact.  If you can hold them long enough they will tire out, may realize they like human touch, and that conclusion may stick.  It did not work with Winnie because he had already come to the firm conclusion that he did not like human touch.  Repeating the process did nothing to change that conclusion.

So I changed tactics.  I let Winny run free in our house and made no attempt to touch him.  He turned out to be a great house mate and I really enjoyed him.  Eventually he allowed some touch.  Soon after that he got adopted.  His adopter continued the program.  Now he snuggles with her.

There was one time when I tried to pick him up.  He was eating out of a some one else’s food bowl.  We were at that point so comfortable around each other that I forgot about the no-touch policy.  I walked up behind him and picked him up.  He immediately turned into a ball of sharp claws and won his immediate release.  I apologized profusely and the incident was forgotten long before my scratches healed.

Sammy, who came to us as a young adult.  He purred when held so I assumed he was friendly.  We sent him to foster where he was reported to like pets.  He came to live with us in December and has slowly become more feral.  I now thinking that his purr is a stress purr and he really does not like human contact. That is not entirely true because he did like pets in the other foster and, at times here has shown enjoyment here.  He has  mixed feelings about human contact.

Helping him to overcome his discomfort with touch will make him more adoptable – make it more likely that we’ll find good home for him as a companion animal.  And, if we do place him as a companion animal he will be more comfortable in the company of people.  The alternative is to place him as a “barn cat” where is primary job is rodent control.

Letting him run free in the house may eventually work.  He will have constant presence of me and Marie, play time, treats, and meals to help him build positive association.  Given 6 months or a year he may decide that we humans are OK.  But I’m going to try to speed of the process by isolating him from the other cats in the house.  Sammy is very social and accustomed to a lot of contact with Maggie plus others.  If I deprive him of that he may be more willing to overcome his discomfort for the reward of my contact.

Sammy and Maggie love to be together but this reduces Sammy

There are problems with isolation.  He misses his buddies, calls out to them, and acts depressed.  I believe that on-balance the benefit is worth the short-term discomfort for him, but there is discomfort.

I work from home in an upstairs office.  It is easy to isolate him in two upstairs rooms: the landing and the office.  He has some choice.  He could stay out in the landing, in a completely separate room from me if he wants that much distance.  I’ve made the perches in my office more appealing.  If he wants to use those he has to share the same room.

At this point he has been with me one day.  Already I can now approach and pet him.  He will lean into my hand and show enjoyment.  I set up a pedestal in my office by the window.  It is such an appealing bed that he now will stay in the same room as me.

Sammy on the pedestal. This is far enough from me for him to stay.

I also set up a bed on my desk near where I work. He has already discovered that, but it is too close for him to remain while I work.

Sammy on the desk. This is too close for him to stay.

In a couple days I’ll take away the post and make the desk bed the most appealing place to be.

Meanwhile, I approach him as often as I can and offer some affection. If he stays and relaxes I pet him. If he shows discomfort I give him space.

At night I’ll let Maggie and some other cats upstairs so that Sammy gets some cat society time and they get to sleep in their accustomed places.  I believe this will lengthen the process but feel that the benefit to everyone is worth it.  If I find that Sammy reverts too much I’ll change that tactic.

One very effective technique would be to bring him into a small room with me to sleep at night.  Already he sleeps on the bed with me, often nestled against my legs.  I don’t think he realizes they are my legs though…