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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

When Names Don't Match Personalities

This looks a little like my new kitten, threatening expression and all. I named her without really knowing her, oh-so-inappropriately, Filigree or FiFi, for short. Filigree - it sounds like such a dainty, gracious, sweet name, doesn't it. My FiFi is none of those things. I should have named her Jezebel instead.

I didn't even want another cat. I have two of my own plus a little dog. I felt like my happy family was complete. All my animals are mellow and laid back. They all get along. They aren't noisy; they aren't destructive.

Then FiFi came to my friend's house. Jan had three indoor cats, one indoor/outdoor cat and two wild cats that she feeds, so she didn't think she could take on another. She keeps a heat lamp burning for the wild ones in the winter. Fifi found the food and the lamp and began hanging out.

Jan felt sorry her. She was so tiny and scruffy and thin. Jan (who, if she isn't quite a crazy cat lady yet, is getting closer and closer) thought she should be saved from the harsh outdoors. She asked if I would take her. I kept saying no, until she caught me at a weak moment and I gave in.

Jan caught her in a live trap. During the course of getting her out to put her in a carry crate, FiFi practically tore off her thumb. Jan took her to the vet, something I insisted on before she came in with my pets. I paid $84 for shots and flea treatment and worm medicine and antibiotics for an infected bite on her back. She came to my house snapping and snarling.

I kept her in a cage for a couple of days and then I let her out. She instantly took off and I never saw her again. But I knew she was still around, oh, yes, because she hadn't a clue about a litter box. She peed and pooped wherever the mood struck her. Every morning and every night, I did potty patrol. One night, as I climbed into bed my knee hit a wet spot. She had urinated right in the middle of my bed! Furiously, I pulled off the covers to bring them downstairs to wash. I cleaned the spot with Resolve and trained the fan on it to dry. I slept in the downstairs bedroom.

That was the last straw. I told Jan we absolutely had to catch her. We each took a flashlight and searched room by room, closing the doors behind us. We got to the last room, the laundry room, when Jan spotted her behind the freezer. Jan poked her with a broom handle while I stood at the ready with a towel to grab her. She came flying out from under the freezer and I got the towel around her but she was halfway behind the shelving so I couldn't get a good grip. She turned and latched on to my wrist with her teeth. It hurt like hell. I had no idea a five-pound cat could have so much power in its jaws.

"Don't let her go! Don't let her go!" Jan yelled.

"Let her go?" I cried back, "the question is whether she'll let me go!"

By that night, my hand had swelled up like a cantaloupe. I was fiery hot and bright red. I couldn't move my fingers. I went to the doctor the next day. Turned out, I had Cat Scratch Fever, something I'd only ever heard of in Ted Nugent's song. The doctor put me on mega-doses of antibiotics. (My cost: $25 for my co-pay). I was deathly sick for three days. The pain in my hand receded a little each day. The antibiotics gave me a yeast infection. I bought more medicine. (My cost: $15).

We had put FiFi in a large crate on my dining room table with food, water and a litter box. She was close by the computer where we hoped she'd become familiar with seeing me and hearing my voice. Familiarity only bred contempt. She stared at me balefully the whole time. She hissed when I cleaned her cage and gave her fresh food. (Her presence didn't seem to bother my animals and they didn't seem to upset her).

Google said she would probably always be wild. A feral cat, I read, that has no contact with humans in its first 2 months (the veterinarian thought she was about 3 months) will never be become tame.
 Brenda and Phil said they'd take her out to their barn but not until she'd been spayed. They have two elderly male cats and they were afraid if she came in heat, she'd draw feral toms and they'd fight the old ones.

FiFi stayed in her crate for two weeks and then I couldn't stand it anymore. She looked so miserable crouched into her corner or hiding behind a towel.

I told Jan I was going to leave the door open so she could get out. I said I didn't care whether she ever got friendly. The only factor would be whether she had learned to use the litter box (she used it faithfully in her cage). Other than that, she could be a ghost cat if that's what suited her.

She left the cage in the night. She comes out sometimes in the day time (which she never did before). Once she was laying on the rug in front of the door with Channie. She eats and drinks from the big cats' bowls in front of me. And yes, she uses the litter box! Are we making progress? I can't really say for sure. She still runs and hides under the bed if I try to approach her.

We'll give her time. I hope she'll eventually decide to trust me. I think she'll always be more of a Jezebel than a Filigree though.



Jon said...

You are a softie. Justin brought home a kitten that I never saw again. Grey loved Justin but no one else could get near him. So I would bet your Fifi will eventually come to like you.

What we do for our animals is amazing.

I had cat scratch fever also but got it from a dog scratch--go figure. And it took forever to finally feel good again.

Liz Flaherty said...

Our kids have a feral cat (which they took from our house) who was a very loving kitten who became a crazed adult. No one but them ever sees him, nor does he get cuddly with anyone, but he's been a great buddy to their geriatric dog. Go figure.