Sunday, September 27, 2009

Caturday

We spent yesterday touring around Southern Mass looking at selected felines I'd found on Petfinder.com, including the two from my last post. We started out in Scituate, where we drove past the shelter's large wooden sign twice before we saw it. The shelter is brand-new and shiny, and the volunteer's eyebrows flew up when we asked to visit Tessie.

Because Tessie has a well-earned reputation as a diva:

Tessie proves my point about how you can read some cats' personalities by their faces and coloring. Tessie's calico bandito mask and — there's no other way to describe it — nutty facial expression scream "cuckoo cat!" to me. I knew she'd be one of the more extreme calico personalities. Her listing on Petfinder pussyfoots around her true nature despite strongly hinting at some of her issues. At any rate, we weren't expecting her to melt into our laps — or melt down. Which she did: I was minding my business, chatting with the volunteer, when Tessie walked over to me, wrapped her paws around my leg and held on tight as she considered how to bite my knee. Then she leaped into her bed and posed for this photo.

Tessie is gorgeous, and loves to be petted, fussed over, and complimented... until she suddenly doesn't. She's also not always fond of other cats. So we went to another room to visit Penny.

My husband adored Penny, who is very kittenish despite being a mother. Unfortunately, the volunteer told us that Penny kept attacking her kitten until they had to be separated. We had fun playing with her and watching her slip-slide across the room, chasing balls. But she's nowhere near as friendly with cats as she is with people. There was an application pending on her, and I hope she went to a nice, cat-less person.

Then we drove like mad because we were late to visit Bree, formerly known as Kitten 6. She lives in Swansea, and it took a long time to get there because we had somehow set the iPhone's Google Maps app to find "Walking" routes. I kept wondering why it said we'd need 33 hours and 19 minutes to get to Swansea.

But we got there somewhat sooner than that, and had a warm reception from Bree's foster owner. Unfortunately, Bree trembled and nearly had a coronary in her cage when she met us. We discovered that she and her brother are feral. They were rescued just two weeks ago from a field, and they are not socialized. Bree is terrified of people, and is too afraid, at 10 weeks of age, to play. She doesn't know it's fun to chase a ribbon. She doesn't know how to purr. She allowed me to pet her and briefly hold her and she stared at me a lot with her wide kitten eyes. I noticed that, no matter how scared she was, she never hissed, growled, or tried to scratch or bite.

A feral kitten is an unknown quantity, a surprise package. I've recently learned that there are basic techniques to domesticate them, and for Bree, this must happen very soon if it's going to succeed. Her foster mom explained that she works full-time and has other commitments and doesn't have the time to give Bree the attention she needs. Which is weeks or months of careful handling, training, and attention as she stays in a confined space — and slowly learns to trust people, relax, and act like a kitten. And you'll never know how affectionate the kitten will turn out to be. Kittens' natures are partly genetic, and ferals' parents are wild.

I started this quest with the goal of finding another perfectly sweet, beautiful, and sociable lap cat like our Bunny. Now, here I was looking into a pair of troubled but intriguing kitten eyes. It might be extremely rewarding to spend weeks on the floor, helping this kitten to purr. If I could teach it to purr. I have no idea if I'm any good at this sort of thing. I told Bree's owner I'd have a talk with my vet and find out if she thought I was crazy.

Then we raced up to Raynham (we took the walking route, 9 hours, actually) to visit Pansey, the cat in the flower arrangement in my previous post. Pansey's energetic and capable foster "mom" had about 10 cats and kittens roaming around her house, which was spotless and clean-smelling. She even had a Persian who'd been rescued from the infamous hoarder Heidi Erickson's latest multi-cat seizure.

Pansey's mom brought her to us from her shed, where she keeps even more foster cats. She is extremely experienced with stressed and sick animals and she told scary stories about rescuing and fostering cats, including feral kittens, as we petted Pansey.

Pansey is a very sweet cat but there's something about her that made me nervous:

The little gray mustache you see is feline acne, and she's actually much, much prettier than she looks in this photo. She's surprisingly tiny and very affectionate, but she seemed to most enjoy repeatedly rolling herself into a ball to hide behind my arm as I sat beside her on the chair.

I found myself thinking that we'd always look at her and wish she were Bunny; she looked just similar enough for it to be a problem. I should have thought of this before, I know.

Her foster mom understood our hesitation and our feelings. We said goodbye. Then we dashed home to meet friends who treated us to an amazing, delicious dinner at the Capital Grille for our 12th anniversary. Throughout the meal I kept mentioning the cats we'd seen, even though our friends aren't cat people in the least. Finally Ed looked up from his plate and said, "You'll just have to follow your heart."

That's the right answer. And my heart seems to be following Bree. I spent most of the night awake, trying to figure out the logistics of domesticating her. We'd need to confine her to my husband's tiny office, which has a few bad hiding spots we'd need to block. We'd have to provide her with safer places, like cozy boxes. We'd need to cancel our trip to Maine next month; she'd need me all the time. And I'd have to resign myself to the fact that she may not be anything like a lap cat once she's socialized. I need a lap cat, so I may end up being her foster owner, not her forever owner. Then there's this: I've been strongly advised that giving Bree the company of a well-socialized kitten will best help her learn how to be a kitten herself. It would also free our senior cats from having to put up with her when she starts to play.

Instead, we'll all be dealing with the craziness of two kittens together!

My head is spinning. Bree goes to the vet for her infectious disease tests on Tuesday so I don't need to decide anything before that. But, whew, two kittens? In this little apartment? I just don't know....

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