Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fostering Lessons and Tough Calls

Although it's been a tad disruptive, for the most part (so far), the fostering "experiment" is going fairly well.
Thankfully, they are all drinking, eating, peeing and pooping (in their box) and haven't caused any major issues. However, the be-all most important thing (at least what I've been told by the fostering organization) is that they become SOCIAL.
Four of the five are doing well; with two of the four doing extremely well at being social. They all come out when their door is opened to see what is up and they all (usually) hang out and play. Zeus, Athena, Ares and Hera will allow pets, brief periods of being picked up (although Ares barely tolerates this and it takes Hera a bit to decide it's ok each time). All four are now purring and Zeus and Ares in particular love laps (generally in conjunction with playing, which means jumping in and out of my lap, but, they don't mind getting close on their own accord).
Apollo, well, he's very curious and will be on the periphery of the action. If he's not paying too much attention, I might be able to get one or two light strokes on his back in before he darts away, ever elusive. Sure, he typically comes right back (albeit a staying a bit farther away), but, as I said, socialization is the key. Not too many people want to adopt a kitten who is, for the most part, bordering on feral, no matter how cute is he.

Apollo: Yes, he IS cute, but, we have to get him to accept being touched!

Christy, the lady who was fostering them first, told me they'd been pulled (which means from "the world", I guess) at around seven weeks (their best guess). At eight weeks, if a kitten has not had any real interaction with humans, they are basically feral and there is likely not much that can be done with them save fix them (spay/neuter) give them a few shots, and send them back out. In other words, there comes a point in time where it's not worth the time, effort and money to keep them in the program because they probably will never turn around. The longer they stay in the program, the harder it will be for them to readjust to the wild. Etc.

So, for the four of them to have made this much progress is certainly happy news. I've no doubt that the four of them will be adopted (especially since Christy informed me that there are not that many kittens in the program up for adoption right now; ours go up 28 June).

Anyway, I sent an email to both Christy and Sue (one of the program heads) about Apollo; my concerns that he was still shrinking from touch. Although one might say it's wise to be patient (my husband being one of these people and in general he is right), I know time is of the essence here; the longer he remains this way, the more likely he'll not turn.

I haven't heard from Sue yet (although the going-in plan had been if he didn't turn, she'd take him over) but Christy and I spoke at length and agreed he needed to be pulled from his litter mates. I agreed to this after she explained to me that (she's seen this before), sometimes, a shy kitten will rely overly much on its litter mates to take the brunt of the human interaction. For them, they see this as a wise choice, but, obviously, in the end, it is not.

Separating him will mean he'll a) be lonely and hopefully come to crave the attention and b) not be able to use his litter mates to hide behind.

So, off I went this afternoon to buy another litter box. I came home and was sorta on the fence about when to make the switch when fate decided it for me. Or, rather, five little kittens decided it for me!

I'd opened up their room (there is a baby gate in front of the door) and went downstairs for maybe five minutes to chop up their afternoon snack of turkey lunch meat. When I came back up, I saw either Zeus or Ares (hard to tell from a distance) near the stairs. As I turned the corner towards the room, I saw Athena on top of the baby gate and Hera getting ready to climb it. From the corner of my eye, I saw Apollo and the other grey male in the office. THANKFULLY Lucy was outside and Pete and Lily were sacked out for their long afternoon nap in the sitting room.

I moved quickly and scooped up Athena before she could get over the gate. I dropped her back into the room (my quick motion had startled Hera and she'd backed off the gate) and shut the door. I shut the office door, thereby trapping Apollo and his accomplice in there. Next, I corned the grey male near the stairs (turned out it was Zeus) and got him back into their room.

I went into the office to find the two kittens in there romping about. I sat down on the floor in hopes that they'd come over to me, to no avail; they were too busy exploring. So, I sat there a while. Then, went and got some of the turkey. Both were sure interested in that and I was pleased to note that Apollo sat quite close to me as he chowed down, and, as he was distracted, I was able to lightly pet him for the longest amount of time yet (although he did finally figure out what I was doing and scampered off).

In the meantime, Lily was at the door carrying on to get in. I thought, "Why not?" She's been pretty good at not hissing (too much) at them through the baby gate. So, in came Lily who immediately ran over to sniff them, and, from what I could tell, attempted to herd them. Then, she got distracted by the turkey (which she usually doesn't care for) and ran over to eat it.

Unfortunately (and I HAD thought about this prospect but then forgot), both kittens climbed inside the lower half of my elliptical machine. After a bit of light banging on the encasement, Ares (who did not like the noise) came sorta stumbling out. He didn't want me to pick him up but I scruffed him and he did that cute little kitten thing of playing dead. Off Ares went in to their room.

Leaving Apollo, the one who needs the most work; who is the most timid, for me to try and get out of the machine and into (I'd decided NOW was the time) the guest bathroom.

I shooed Lily out of the room (although I might use her later in his socialization as Apollo seems to take to her) and thought a bit. Finally, I decided to go get one of the cat carriers and try to lure him out from the elliptical machine with the laser pointer and then into the carrier.

Nice idea, but, he had others.

He did come out, ran around the room, and then promptly back into the elliptical machine. Let me tell you, these little kitties are lightening fast. Plus, I was trying not to lumber and lurch around overly much and frighten him even more than he probably already was.

Determined not to be out thought and out maneuvered by a 10 week old kitten, I got the idea to place the carrier right up to the side of the machine where he was (effectively blocking it) and, using a cat wand toy, reached in the other side and sorta poked at him until he got up and ran right into the carrier. SLAM!

After preparing his bathroom (which included trying to block off every space he might attempt to hide in or behind (towels crammed down between the toilet and the wall)), I put him in there, opened the carrier, and left him alone.

About an hour later, I went to feed the kittens their nightly wet food. Did his brothers and sisters appear to miss him in the slightest? No.

I took some in to Apollo (although he usually does not eat it). Amazingly enough, despite my preparations, he appeared to be nowhere in the room! I eventually found him laying in the towel that I'd crammed behind the toilet. How can they fit themselves into such tiny little spaces? Anyway, he looked at me and I looked at him. I stuck my hand up behind him (he couldn't see me doing this) and petted him a bit, which, although he jumped a bit, he tolerated (although, really, what could he do?) I rubbed my hands in cat nip and slowly moved a bit towards his front paws; he looked a bit askance but didn't do too much (no hissing, thank God). I stayed in there about 15 minutes talking sweetly to him and occasionally petting his back or front paws.

I left him some wet food and went out the door.

Thankfully since the others are doing so well, I'll be able to spend more time with him and a bit less with them. The goal is to get him to want the interaction. Right now, he's none too happy but hopefully he'll get bored with laying in a towel behind the toilet and come out. Obviously, he'll have to in order to eat/use the box.

I told Christy I'd be willing to try this arrangement until the weekend when, if he's not improved, he'll have to go stay with Sue (who will, in essence, keep him in a large crate doing pretty much the same thing I'm doing).

He certainly cannot go to a Thon (adopt-a-thon) until he's friendlier. He'd likely freak, hiss, and there would go his adoption chances.

So, y'all send positive thoughts little Apollo's way, won't you? We don't want to have to release him back into the wild!

Mrs. B


Analee said...

oh my goodness, good luck to the little kitty and even more to you. i know it breaks your heart that he is not taking to the humankind. but i agree with mark, be patient. i do think that separating him is the best thing right now. in the next few days, he may come around! boredom can do wonders for humans AND cats!!!

Margot said...

I'm w/Analee: You've had him less than a week. Follow the expert's advice & give it another week.

Shape up Apollo! You're being given a much greater chance than most kitties get!