Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Our Path to Five Cats Part Three: The Routine and The Naming

In all honesty, it was not all that hard fostering the Greek Gang, especially once I got into some sort of routine.
I expected (and received) quite a bit of hostility from them initially. Seriously, who could blame them? They had been pulled from a storm drain (IBM at RTP) at around 7 weeks; one week shy of officially being feral. Frankly, it's near impossible to tell, exactly, HOW old a stray animal is (case in point; we were told by APS when we got Lucy 1.2.07 that she was 2-3 years old; our vet said she was definitely no older than 18 months).
Anyway, Dan (another Hobbes House foster person), who works at IBM, saw them one day when leaving work; their mother was also there. Because he keeps traps in his car (a very dedicated soul), he was able to get four of the five plus mama trapped. One of the grey ones was left alone for a few days until he could get back over there and trap it (I am fairly convinced now that this was Ares).
Mama was fixed, given shots, and sent back out into the wild (way too feral to socialize/adopt out). This left the Greeks, who ended up housed with Christy, locked in a bathroom with no windows. Now, in fairness to Christy, this was only because she already had several other foster litters scattered about her house (included three bottle feeders who were hanging out in the garden tub in their master bathroom (being too small to get out; this was a perfect "cage" for them!)) So, no wonder she was looking for someone to take same of these kittens off her hands (I had told her NO WAY would I foster babies/bottle feeders).
Ok, so, The Greeks were pissed off when they arrived. At least, though, they had this nice bedroom to stay in, two windows to look out of, and a huge bed to hide under when mean new foster mom came in to try and play with them.
I found right away that, as scared as they were, they came out almost immediately to eat and use the litter box (good signs); so long as I wasn't in the room, that is. They arrived on a Thursday; it wasn't until Saturday morning that I was able to lure some of them out from under the bed to play with a wand toy (ONLY if I was sitting on the floor; the moment I moved, they all ran for cover).
The initial daily routine was something like this: Go into the room in the morning, give them fresh water, fill up their dry food bowl and scoop out their litter box (they initially had an open box; I changed this to a big closed box once they were big enough to climb in and out of it).
An hour or so later, I'd go into their room and we'd "play" (which typically consisted of me sitting on the floor with the newspaper and waiting for one or more of them to get curious enough to come over and check me out; then, I'd get the toys out and most of them would scamper about having great fun). It was during these first few morning play sessions where I realized one of the grey males (almost impossible to tell apart from his grey brother) was definitely the bravest and friendliest and that the others tended to hide behind him. I decided he'd be Zeus, the leader.

I also had to pay particular attention to the non-grey male (AKA Shy Boy) since he was the one Christy was the most concerned about regarding socialization. And, rightfully so. He'd come out from under the bed and hang out on the edge of the action, maybe even venturing close enough for me to lightly touch a paw or something, but, the MOMENT I moved, he'd be under the bed.
Zeus and the other grey male had no trouble running over to get attention; the two girls also seemed ok with it (but one was certainly more friendly than the other).
The Greeks would settle down for a long nap around 10 or 11; I'd leave them alone until mid-afternoon when I'd go up there with turkey lunch meat, which they'd all pounce on (it didn't take them overly long to come out from under the bed, even if I was standing there, so long as I had either lunch meat or wet food).
Early evenings meant wet food, followed by another play session, this time with Mr. B usually with me. I'd scoop the litter box again (a necessity with five kittens and one cat box) while Mr. B would keep them entertained. After a few nights, we began to let Pete and Lily in (who alternated between hissing at and playing with the kittens).
After several days, I'd pretty much settled on naming the female kitten with the beady eyes/sort of suspicious attitude Hera (if you know anything about Greek Mythology, this will make perfect sense to you)

which meant the other girl would be Athena.
This left the naming of the other grey male and the shy male. I considered naming the shy one Ares; hoping that perhaps giving him this fierce war god name might help him become less fearful. In fact, I sort of referred to him as Ares for a day or so, if only in my mind. But, the real Ares claimed his name one night while I attempted to pick him up and hold him. He brought up one of his rear feet, clawed at me with it, clawed at me with his front paws and promptly bit me. No doubt, he was Ares (and Ares STILL brings that back foot up when he's being held and he doesn't like it (about 99% of the time)) and he's just as liable to attack your hand as you are petting him as to accept it.

This left the name Apollo for the shy male, and, given that he has golden highlights in his fur, this, too, turned out to be highly appropriate to name him after the sun god.
Alas, Apollo remained quite shy and was near impossible to corral on the afternoons the Greeks were let out of their room to explore. After one particularly traumatic experience where he got wedged into the mechanisms of the elliptical machine, I called Christy to discuss his progress. We both decided it would be a good idea to isolate him for several days so that he would, hopefully, stop relying on his siblings to interact with the humans.
So, Apollo went into the bathroom and he did, in fact, become much friendlier. He allowed himself to be petted, picked up, held, cuddled, etc., SO LONG AS HE WAS IN THE BATHROOM. He also didn't mind hanging out with Lucy (who I'd bring in from time to time to keep him company).
After a few days of this, we made the executive decision to bring him back out. He promptly started running away from us/hiding under the bed again. So, back in he went. Repeat. Over the first month we had the Greeks, we ended up putting Hera in there once or twice as well as we realized she, too, was tending to run and hide.
By the end of the third week, we'd pretty much decided to just let them run free (although we did maintain the litter box/food station in the guest bedroom). This was certainly easier on me and it afforded them the opportunity to a) get used to other pets b) learn to behave in a house (not scratch, continue to use the litter box), c) get used to household noises/activities and d) become accustom to seeing people around going about their business. It also meant I no longer had to worry about little kitty torpedos rushing the baby gate every time I opened their bedroom door!
However, it also meant a big hassle on Thon days trying to get them into the cat carrier to take them to the show!
Mrs. B

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