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the friendliest feral

Ayla has a home...she can love and be loved.

May 1st 2012 3:39 pm
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I can't believe it's taken me so long to tell y'all this. Chalk it up to my bad health and various catastrophes...but round about the middle of 2010, Kalamazoo Animal Rescue (may their coats shine and their claws be always sharp) agreed to TNR Ayla and the two grey babies.
well, Ayla was-as i told them-quite pregnant at the time. so they decided to keep her until she gave birth and weaned the kittens-four kittens, all lived, all homed!-and see if they could rehabilitate her.

i was pretty sure they could. Ayla WANTED a home. or not necessarily an indoor life, she wasn't a lazy cat or a timid cat. what she craved was the connection. she wanted to be loved on. once she got a taste, she found out she liked it. and she liked loving on people...or at least on me. and she liked talking to my roommate. so i was pretty sure that she'd take to Lydia...Ayla, like many female cats, was more affectionate when she was pregnant or nursing.

and they found her a home. apparently her people just outright dote on her, and she on them. i did promise her...i'll find a way. you will be loved, and you will have someone to love. this is too important. and KAR came through for us.


how can doing the "right" thing hurt SO MUCH? because i- DIDN'T

June 24th 2009 2:16 am
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no, i'm not saying letting ayla go was the wrong thing. by the time i did, it was the only thing. all i have to do is keep in mind the ayla i just visited out on the porch-relaxed, tail up, at ease and confident-and contrast that with the frantic, tail-tucked, body held low, eyes dilated MOANING cat she had become.

no. NO. not that she had "become"...that I HAD CREATED.

quite simply, i handled it wrong. i took a cat that trusted only me, along with 3 small kittens, into an unfamiliar environment with 3 adult cats and a person that was a stranger. i should have known i had made a mistake when the first thing ayla did on arriving in her "saferoom" was throw herself repeatedly against the window. i know. sounds terrible-it WAS terrible. but she was going into heat again, and was still nursing 3 was all i could think of to do at the time. believe me, i tried to get a rescue interested. the local "humane" society would have taken them all, except since i'd been feeding them i would have had to pay a fee to "surrender" them-and i never would have been able to adopt a pet from a shelter in this state. AND: they would only have a week's grace to find a family before they were killed. (and yes, when we're talking about putting down 4 healthy cats, i call it killing, not euthanasia.) so i got her and the kittens on a list to be fostered at a rescue, and tried to bide my time.

i managed to socialize the kittens-but that's not exactly an incredible feat when you catch them as young as i did. i got exasperated with the rescue, managed to place two of the kittens and decided to adopt the third myself-by then it had become evident to me that ayla was not a good fit for the other cats, and would probably prefer being an only cat. yes, i kept ayla and the babies separate from the resident kitties-or i TRIED. see, one of my cats knows how to open doors. those of you who know my cat family can probably guess who. (hint: it starts with a 'K' and it's orange...) we did not know this until it happened the second time-the first time i just thought i hadn't closed it completely. by the time i had it figured out, every cat in the house had a negative experience. seems impossible until you factor in just how well a scared mostly feral kitty can hide. took forever to get her back in her room the first time. once when i had her out (deliberately, other cats were shut away) she slipped out, but came back inside willingly. the second time the door was opened for her, she was intimidated by the door-opener kitty and slammed into the patio door...i opened it for her. she was terrified, she wanted out, i let her out. did not know if i would ever see her again-but when i looked out the door the next morning and saw a hot dog she'd pulled out of a dumpster i knew she was around. when i looked out later and saw that it had been moved from the patio to the porch, i knew she was trying to feed her kittens-two of whom i'd already rehomed. when i opened the door she started to come in...paused...then snagged my shorts with her front claws and started to climb me. she was afraid to walk through the house, but wanted in. so i carried her to her "saferoom"...i had holes in that shirt from her grabbing on with claws and teeth-but not a scratch on me.

she became more and more fearful about coming out of the room. when she did (other cats in my roommate's bedroom with her) she would more often than not wiggle under a gap in the kitchen linoleum and disappear under the cabinets. more and more often, she would not come out at all, or just come a few steps into the hall and cry. i sat with her in the hall. i did not know what else to do.

she went further into heat, and became amazingly vocal. this may have led me to underestimate her emotional distress-i thought it was just that she wanted out to breed. here is where i made what might have been a crucial error. i stopped going to her every time she cried-because she almost never wasn't crying. instead, i tried a behavioral approach and waited until she stopped-THEN i went in to see her. this may have taught her that it did no good to complain. that calling for her friend to come did no good. eventually she grew quieter-i just thought she was coming out of heat-finally.

the last three days, though. sometimes, she was madly affectionate. sometimes, she just sat and purred, and blinked. she was always glad to see me. when i got up to leave...oh when i got up to leave...she would make this brief, despairing cry. like she just couldn't help it. i left anyway, because there are no chairs in there, i can't sit on the floor for more than twenty or thirty minutes, and it makes ayla nervous for me to stand. so i left anyway.

yesterday, she cried no matter what. but it was a quiet cry. like she was crying to herself. her kitten haunted her door. i let her in-that's when i heard her crying. i went in...she was glad to see me, and rubbed all over me, and did something she has never done-she kept staring into my eyes, searching my face. she kept looking into my eyes. and she would walk away from me, and cry that soft cry. and then she would come back to me, and caress and be caressed-and look into my eyes.

there is something different in the eyes of a feral cat who trusts you, something that is not the same in the eyes of a pet cat. they are trying to bridge a gap, to jump a chasm...trying so hard to say what they need. but they don't have the shorthand that pet cats possess. they haven't learned any human-they've just learned THEIR human. it's different. i was troubled. i visited again and again yesterday. but i did not act.

this morning i found her food bowl turned over. i had noticed she was getting a little thinner, but i thought it was just...hormonal changes? it wasn't a radical loss of weight, and i'd helped put a lot of weight on her bones so i wasn't that concerned. until i saw that overturned bowl, and saw that her kitten, who'd come in with me, immediately went and ate the food. and i wondered how often that had happened. and i knew i had to do something.

so i took a pretty big chance. i left all the cats where they were, and i left ayla's door open. she'd grown so fearful, i wasn't afraid she'd attack my cats, and i was oddly sure that i could stop one of mine from attacking her. that sounds like the sheerest lunacy, but as it turned out, i was right-the door-opening orange one started to get intent, i snapped my fingers at her and she went into a belly-up posture like a submissive puppy. weird. but she knew ayla was afraid-an idiot would have known. she was literally creeping across the floor.

i don't know what i was thinking, what i was hoping. i just knew something had to change, that what i had done was breaking this cat, mind, body and spirit. maybe i thought that with the cats there deliberately, some accommodation could be reached. but i know that when she flew at the door i was horrified by the concussion but not surprised. and when she got up her considerable courage to approach again, more slowly, and touched the door-i opened it. without hesitation. i picked the kitten up so she would not follow (and oh-the sound she made watching her mother walk away) and i opened the door for her, as i had opened it a few weeks ago to let her inside. then, as now, it was her choice. and she made her choice.

there are things i should have and could have done differently, but i am too guilt-stricken and grieving to explore them now. please believe me, i DID make mistakes, i SHOULD have, COULD have done better. and now ayla may never trust this much again. oh, she still trusts ME, ironically enough. i've visited her outside, twice since she left. she still wants love, she still listens to me and offers her own comments in return. she still nibbles the food then comes to me, wanting the attention and affection more than the food, wanting to be loved even more than she wants to be fed. (she finishes after i go inside-i peek through the curtains and watch, i always have.) she is happy, relaxed. she is herself again.

but will i ever be able to find her a home that she will accept, after this total disaster? i am happy for the kittens-and i adore the little kitten, the last little kitten that i've adopted and named "jadyn liana", which means "God has heard and answered", when you put both names together. (Hebrew) but it was AYLA who came to me, AYLA who i loved with such totality, AYLA who honored me with her trust-and i failed her. and i may never be able to put things right.


i must be what i must be

June 24th 2009 12:01 am
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i am now back outside. this makes my friend a little sad, but also makes her happy and relieved because I am happy and relieved. i stopped being so aggressive a few days ago...instead i became afraid. my heat had ended, but i would not stop crying. i cried when my kitten was with me. i cried when my friend was with me, even as i purred. i cried when my friend AND my kitten were with me, even though i would love on them both and purr a little for them, i would still cry.
pretty much the last straw for my friend was when she came in my room and found my food turned kitten ate it immediately, which made my friend wonder how much of my food i had snubbed and she hadn't noticed because my last kitten hoovered it up when she visited me. she'd noticed i'd gotten a little thinner-now she knows why.
so she left our door open, and sat at the end of the hall.
i cried.
i'd become afraid even to leave the room, which my friend had noticed was beginning to happen.
finally my kitten led me out to the big room.
i saw the way out and ran to it, but the invisible wall was there. i bounced off and cried, and ran back to the room, crying. my kitten came back for me again. sweet little kitten. i will miss you.
this time, when we came back, i walked slower, but steadier. the big kitty that ran at me last time just stayed on a chair. she even rolled over on her back and did the blink of "i'm no threat".
so i was able to walk to the invisible door. and i didn't cry, i just made my question meow, and touched the invisible door.
my friend picked up my kitten and opened the door.
as i walked out, i heard my kitten's distress cry, but i had to go.
i had to go.

i walked around for awhile. i made myself one with my night and made the moon glow. i heard my friend come out, but stayed hidden. that time.

the next time she came out, i showed myself. she brought food. we sat like we always did when everything made sense. i ate some, then we would talk a bit and pet each other. she burned some paper, i don't mind. it smells like my friend to me. she stayed out with me for awhile, then she went back in.

this time, i did not try to follow her. but she is still my friend.

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