I’ve been caring for Sophie, the fluffy black stray kitty, since mid-December–almost three months. She now comes nearly every night at dusk. Often she’s waiting for me when I get home from work. If she’s not here already, she comes running when I call her. She likes albacore tuna. She doesn’t like skipjack tuna. She doesn’t like canned food. At least not Halo. Yes, beggars can be choosers. At least when they’re begging from me.
With food as the catalyst, we’ve bonded quite well. She adores petting, and shows her pleasure by purring loudly and drooling. Yes, Sophie is a drooler. I think that means she’s into me. She’s so into me now, in fact, that she allows me to pick her up, and doesn’t disappear for days afterward. She doesn’t disappear much at all any more.
The last few nights, we made several more significant steps forward. My next-door neighbor, who splits her time between Austin, Palm Desert, London, and Hong Kong (I think her husband’s a spy, but that’s another story), has been back in Austin this week. She’s been gone since just before Christmas, when Sophie first started coming around. My neighbor, being a bit nomadic, has no pets. But she adores animals. And Sophie is no exception.
Because she has no pets, we decided to use her home as an experiment to see how Sophie behaves indoors. The first night, we lured her in with treats. It didn’t take much coaxing, and once inside, she enjoyed her petting like never before. Her skittishness virtually disappeared. The past two nights, she’s crossed neighbor’s threshold without the need of treat bribery. Last night, she wandered around a bit while my neighbor cooked salmon. Sophie loves salmon. She stayed around for hours last night. She didn’t appear to want to leave. So I decided to take the experimentation a bit further.
Sophie, at this point, was sitting on my doorstep, enjoying the final remnants of her salmon and tuna dinner. My two fluffy black kitties, Sadie and Sally, were behind my front door, meowing loudly at my lack of fidelity. While they’d smelled the scent of Sophie on my hands for months now, they’d never gazed upon her countenance. It was time for a mini-introduction. I went inside, picked Sadie up, and slowly approached Sophie, who was still eating the remains of her dinner on my front porch. They looked at each other as I held Sadie in my arms. Sadie and I got to within two feet of Sophie, when Sophie let out a menacing hiss. Sadie, by no means the type of cat to back down, hissed back even more menacingly. I decided the introductions had gone far enough at this point, and returned Sadie to her indoor sanctuary.
There are two important takeaways from my experiment: (1) while they hissed at each other, their behavior wasn’t extreme; no one lunged at the other, and (2) it was idiotic of me to attempt an introduction with food involved. I realized my mistake immediately, and will make my next attempt during a more neutral setting.
Even after the kitty face-to-face, Sophie stuck around and soaked up more petting, wandering in and out of my neighbor’s front door. My neighbor was filled with anguish about leaving her out for the night, when it’s become evident she was once an indoor kitty and is more content indoors. My guess is, she wasn’t even an indoor-outdoor kitty; she was strictly indoors. Hence her fear and extreme skittishness while outdoors.
While Sophie is happy wandering around my neighbor’s condo, we’ve never closed the front door while she’s inside. She can escape whenever the urge strikes her. Our dilemma is this:
Is it time for me to bring Sophie inside, and make the transition from stray to part of the family?
My neighbor fears she’ll feel trapped once I bring her in. She probably will at first, particularly because she’ll be living in my spare bedroom until I can have the tests run to show she’s got nothing communicable and can safely interact with Sadie and Sally. And of course, the introductions will take time. I can’t simply throw them together in my home and leave it to them to work it out. Sophie will be living in the spare room for a time, which means when I’m at work, she’ll be alone for hours on end. I plan to equip the room with litter box, food, water, toys, and scratching post. I fear she’ll spend most of her time under the bed, and perhaps I won’t be able to get her out from under the bed for some time, in order to have tests run. But I don’t see that there’s any way around any of this. She’s going to feel trapped for a time, all three kitties are going to be perturbed for a bit, and our comfortable routines will be topsy turvy until we all settle in.
This really is quite a commitment. Am I up for the task? Do I really want to turn my calm, peaceful household upside down? Not really. But there’s no way around it. I’m not leaving Sophie to fend for herself outdoors in perpetuity. It’s time for her to come in, and for all of us to endure the uncomfortable period of transition.
It’s for the greater good.
Do you agree it’s time for me to bring Sophie indoors into her safe room? Do you have any tips to offer for the comfort and psychological care of Sophie during this period? Should I put her in the spare bath, rather than the spare bedroom? Is there anything I need to do for Sadie and Sally to ease their discomfort during the transition?
I’m a little anxious for all our sakes, but we can’t go on like this forever.
- .5 Cat (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
- Sophie the Stray Cat (But Not For Much Longer) Photo Blog (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)
- Breakthrough! (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)