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)
1. Will Sophie become an indoor only cat? That may be a hard one considering she has lived as an outside cat for a long time. However, it can be done. Some of that depends on how much you like your furniture and door jams, and how much catawalling you can live with. You will need to have lot of toys and things for her to play with, as inside life does not have the same pleasures immediately available (like mice and plants and flying things). 2. Absolutely keep all animals separated. Once Sophie has been checked by vet, then I recommend several days of sniffs under the door. Doesn’t matter what room as long as there is food, water, and litter. Bigger with hiding places is more fun. 3. After sniff days, then a slow few minutes with the door open where they can smell and see each other should take place. 4. Fights will happen. That is how they find their balance. 5. Slow introduction is best. – Best of luck – DogDaz Cats2
Thanks for the advice! I don’t think she’s truly an outdoor cat. But she has been living outside for at least three months. I can deal with caterwauling. We’ll have to do some focused redirection with the furniture. Scratching posts abound!
We were all set to go last night. I have everything ready in her room. But she was a no-show! Did she know what we were up to?
Funny how cats have that extra sense. Best of luck
For what it may be worth we have introduced cats and dogs to each other. Cats like to have somewhere high to jump up to enabling them to get away from things and situations, be it shelves, counter tops, side boards, tables. When introducing them in to the home make sure they have space to get away and hid or perch, keeping all doors open so as they can chose where they all prefer to escape to. There will be hissing and lunging but they will work it out and if they don’t like each other will just stay out of each others way once they have battled out the pecking order. I would also suggest you get another cat litter. Of course you are doing the right thing and any human mistakes you make will be forgiven due to the tuna and salmon.
Sounds like exciting times are ahead! I got a second litter box and it’s ready to go. Now all I need is the cat. Thanks for your insight! We can do this. With a little help from the fish. 😉
Always with a little help from the fish. The fact you care so much will make it all work out eventually xxxxxx
If she feels safer indoors, I think this bodes well for the transition. I love that you’re putting so much thought and care into it–Sophie is a lucky little cat!
I think so too, Karen. Hopefully we’re right and she’ll settle in indoors just fine. Sophie’s no fool–she sensed I’m a softie.
It has to happen sometime. You have gone slow and calm so far, and she really seems to dig you. I’m sure it will be fine over time and months from now you will be wondering what you ever did without her.
It does have to happen sometime, Katie. No time like the present. Now she just needs to show up. Silly cat.
What DogDaz said… Cats who have been outdoors for a while may (or may not) freak out (i.e. hide under the bed) a little for a day or two when first confined, but they quickly get over it. Their innate curiosity will get the best of them and they’ll have to come out and explore their surroundings. A separate litter box, food, water and toys (and scratching post if you value your furniture) should be plenty, and the bigger room (more to explore) would be better. Sniffing under the door will occur, of course. In the past when I’ve done this very thing, after a few days I was able to leave the door to the room ajar, but blocked with something (rope around the doorknobs on french doors, in my case) so that the cats can SEE each other, but not get out/into the other room and fight with the other cat(s). There will be a certain amount of hissing and gawd-awful growling taking place for a week or two, but they will usually end up at least “tolerating” each other after a while. Hopefully the cats are all similar in size? If not, it’s been my experience that bigger ones can end up bullying the smaller one(s) sometimes.
This is a good thing you do. Even though it may seem stressful at first, in the end it will be better for Sophie. Statistically, indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats. They don’t have other predatory animals to contend with, the possibility of being poisoned by something they eat or drink, or the possibility of being run over by a vehicle. And from what you’ve told us thus far, it sounds like little Sophie will be a pampered princess once she’s in your house!
Thank you! With time, harmony will be restored. I just need to relax and let it play out slowly. Growing up with all sorts of cats, you’d think I’d know what it’s like to bring a new one into the family. But I don’t recall any issues. Our cats were always indoor/outdoor cats, so maybe that’s the difference. They are similar in size. Sadie is a little bigger. She currently is alpha cat. Sally is a little smaller, and she and Sophie are about the same size. All three look a lot alike. It will be interesting to see who comes second in the pecking order: Sally (who sits on my lap as I write this) or Sophie. Yes, she will be a pampered princess. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Good thing I didn’t have human children–they’d be spoiled rotten.
Seems to me like you got everything figured out! I’m so excited! Just one thing, have you heard of Felliway? It’s a pheromone dispenser that you just plug in, it helps to soothe them in stressful situations like having a new roomie or moving to a new place. It’s worked wonders with me!
No, I’ve not heard of it! I’m off to the google. Thank you so much! Now where is that darn cat?
Sophie is so sweet, I hope she finds the perfect home like I did. Rooting for you, Sophie!
We’re making progress. As of Tuesday night, she’s now living in her sanctuary room in my home! She popped her head out of the closet this morning to eat the tuna I put by the door. Baby kitty steps! So glad you found the perfect home. Every kitty deserves this!
Sophie will find hers too. We’re looking forward to a post with the good news! Louisa