Monday, August 30, 2010

Tanya snuggles; Tomba social-climbs

Tanya's making more progress, I am happy to report. She's venturing farther and more often into her new world. She frequently visits me, or at least pokes her head around the doorframe to check on me when I'm at the computer or proofreading.

And last night was huge. Last night, sometime in the wee hours, I awoke to a feline leaping up on the foot of the bed and walking up to me. It was Tanya! A purring, snuggly Tanya who wanted loving, then nudged the edge of the covers as if....

Yup. She wanted under. I held up the edge and she slipped in and snugged herself against me for a few minutes before departing for her under-bed hangout.

Tanya's out on the landing as I type this; Squash is approaching from the litter boxes; there's some hissing and small growling; then Squash slips past her to go downstairs -- and she doesn't retreat to the bedroom. And here's a look at her, with Tomba being nonchalant in the background.


Meanwhile, Tomba is asserting dominance over the residents. Oh, not viciously, nobody's getting damaged. Most of the time he and the others get along as if they'd always lived together. But now and then he'll smack-talk and paw-smack one or another of the residents, just to let them know he's a big shot. No one seems inclined to argue the point.

Even Schooner, the endlessly intrusive and annoying, is allowed into the personal space of the mighty Tomba.


Even Schooner, the endlessly blithely oblivious, has enough sense not to push his luck and actually carry through on his dim stirrings of "Hmmmmm.... maybe he'd like to play with me?"


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tough Love for Tanya

It's been a tough week for Tanya, but the end appears to be justifying the means.

A few days ago, I took the third floor away from her. Other than brief, infrequent forays from her top-floor retreat she wasn't making any progress toward integration. So I got her out from under her preferred bed, released her to flee to the basement, brought the two litterboxes down to the bit of hallway at the foot of the stairs (sigh), and closed the door.

Then a couple of hours later I went back up to investigate some odd noises and let Schooner out of there.

Poor girl! It must have been horrifying for her, losing her safest lair in this jungle of strange cats. For the first two days she fled from hiding place to hiding place, and had a haunted look when I saw her (usually to deposit a handful of kibble near her, then back off and watch to see that she ate -- a process often complicated by Schooner's eager intrusions). Daily I dithered over giving in and letting her have the third floor again.

The third day, though, showed some small signs of progress. She spent a larger amount of her hiding time camped under my bed -- a higher structure than her third-floor refuge, and much more exposed to the other cats. When they went near her, she didn't hiss or growl (or hardly any).

Over the last couple of days things have moved significantly forward. I've seen her several times actually out in the open! With the residents within a few feet! And nobody died! Last night I came out of my bedroom to find her sitting halfway down the stairs, Schooner at the bottom, and

OMG!!!!!!!!! She just looked into the office as I was typing this! Sat gazing at me for several seconds, and at Sally and Peanut beyond me, then turned and sedately walked back toward the bedroom!

Anyway, to resume what I'd been writing:

Tanya looked at me, let me come down a couple of stairs, then scurried away past Schooner for the basement. But that was much bolder than she'd been just two days before.

She still does retreat when I approach, but her slink is less craven -- more of a scuttle. I should note here that every time I've been able to touch her and pet her, she's responded with purrs and moving into the caress, so I think it's the frightening gestalt of her new existence rather than specific fear of me that moves her to retreat if I walk toward her. Crawling on my belly, I can get much closer.

She's back! Lasted a few seconds longer this time. Now she's under the bed, under the headboard, with Peanut lying under the foot of the bed. Both look relaxed.

To resume: Tanya's now tolerating the residents being within inches of her. Yesterday I fed her kibble under my bed. Tomba moved in for some; I gave him a separate pile. Schooner bustled in ("What's up? Food? For me!") and got his own little pile. Everyone ate quietly within a foot of each other. The last 24 hours have seen a real jump in her comfort level.

Hoo boy! Just went hands-and-kneeing partway into the bedroom. Tomba plunked himself before me for some loving. Tanya, three feet away under the bed, saw, meeped, considered, and started toward me. "Love me too" was in her eyes. She got to the edge of the bed.

Schooner thrust by me through the doorway, in between me and the retreating Tanya. Curses! Foiled again! Tomba continued soaking up scritches, till Schooner proved sufficiently annoying for him to thwack the impudent boy and chase him out. While those two were engaged elsewhere, Tanya and I communed. Hesitantly, she came closer... closer... her head emerged from under the bed... I reached out my hand and she dived into the chin and cheek scritches.

Schooner came back. Tanya turned away. I departed, elated with the amazing progress just achieved.

I have felt rotten over doing this to Tanya, but it's working out to be the right thing.

Tomba, meanwhile, is right at home. There's still a wee bit of posturing with the others now and then to establish social status, but he eats with the rest of the scrum, hangs out without fear, and has chosen the second-floor landing as his preferred observation post. When he wants some loving he stalks over to me and requests it. For Tomba, life is good.

For Tanya, I now can hope that it will also be good soon. Phew!

Sophie update: X-rays showed no bone involvement. Prescription: Tincture of time. Condition: Daily improving, to the point that this morning there's hardly any limp left.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

T&T Update

The news is mixed. Tomba continues to warm to me, and is doing well overall with the residents. Tanya is not making progress.

The big guy is spending more time outside the closet, though he still prefers to spend almost all of his time on the second floor. He will flee if I approach, but then stop and, often as not, come over to me for attention. Today I was able to clip his claws (which badly needed it). He was not happy about it but endured the process, then fled back into his closet hidey-corner when released. Later he resumed his sporadic coming over to me to be made much of. I've been able to lure him downstairs for breakfast (kibble scattered across floor) with the residents in the last few days, at least

Aha! Tomba just passed the doorway of the office where I'm sitting, coming down from the third floor (litterbox use probably) and headed onward to the first floor.

Anyway, he seems to be doing very well. There have been a few incidents where he and a resident have gotten up close and personal, leading to growls, low-whining yowls, and (on his part) some fast thwacking, but nobody's been harmed, and he will nose-sniff with others peaceably. No doubt he and the residents (notably Teddy and Peanut) are working out the status rankings.

Tanya continues to spend almost all of her time hiding under one bed on the top floor. She has created a nest in the stuff I stuffed under it and can slither into it, out of sight, but when I flop down onto my belly between the beds and talk to her, she'll creep out, meep at me, and hunch close enough to be petted. Purrs at me, too. I bring food to her twice a day, a handful of kibble in the morning and a small bowl of wet food in late afternoon. She has a water dish a short distance outside her refuge and the litterbox a few feet away. She looks quite healthy, her coat shines, her eyes are bright.

Today when she hunkered over toward me for petting I was able to extract her and clip her claws -- as badly in need of de-scimitaring as Tomba's, and a process she found even more distressing than he did. Still, other than trying to slither and squirm out of my grasp she endured it, and later in the day again crept near enough for scritching. But she will not come out from under the bed. It's impossible to say what she does when I'm sleeping or out of the house, whether she comes downstairs at all, but she does not seem to be trying to integrate into the household.

I'm torn. On the one hand, I'm tempted to move the litterboxes down from the third floor to the foot of the stairs, extract her from her refuge, and close the door to the top floor -- force her to deal with all that she's hiding from. On the other hand, it's only been what, two weeks? since she arrived, and perhaps she will make progress on her own if I don't push it. On the third hand, she's not moving forward; if anything, she's given ground in that she doesn't appear to be leaving the third floor at all lately, as she had done earlier in brief wary bursts.

It's unfortunately possible that she will never be able to deal with my multi-cat household, at least to the point of joining it. If so, is life as she's currently living it enough for her happiness? I do visit her several times a day. She seems to enjoy the attention (including belly rubs) but her face never makes it nearer to me than the edge of the bed. Is that enough?


Tanya makes a fool of me:

Well! Right after postingt that update, I went looking for T&T. Found Tomba in the bedroom closet -- in the end opposite from his usual corner, just to confuse me.

So who was it who went slinking down from the third floor? Tanya! Tanya, whose spotted coat and white feet are very similar to Tomba's, especially seen at a quick glance as the feline glides swiftly by.

Currently the timid Tanya is hiding in a corner of the basement, under some shelving, a large wicker basket and a bundled-up tarp partially concealing her from the horrors of her strange new world. It's encouraging that she feels driven to venture out, however briefly, however limited her explorations.

Guess I'll hold off on blocking her acess to her top-floor refuge for a while.

Monday, August 16, 2010

T&T: One down, one to go

Tomba's okay with the new life. Tanya still isn't.

Tanya's still hiding out, still growls softly if one of the residents comes too near. She flees if she thinks I'm too close. But I suspect if the residents weren't around she might be approaching me, because when I reach under the bed to her she allows her chin to be scratched, in fact she purrs and burrows into it. Tonight, when I laid my hand flat in front of her after some petting, she draped one large paw over it and rested her chin on that paw, purring, her eyes slitting shut. Even her flight slink is less craven.

Tomba's coming out of his closet lair to me now. This morning he emerged and sat among the residents, within feet of, say, Ted and Schooner, till I got out of bed, then retreated downstairs ahead of me at a sedate pace. I'll kneel or sit on the floor by the closet door and chirp. He looks, considers, and walks out. Twice today he's strolled out confidently and library-lioned beside me, wallowing in stroking and skritching. He let Schooner sniff his butt, and a bit later sniffed Schooner's butt. I'd say he's about 90 percent of the way to feeling right at home.

Just now, after his attention wallow, he stayed outside the closet, allowing me to go fetch my camera and set to work. And voila! Here he is. Isn't he handsome?

Ecce Tomba:



Saturday, August 14, 2010

Update from Feline Central

Sophie went to the vet this morning for a checkup, despite being marginally improved. She tolerated palpation and manipulation with very little protest; apparently whatever is making her limp and trail that hind leg isn't painful enough to elicit much of a reaction to direct touch. Verdict: Soft tissue injury; continue her confinement and limited movement for another 48 hours and see how it goes. So it's back to the office/hospital ward, with the accordion gate in the doorway when I'm in there, and the door shut when I'm not.

Sally is not pleased with this turn of events. Sally does not like being kept out of the office. Sally has tried burrowing under the obstacle. Since the barrier is merely propped in place, not fastened to the wall, this resulted in the clatter-bang toppling of the gate with her halfway under it. Exit Sally, pursued by a barrier.

Today Sally decided if you can't get under, go over. I'll go take a flying leap at it, she said to herself, and so she did.


You can see the ubiquitous Schooner in the background.

Sally's ensconced now on top of her beloved bookcase, triumphant.


Meanwhile, T&T continue adjusting to their new reality. Tanya shuttles between hiding under the recliner on the first floor and hiding in the closet on the second. But at least she's getting out and about. Tomba mostly hides too, but is bolder. Yesterday he came out to greet me when I sat down by the closet door, then headed for the stairs to the first floor, passing within a foot of Peanut, Teddy, and the ever-present Schooner on his way. Nobody offered threats of violence. Well, Peanut did dare to move in on Tomba for a sniffing and got a hissssss/thwackthwack for his impudent imprudence, but he could have gotten that from Teddy if the orange boy'd been feeling cantankerous.

There's still a goodly distance for both to travel before they're fully integrated into the household, but so far it's been remarkably smooth sailing.

Well, except for the furnace disassembly.

Friday, August 13, 2010

T&T Held Hostage: Day Eight -- Together At Last

Tanya and Tomba are together now, crouched in the same hiding place, and it's all because of my hardhearted cruelty.

Tanya wasn't budging from her top-floor lair. Despite my best efforts to win her trust, woo her out, and in general get her to leave her under-bed lair, she stayed put. Let me pet her? Yes. Eat (at least some of) the food I brought her? Yes. Come all the way out from under? No. Other than quick dashes to the litterbox within feet of her refuge, or poking her head out far enough to drink water from the bowl between the beds, she wasn't going anywhere.

After a week of letting her mull over her new life, I decided it was time she made a move to come to better terms with it. So I stuffed pillows, bedspreads, and so forth under both beds, leaving her one end of one bed for a hidey-hole. This, as you may imagine, perturbed her. Tanya in fact fled downstairs in mid-stuff. She made it all the way to the basement, where she discovered to her horror that the behind-the-furnace retreat was blocked off. I caught her in mid-scuttle for the stairs back to the upper levels, petted her a bit, then released her. Scuttling resumed.

Since the cruel contraction of her former refuge, Tanya has experimented with various hiding places. I've spotted her several times lurking under the living room recliner, for example. At this point she's settled on joining Tomba in my bedroom closet -- a shallow but several-feet-wide lair with lots of hanging clothes to conceal her tubby body, and a pair of sliding doors I leave a few inches open at either side for easy access.

Tomba's done some exploring, and I've seen him in a corner of the living room under the same table where he found refuge after his extraction from under the plenum. Mostly, though, he hangs out in the bedroom closet. He and Tanya migrate between the two ends and the middle section; if one is in an end, the other is in the middle.

Tomba is more at ease with his new life, he's still not socializing with the residents but he's a lot calmer about things, and he will actually creep out of the closet to have at the food I bring him, even when one of the residents (hi, Schooner!) hangs about watching. He very much enjoys the head skritches, body rubs, and general making much of I give him, responding with robust purrs. Tanya is still torn on whether being petted by me is a good thing or not, but I can usually evoke a purr with concentrated chin-tickling. Both cats have absolutely refused to show any aggression to me, even when they're desperate to get away and I'm preventing it, blocking their way or (gasp!) even holding them briefly. They simply slink harder. Not that I often restrain them; mostly I just visit them in their hiding places and pet them at arm's length.

All in all, though, this is going much, much better than I'd expected.

Meanwhile, Sophie is on the disabled list. Late last night I noticed her limping badly, barely putting weight on her left hind. Careful gentle palpation evoked no protest or flinching, so I felt reassured that, whatever it was, at least nothing was broken. I did call the 24-hour emergency animal hospital in North Andover to run it by them, see if they thought I should bring her in (at 1:00-ish a.m., a good half-hour's drive away, sob) and after a thorough discussion of what was going on, we decided she could wait till this morning when my regular vets' office opened.

Meanwhile, so that Sophie wouldn't have to attempt navigating the stairs to relieve herself, I brought a couple of litterboxes back up to the living room where she was. Darn it! I'd just moved them out a day or two before, after catproofing the basement, and now.... back again. Sophie was glad of it, though; very soon after I laid down the tarp and settled the boxes on it, she clambered in and released a flood.

Called SRH Vet this morning; discussed what I'd observed last night and Sophie's marginally better ambulation this morning; decided to hold off bringing her in and instead confine her to a small space, since that's the treatment, I was told, she'd be prescribed anyway given the review of symptoms. Could be a wrench or sprain; could even be a dislocation; but tincture of time in such cases, aided by limits on motion, is the way to heal her. Also, their X-ray equipment, having just been upgraded, was refusing to function properly, so they wouldn't be able to look inside anyway. We've left it that I can call tomorrow if I want her seen and they'll fit us in. I'll see how she's doing tomorrow morning; if she's not clearly improving, off we go.

So now Sophie is here with me in my second-floor office. She has her own food and water dishes, her own litterbox, her own floor cushion on which she's sleeping as I type this, and one of those wooden accordion child-saver gates across the doorway. The other residents -- especially Sally, who claims the top of the office bookcase as her favored roost -- are annoyed that they can't get in, but have given up trying to burrow under the barrier.

Oh, and if all this weren't enough, my Morgan, Commander, has pulled off a front shoe and I had to swaddle his foot with vetwrap and duct tape to protect the hoof wall till my farrier can take care of it. What next? She asks plaintively.


Update, a couple of hours later:

I should mention a bit of behavior by the fat little girl that is most encouraging: She's dipping and sipping.

Sophie for most of her life has had a habit of sitting at the water dish, dipping a paw daintily into the water, then lifting the paw to her mouth and licking the drips off it. She was doing that last night and is doing it again tonight.

I'm assuming that if she were in strong discomfort she wouldn't engage in that little idiosyncracy.

Watching her move from food dish to water dish to cushion just now, it appears that her limp is a wee bit less pronounced than it was even a few hours earlier. Still quite lame; still doesn't want to swing the leg well forward under her body; but a smidgen better.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

T&T Held Hostage: Day Five

I never knew a cat could purr and growl at the same time. And what an odd sound it is.

It's all Schooner's fault, of course.

Tanya and Tomba have become separated. Tanya's staying under the bed on the top floor, despite the heat that's built up there over the last few days. I keep the ceiling fan running on low, to stir into the still pall of atmosphere what little cool air-conditioning struggles up that far. Tomba is mostly hiding in my bedroom closet, lurking well-hidden behind the racks of clothing whose hems hang inches from the floor. I surprised him this morning on the stairs from the first floor; he was a step or two below the landing, startled to discover that I was out of bed and advancing toward him from the bedroom. He stared at me for a moment, then scuttled away downstairs. But the bedroom closet is his chosen lair.

Despite their continued insistence on hiding, both cats are warming toward me. I can reach in under the clothing to skritch Tomba, getting small head surges and purrs in return, and I do so several times each day. This evening I gave him a few minutes of a good body-scratching and stroking, and he very much enjoyed it. He will still flee if he thinks I'm hunting him, but he's purring strongly now when I caress him.

Tanya very nearly came out from under the bed this evening! I'd been spending time with her off and on all day, ten or fifteen minutes at a pop, just lying on the floor between the twin beds talking and kissing and chirruping to her, letting one hand slide in under the bed. She'd shift herself toward me, let me skritch her, then slither back.

This evening I lay there for a long time. We went through several rounds of advance and retreat. She began purring a few minutes into the session and continued rumbling at every distance. Once she hitched herself so far toward me that her face emerged from under the bed, as far as her eyes! Too daring; too soon; as I started to stroke her neck she backed away out of reach.

But she wanted my attention, that was clear. I lay quietly on my side, making small encouraging sounds, and otherwise not moving (darn near drifted off to sleep, in fact, despite the discomfort of my position). She scrunched closer. Got some head rubs. Inched closer, offering her side. I reached in as far as my awkward position would allow (the bed is too low to fit more than my arm under it) and rubbed her side, then her belly. Heaven! Nirvana! Yes YES YES!!! Belly rub! I withdrew my hand. Tanya mulled it over, still purring strongly. She swung herself toward me. I waited. She hitched a few inches toward me. I waited. She inched closer yet. I waited. She purred and purred and purred and....

A solid weight, concentrated in broad little paws, landed on my hip. Tanya looked that way. Her steady purr mutated into a rumbling low whine-edged growl. She shifted away from me as Schooner walked up along my body and plopped down into the narrow space between me and the bed. He stared under the bed at her. She stared back. He jumped up onto the bed in back of me, then meandered about over both beds, his sturdy body making the bedclothes rustle with his passage. She retreated farther into safety. The bizarre purr/growl, soft but clear, continued.

I told Schooner what I thought of his ill-timed arrival. He looked happy. Schooner believes that everyone loves him and is always pleased to have him around (hisses and swats bounce right off his cheerful confidence), and of course his human must naturally be delighted to see him! Go away? Why would I say that? So I gave it up for the night, content with the progress made.

A side note: The residents are getting along better now with each other than they did before T&T arrived. I guess there's nothing like an alien intruder to make a family pull together, eh?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

T&T: Lurking unmolested

The other cats, when the newbies slink down to the lower levels, look but don't touch. Tanya occasionally growls, very softly, if someone examines her too closely and she has no line of retreat, but that's about it for declarations of hostility. T&T spend most of their time under the beds on the top floor. Sometimes they venture to the lower levels. I've found one or the other huddling in my bedroom closet, well-concealed by hanging clothes, and been able to do some chin-scratching then. (They like it, yet still they scuttle away from me when I cease cornering them. Oh, well.) Tanya's also occasionally tried hiding under a bureau, or even behind the cluster of plants next to the second-floor slider. But mostly the third floor is theirs.

Unfortunately, that means that the residents have stopped using the litterboxes in the bathroom off the third-floor bedroom, formerly their preferred facilities, and now focus on the temporary setup in the living room. UGH! I've moved a couple of boxes down there and regularly clean them, but it is NOT PLEASANT. Tomorrow I'll be checking the behind-furnace holes, to see if the foam I sprayed in yesterday has filled them. I've also devised ways to block off the hidey-space behind there and other places where T&T could huddle beyond my reach. Tomba can have the under-shelf corner in the basement where he first hid, if he likes; but I'm not letting them have anywhere that's inaccessible.

Assuming I get the basement cat-hiding-proofed to my satisfaction, the litterboxes will be going down there tomorrow. None too soon!

Oh, yeh, also: Twice I've been able to get hold of Tanya and drag her passively resisting body into my lap for some loving. She does push her head into the skritching; she does purr at times; but she also wants to ooze free, and scurries away when I release her. That's all right; she'll come around eventually. The wary Tomba isn't ready for that much enforced affection yet.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

T&T Held Hostage: Day Two

They've made progress!

They've progressed from the first floor to the spare bedroom on the third/top floor of the townhouse.

At some point overnight (or early morning; I tend to get up at the crack of 9:00) both Tanya and Tomba made their way up two flights of stairs, past assorted agog observers, to new hiding places. I'd seen both cats making independent slinking forays around the first floor last night when I spent some hours in the living room, quietly reading and watching TV, occasionally talking and chirping to them, so I'm assuming that they independently explored upward till there was nowhere else to go.

Tanya is currently ensconced in a cat castle next to one of the twin beds. Tomba is under one of the beds. Tanya let me put my hand inside the cat castle to pet her. Yes, yes, I realize that putting your hand through a small opening into an enclosed space in which a scared (or at least worried) cat is hiding is just asking for it to come back shredded, but I'd observed how Tanya reacted to stranger touching while similarly tucked away at the shelter. She was fine then, and just now she actually enjoyed it enough to position her head for maximum chin-skritching. Did I even hear a hint of a purr? Tomba is less sure he wants anything to do with me and I'm not going to push him.

Just went upstairs to check. Tanya's now under the bed where Tomba had been and Tomba's under the other bed.

Schooner continues to be mightily curious about the newcomers, willing to get within inches before retreating. The others have an air of "What the hell is going on here?" to varying degrees but no one's outright distraught, everyone's eating, and it's been remarkably quiet overall. I'm really surprised, in fact, at how little craziness there's been. I guess my guys are accustomed by now to strangers showing up in their territory. It helps that T&T aren't the least bit aggressive.

Checked again. Now they're together under one bed. And so I leave them, and you, Dear Readers, for now.

Friday, August 6, 2010

No, really; what WAS I thinking?

Tanya and Tomba are now upstairs, thanks to an hour of titanic effort by the animal control officer and my heating contractor.

They hadn't come out of hiding, that I could tell, all night. Their food was barely touched. Checking behind the furnace, I could just see Tanya, who retreated when I slithered into position to look closer.

Wait, what? Slithered into position? Titanic effort by...? Oh, yeh, if you've never seen how my furnace is set up, what I'm about to tell you wouldn't make much sense. So here's the deal: It's clear (and confirmed by my heating contractor) that the builder of my condo installed the furnaces in the complex, then poured the floors and built the walls to enclose them afterwards. Result? Insanely tight clearances all around.

Here's what I mean: beyond the water heater is the furnace/central air, and a sheet metal plenum on the floor next to it leading back to a vertical plenum. At the rear of that floor plenum is a small space between the back of the furnace and the vertical plenum. Zig a zag into that little space and you find a narrow space between the vertical plenum and the basement wall. And that's where T&T had gone to hide.

Or so I thought.

I slithered in, as I say, on my belly atop the floor plenum, flashlight in one hand, and spotted Tanya, who retreated as far as she could into that zigzag space, but I was able to glom onto her and haul her out (snagging my shirt on various exposed nailheads in the studs) and plunk her into a waiting carrier, where she huddled, meeping softly. I went back in for Tomba.

He wasn't there. True, the back of the zigzag space was beyond the reach of my flailing hand, but it wasn't beyond the reach of the car-trunk-sized snow shovel I carefully probed the space with. No large blubbery cat retreated from the probe, not did I feel its edge nudge a large blubbery mass.

I searched the whole basement. No Tomba. I searched again. I probed again. No Tomba. Ack. Finally I called Animal Control and lucked out -- Matt was in, and promised to come over on his way home, in about half an hour. And so he did.

And he couldn't find Tomba either. We searched the whole condo. No Tomba. Matt even contorted and squeezed his six-foot-plus self into the zigzag space for a better look, but nope, not there. He was about to go get a Havahart trap from his van when I mentioned something I'd seen while I'd been slithered in: inside the tiny zigzag space, butted up to the floor plenum, was a rough hole in the concrete floor leading to a space under the plenum. A small hole, seemingly no larger than a large cat's head. "He couldn't possibly have fit in there, could he?" Heh. With the help of a mirror on a stick we found that, yes, indeed, he could fit in there. And had.

But Matt couldn't extract him. The hole was too small for a cat-holding hand.

Now what?

Now we take apart the floor plenum. Which means cutting the plastic pipe clamped to it. Yikes.

While Matt sawed away, I ran upstairs and called my heating contractor, Dave Wile. For a wonder, I got him. For an even greater wonder, at after 4:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, having heard why he was needed, he cheerfully agreed to come right over. And did so.

I stood back and let the pros have at it. In such cramped spaces it wasn't easy, and there were an amazing number of bolts that had to be undone. At one point, while Matt lifted the near end of the plenum a half-inch off the floor (as far as it then would go) I crouched on the concrete, peeked under the plenum's edge, and saw poor terrified Tomba staring back at me from what the poor fool had thought was a safe haven.

They never were able to get the thing entirely disassembled, but at last Matt thought he could get it high enough to reach under and extract the cat. He squeezed and contorted himself into the space till he was straddling the floor plenum, Dave lifted it as far as it would go, and......................

Voila! Extracted cat!

Matt carefully backed out of the space and handed Tomba off to me. I bundled the horrified blubbery mass into a carrier and took him upstairs to the living room, releasing him in the corner where Tanya was already hiding under a small table. He dithered a moment or two when I opened the top of the carrier, then flowed out and into safety.

Meanwhile, Matt and Dave were repairing the havoc wreaked in pursuit of the wretched fellow. I thanked them profusely, with words and in Matt's case with a 12-pack of Ipswich Ale; in Dave's case with a check for his ridiculously reasonable service call fee. In a trice the place was put back together, the rescuers were gone, and I was left with two gobsmacked adoptees hiding in a corner, seven resident felines recovering from the horror of strangers in the house, and the three litterboxes that used to be in the basement now resting on a tarp in the middle of my living room, to stay there until (a) I could get some spray foam to seal up the gap in the concrete floor, and (b) the adoptees adapted to life beyond the basement. Until then the basement is off-limits to the felines.

What was I thinking?

Why did I decide to adopt two more cats? Not even cute little kittens, oh, no; these are pudgy adults, 10 and 13 years old, in fact; surrendered to the local shelter when their elderly owner had to go to a nursing home, and needing to go together to whoever would be willing to adopt them. When I first met them on a visit to the shelter, they'd arrived just a couple of days before and were hunkered down, quietly terrified. On a subsequent visit, a couple of weeks later, they were amiable but not effusively friendly. All in all, despite their having lovely spotted shiny coats, they weren't going to be easy to place.

So after several nights of lying awake thinking about what a wrenching upheaval to their happy life they've been through, and how uncertain their future was, I offered to take them. Hey, I've only got seven now; two more would still keep me in single digits! Double digits is my tripwire, my STOP sign at the tipping point into crazy cat hoarder territory. What, you laugh? Hey, it works for me!

I don't like trying to integrate an adult cat into a household of adult cats; kittens are much easier. With adults there's a lot more sturm und drang, I've found. And yet....

On my second visit the two were in the front cat room with several other adults. Inquiry revealed they'd been nonconfrontational when introduced and in fact avoided any threat of hostility rather than threatening back, so I figured they weren't likely to get in fights with my resident felines, who in their turn, based on history, were unlikely to do more than swear and curse at them. So maybe, with patience, it could work?

The adoption coordinator for the shelter and the animal control officer both know me (I've adopted two kittens previously from the shelter) and when I asked about taking Tanya (altered female) and Tomba (altered male) they were quick to say yes. So this afternoon I took two empty carriers to the shelter and came back with two full ones.

Back home, I decanted them in the finished basement, where three of the litterboxes are. Tomba zipped right into a corner under a set of shelves with stuff in front of them, where he could hide, and stayed there. Tanya upon release has hidden, explored, hidden, explored; got as far as up the stairs and out on the first floor to the edge of the kitchen and living room before retreating.

Schooner, my youngest, soon came down to investigate. He was puffed up and wary but not actively hostile. I reassured him and he got a bit more confident. Tanya and he actually sniffed noses as she explored and he investigated; Tanya didn't focus on him and he was tentatively curious. If everyone will be as good about this as Schooner (but they won't be) this will be a piece of cake.

After hanging out for a while, talking softly and chirping, I went upstairs. Have let three of the resident cats sniff my stranger-scented fingers. They were wary but curious; no one hissed. And that is how their arrival went. Let us hope they will settle in without too much drama.


Update, two hours later:

So far, so....... well, they're both still hiding in the basement, in separate spots. One or another of the residents goes down now and then to check them out, then comes back up, sedately. I don't hear any screams while they're down there. I did hear some hisses from Tomba a while ago, when I was sitting on the basement floor (carpeted, thank goodness) chirping and talking to T&T, and Peanut went close to Tomba's hiding place to check him out. Peanut retreated after a bit of cautious looking, and that was that.

I go down there every now and then to spend a little quiet talking time with them, come close enough to look at them, let them see me, then in a bit go away again. It seems best to let them come out when they feel comfortable with it. I'll probably put food and water down there for them until I see them regularly upstairs.

I liked their spotted coats but didn't realize till I looked over the health papers that came with them that they're both Ocicats! A breed I've admired for a long time, never thought I'd own as they are quite pricey! One website I looked at said $500 to $900 for a kitten. Although these two, with their white markings, are pet quality only, wouldn't qualify for showing. But who cares? I think they're lovely.


Update, two hours later:

No problems, other than that the newbies have now taken up residence in the blind corner behind the furnace and refuse to come out. I've left canned and dry food and a bowl of water in the floor space between the furnace and the water heater, and closed the basement door so that the other cats can't get down there to steal their food. That was about an hour ago that I left the canned food (tuna), and so far they haven't touched it. I did check with a flashlight and spotted a bit of Tomba staring back at me from his crouch beside the furnace. Hopefully by morning they will have at least eaten something. Seems to me, since they don't come out when they hear me coming down the stairs (or go back and hide, I don't know) that I should not bother them again tonight. I'm leaving the lights on down there so they can see where they're going if they do come out.


Update, four-plus hours later:

Some small amount of dry food, and maybe a bit of tuna, had been eaten on last check. Around 11:00 I went down and sat in the basement reading for about an hour. After a while, Tanya emerged from a different hiding place and slunk back to the furnace. Tomba didn't appear. They will have the basement to themselves for the rest of the night. Tomorrow I'll open the door and leave it open for several hours, and see what happens.

I do hope they'll get over their fear soon and move upstairs; it's not much of a life, hiding behind a furnace.