Liria, a long time client of mine, received a phone call from a young woman that attends church in Liria’s community. The caller needed to find a home for her late grandmother’s nine year old cat, Mittens.
Liria knew right away that she needed to adopt Mittens and made arrangements to meet Mittens and bring her home.
We talked to Mittens before Liria picked her up, so Mittens would be prepared for the move. Mittens was wary, but said she was looking forward to going to a new home – she was not happy where she was. We told her that she’d be living with Liria’s five other cats but they were used to having new cats come into the house. I told Mittens that she’d be in a room by herself until she and the other cats were ready to meet. Mittens was nervous about meeting Liria’s cats, but felt better knowing she’d have her own space for a while.
We talked to Mittens about 10 days later. Liria was spending a lot of time with her. Mittens was still cautious, but adjusting. Liria had taken Mittens out of “her” room for a few supervised walks through the house. Mittens said she really liked Liria and “her” room — but she was just waiting for one of the cats to attack her, so she would warn them off before they got close by hissing and growling at them. When Mittens showed me this, I felt that Liria’s cats were confused by Mitten’s behavior and would just walk away or ignore her. Liria said this was exactly what happened.
Mittens showed me that in her previous home, the other cat she lived with had bullied her and attacked her. Mittens had to slink along the walls of the rooms or hide to be safe. Mittens admitted that Liria’s cats just ignored her.
I asked Mittens if she felt good when she was hissing and growling at the cats and worrying about what might happen. She said no – the tension level she felt inside her when she walked around the house felt almost painful to me. I assured Mittens that if she would stop hissing, she would feel a lot better and so would the other cats. I told Mittens that the other cats got along with each other and they would get along with her. I could feel her relax and she said she would try not to hiss.
We talked to Mittens a few days later – Liria said the change in Mittens was remarkable! Mittens was coming and asking for pets – and no longer hissing at the other cats. She was still growling at them, though – but I reminded Liria that we hadn’t asked her not to growl, only not to hiss! Liria said that she’d been leaving the door to Mitten’s room open and that she’d occasionally come out on her own and sit outside the room for a little while – a HUGE improvement!
Mittens said that she was no longer afraid of the other cats. Her energy was much more relaxed and she felt much happier. I told Mittens that if she could try not growling at the cats, she would feel even better. Liria asked me to let Mittens know that she could go anywhere she wanted in the house and lay on any surface – that there were pet stairs and chairs to the tables so she could get up there easily. Mittens wasn’t allowed on the furniture in her old home, so she wasn’t sure about this. I assured her no one would be upset, that everyone in the house – cats and people – knew how to share. I encouraged her to keep exploring the house and the screened in patio.
Another issue was that Mittens didn’t seem to know how to interact with people. She clearly had trust issues. She would accept petting, then turn and bite hard. Mittens showed me that she didn’t get much attention in her former home and didn’t like the way they picked her up so she would bite. Mittens showed me that she really enjoyed being petted – but because of the level of tension she was carrying, she could only take in so much energy from petting.
I suggested that Liria try to only pet Mittens for a few seconds at a time. She could do this over and over – pet for a few seconds, take a break, then pet again. This would help Mittens get used to petting without over loading her energetically. I told Mittens the plan and she thought that would work – she definitely didn’t want Liria to stop petting her! I asked Mittens about the biting – she said no one listened to her in her previous home and that biting was the only way to tell them to stop. I assured Mittens that Liria was a good “cat listener” and would stop if Mittens asked her to.
We talked to Mittens about a month after Liria adopted her. Liria couldn’t get over the change in Mittens! “Everything you’ve asked her to do, she’s doing – it’s amazing,” Liria stated. Mittens had been spending most of her time outside of “her” room – even getting up and stretching out on the table! The growling had stopped and she would only give a reminder hiss if one of the cats was trying to play with her – her way to say “no”. Mittens energy felt very relaxed and happy to me. I asked her how she was feeling about the other cats – she said she still wasn’t ready to be buddies with any of them, but she felt like this was her house too now.
Liria reported that the biting was better – now Mittens didn’t bite hard, only gently. We talked about the biting again and Mittens admitted that Liria was really good about listening to her. I suggested that since Liria was listening, that Mittens didn’t need to bite any more. I told her that if she wanted a break from petting, she could just get up and move away – then come back when she wanted more.
Mittens said she was grateful to Liria for taking her in – she finally had a loving person and felt like she belonged somewhere. She said in Liria’s house, the house really belongs to the cats – and the people live there too. Liria laughed when she heard that and said, “So true!”
“I have to tell you – our chats with Mittens are amazing and her behavior afterwards is amazing!!! She totally has been listening when you chat with her and she puts the suggestions to work. It’s as though she took notes during the chat and is checking things off as she does something new.” – Liria B., FL
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