Imagine starting your life basically alone and helpless. This is the fate of feral or abandoned animals everywhere. Now imagine, at the age of four months, experiencing physical trauma so severe that both your hind legs were severely damaged.
That was how Roadie, a beautiful long haired kitten, started his life.
Fortunately, a kind person brought Roadie to the Austin Pets Alive! [APA!] rescue in Texas –
and he was able to receive the medical care he so desperately needed. However, despite the efforts of the medical team, Roadie’s right hind leg needed to be amputated and his left hind leg was bandaged and splinted so it would have time to heal.
This is when Kathleen came into Roadie’s life. Kathleen had fostered several neonatal litters of cats (aged 8 weeks old or less) during the summer for APA!. In October, she found out that Roadie’s foster person needed someone to babysit him while she traveled at the end of October. Kathleen was happy to volunteer to take Roadie into her home temporarily. By then, Roadie’s amputation was completely healed and the bandages were off his left hind leg. As soon as Kathleen met Roadie, she was captivated!
Kathleen kept telling herself that she would only keep Roadie temporarily. She kept in contact with Roadie foster person while she was away, sending photos and emails about how Roadie was doing. Even though Roadie was only with Kathleen for six short days, it was clear to Roadie’s foster person that Kathleen had fallen in love with Roadie. When his foster person suggested that Kathleen take over as Roadie’s foster person, Kathleen jumped at the chance to be Roadie’s official foster.
Kathleen’s only concern was her 13 year old cat Tex, who she’d adopted in January of that year. Tex and three other cats had been taken to APA! in December when their person had crossed to Spirit. Tex had been despondent when Kathleen first met him, but on the second visit, purred when Kathleen petted him. Kathleen felt/saw something in Tex and knew he was the cat for her. As soon as she got him home, Tex blossomed and became the wonderful, loving cat that he truly was. Kathleen has a very special bond with Tex — and she wanted to be sure it was OK with Tex to have Roadie stay with them.
Kathleen contacted me in mid-November to talk to Roadie and Tex.
Kathleen asked that we talk to Tex first, since his feelings about Roadie would help her decide if Roadie should stay — perhaps forever — as part of their family.
As soon as I connected to Tex, I felt a strong sense of what a calm, grounded, warm hearted and loving cat he was. There was a feeling of dignity — but also a fun side to him. It was also clear that Tex knew he was an extraordinarily handsome cat and he made a point of showing me how well he took care of his beautiful, long coat. Kathleen said that was Tex to a “T”!
I asked Tex how he felt about Roadie. He said that Roadie could be a pest [my sense was that this meant that Roadie pestered Tex to play with him at times] but that Roadie was not a bad cat. Tex felt that Roadie had a “sweetness in his soul” and lots of love to give.
Tex said that his main issue with Roadie was that Roadie had a LOT more energy and need to play than Tex did. Roadie also played rough sometimes, which Tex didn’t like. Tex showed me that he tried to be very clear with Roadie when he felt Roadie crossed the line and became too much. Tex showed me putting his foot firmly on to Roadie and holding him down as a way to say “enough!” Tex said he liked Roadie a lot — the feeling was that Tex felt like he was Roadie’s older brother. Tex said he tried very hard to show Roadie how to act “but he doesn’t seem to get it.” Tex said he especially liked Roadie when he was quiet and relaxed. He showed me snuggling with Roadie — it felt like this was a comfort to both of them. I assured Tex we’d talked to Roadie about being more gentle in his play. Kathleen confirmed what Tex had told me about his behavior with Roadie.
Tex said that even though Kathleen pays attention to Roadie, Tex knows he is #1 cat with Kathleen and Roadie is #2. Tex felt that he could help guide Roadie and that he and Kathleen could help Roadie become a good, brave cat.
Then it was time to talk to Roadie . . . as soon as I connected to Roadie, he said, “Am I staying here?” My feeling was that Roadie was hoping the answer would be “yes.” There was an awkward pause from Kathleen when I told her this. She said she wasn’t sure yet. She felt she might want to adopt Roadie, but she wanted didn’t want him to be unhappy. I told Roadie that he’d be staying with Kathleen and Tex for now and he seemed to be OK with that answer.
Kathleen was concerned because Roadie seemed so afraid of her. Roadie said he was “afraid of all people.” He showed me that he would run from Kathleen and spent much of his time in a hiding spot in the house. It was clear to me that this was related to his past, not his present, so we next asked about what happened to Roadie before he came to APA!
Roadie showed me how he got injured. He showed me being thrown against a hard surface [like a wall], impacting the hard surface with his hind quarters. He then showed me a person standing over him and, it appeared to me, that the person stepped on Roadie’s hind legs. [Animals who have been abused often show me horrible things — this made me want to throw up!] The person left Roadie there, but a kind person found him and took him to APA! I asked Roadie if he could tell me anything about his life before the accident. He didn’t show me anything specific, but my feeling was that he either hadn’t lived with people, or that he was left outside with his litter mates at a very young age. He didn’t know what happened to his litter mates or his mother. Roadie said he survived by avoiding people.
It was clear to me that Roadie’s fear of people was how he protected himself when he lived outside. That fear — which kept him alive at the time — was no longer useful or appropriate behavior. Yet it persisted. Roadie was exhibiting PTSD-type behavior, which is very common in rescued animals. I told Kathleen that she needed to remember that Roadie’s fear was not personal to her. If she could remember this, be patient and encourage Roadie to be brave while “loving him through it,” Roadie could get past his fearful behavior. Kathleen said she was completely committed to helping Roadie learn to be brave again. I encouraged Kathleen to be happy and positive in all her interactions with Roadie. If she was worried or took his fear personally, Roadie would interpret those feelings as Kathleen being upset with him — he would not understand what she was really feeling. Kathleen said she understood.
I asked Roadie how he felt about Kathleen. He said he liked her very much. He said he knew that she loved him and would never hurt him. But he showed me again that he often ran from her or hid. He said, “I can’t help it!” I told him that it was OK and not to worry. I asked if anything bad had happened to him since he came to Kathleen. He said, “No — she takes VERY good care of me!” Kathleen said that she had noticed that when she makes eye contact with Roadie — especially when she is standing up — he would run away. When I asked Roadie about this, he showed me that he sees eye contact as a threat. I encouraged Kathleen not to make eye contact with Roadie, except when she was sitting down, when she and Roadie were both relaxed — blinking [“cat kisses”], were a good idea! I told Roadie about the limited eye contact plan and encouraged him to be brave when he comes into rooms. He said it would help if Kathleen didn’t come toward him when he came toward her. Kathleen agreed to implement the above behavior suggestions.
Kathleen wanted to know how Roadie was feeling physically. Roadie showed me that he feels good and strong. He showed me that he does have some phantom limb syndrome issues and sometimes forgets that he is missing his right hind leg — he showed me that he gets wobbly when this happens — but he feels he can get around just fine. Kathleen said that this makes sense based on what she observes. We asked how Roadie likes living with Kathleen and Tex. Roadie said, “It’s very nice here.” He said he likes the food and LOVES the huge, really clean litter box! Roadie said he really likes it when Kathleen sits next to him, talks to him softly and strokes him. He said this helps him relax — “I was never able to relax and feel safe before!”
It was important to Kathleen to find out how Roadie felt about Tex. Roadie said he absolutely adores Tex, “He’s the best big brother ever!” He said that Tex was very smart and “knew everything!” I encouraged Roadie to follow Tex’s lead in everything — if Tex wasn’t afraid or worried, then Roadie didn’t need to be either. I encouraged Roadie to be brave and confident like Tex. Roadie said he would try. I told Roadie that Tex liked him a lot, but because Tex was older, Roadie needed to play more gently with Tex. Roadie showed me that when he gets really excited, he pounces on Tex. Roadie said he knew Tex didn’t like it, but he didn’t know what to do with his energy. I told Roadie that he could play next to Tex, play around Tex or offer to play with toys with Tex, but he need to stay OFF of Tex — all four feet on the floor. Roadie said he would try, but it felt like Roadie had a LOT of energy. I encouraged Kathleen to try playing with Roadie more, especially if she sees Roadie’s energy revving up — to try to head Roadie off before he goes after Tex. I encouraged Kathleen to try to find more active toys for Roadie, things that Roadie could use to entertain himself.
I told Kathleen that she needed to remind Roadie — by talking to him and making pictures in her head —of the behavior plans we’d talked about. I told her that it was important to always tell animals what we WANT them to do — not what we DON’T want them to do. Kathleen said she would make sure to follow through with all the suggestions.
Kathleen had one main question at the end of the session, “Should I get another kitten so Roadie has someone to play with?” I was still in connection with the cats when she said this and Tex immediately piped up and said, “No — we don’t need another kitten! One is enough!” After Kathleen and I stopped laughing, she agreed that one kitten was probably enough for everyone!
After we finished talking to the cats, Kathleen told me that she was seriously thinking of adopting Roadie. She was concerned that he might end up with someone who wouldn’t understand him and wouldn’t work to help him with his issues as well as she could. She was afraid that, if someone adopted him but didn’t understand him, that they would give up on him and returned to the APA! — which would traumatize Roadie further. “It sounds like Tex and I are the perfect partners to help him,” Kathleen said. Kathleen said that she hoped Roadie and Tex would show her that it was right to make Roadie part of their family.
Two days after our first chat, Kathleen emailed me. She reported that Roadie had already made amazing progress! He was bravely walking into rooms where she was sitting or even standing, climbing up on the couch to sit within hands reach of Kathleen and happily accepting pets — while purring like crazy! Roadie has continued to become more relaxed and is showing how happy he is to live with Kathleen and Tex. Roadie still has over exuberant moments with Tex — that is a work in progress. But when Tex is at the end of his tether, he lets Roadie know he has to stop — and Roadie listens.
We talked to Roadie and Tex again a couple weeks after our first chat. Kathleen wanted to talk to Tex first to find out how he felt about Roadie at that point. Tex said that he thought he was being a good teacher for Roadie. Kathleen said that it was obvious to her that Tex was teaching Roadie how to live in a house and be with people — “He even taught Roadie how to meow!”
Kathleen said that she was concerned because Roadie was still playing rough with Tex. Tex had started giving Roadie a paw smack to tell him that Tex had enough. Tex showed me that he was not angry when he did this, it was just the best way to get the point across to Roadie. Tex showed me he walks away after the paw smack — and Roadie leaves him alone. Kathleen confirmed that was exactly what happened.
Kathleen asked Tex if he wanted Roadie to live with them permanently. Tex said, “Of course! She needs to stop worrying about this. We both know he’s staying.” Kathleen laughed in surprise — but we still needed to talk to Roadie about staying.
When I connected to Roadie, he was very excited to tell me, “I’m learning new things every day!” He said he “adored” Tex and loved Kathleen. I asked about Tex giving him paw smacks when Roadie played too rough. Roadie showed me that he still didn’t have that much self control with his energy when playing. He said, “Tex makes me stop — and I listen.” He assured Kathleen that Tex never hurt him with the smacks and that he understood why Tex did it. I encouraged Roadie to try to be more aware of when his energy was really starting to build while playing and to disengage with Tex and to run or play with toys until his energy came back down. He said he would try, but he was grateful that Tex told him to stop — “I would never hurt Tex, he’s my best friend.”
Finally, we asked Roadie if he wanted Tex and Kathleen’s house to be his forever home. Roadie seemed surprised and said, “Tex already told me I was staying.” Kathleen again laughed in surprise and said, “I guess that settles it. Roadie is staying!”
No doubt there will be things to talk to both Roadie and Tex about in the future, but the most important question has been settled. Roadie has his forever home with Tex and Kathleen!
“Sky has such a wondrous gift for communicating with animals and helping them and their people! The change in Roadie is nothing short of miraculous. To hear this formerly terrified little creature purring in pleasure brings tears of joy to my eyes. Sky, you’ve made such a difference in Roadie’s life and in mine. I am eternally grateful for your help and I look forward to talking to you and my kitties again! God Bless you!!” — Kathleen K., TX