Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Unveiling Aja

Our journey with Aja has been like a grand "unveiling."
A slow, deliberate lifting of the veil
 she uses to cover her personality.

She is a beauty!

You see, when you adopt a kitten, there is no veil or curtain.  It is all typically about play and adventure and wonder and fun and discovery and cuddles and sometimes mistakes and craziness.  Kittens are "all out there."  Being cautious lasts about 5 or 10 minutes.  Tops!  Finding your 2 pound fur ball hanging from a curtain rod or off your jeans (while you are wearing them, of course) or pitifully caught in a tight place, or darting between your legs in sudden fits and starts ... all of that is just Kittenhood 101!

Favorite spot!

Adopting an adult cat is none of that.  It more like studying for a Phd without books or lectures and Cliff Notes.  You don't even get a syllabus or an advisor.  Adopting an adult cat is like purchasing a "surprise package" where you don't know what's inside the box until you open it up.  And the first order of business is gently picking the virtual scotch tape off the wrapping paper without upsetting the contents (otherwise known as 'the cat.')  And that is where we started with Aja.

The first thing she shared with us was how talky she is.  Many meows, trills, purring, short little squeak sounds that have meaning only to her at present. And she loves to be talked to!  All that aside, she isn't shy at setting you straight with a hiss, either.  Although we have no rules when it comes to cats, she apparently has a few rules when it comes to owners.  Haha!  Good thing I am a fast learner!!

Husband spending time trying to make friends.
Look at her beautiful markings.

The next discovery was the sinuous rubbing of her body against our legs.  She loves to do that.  She is friendly - in the extreme at times - happy to be scratched around the cheeks and ears and neck.  And when she has had enough - She Is D-O-N-E.  And don't ask for more.  It's her time table - not yours.  When her 'happy dance' is over, she is on to other things.

Gate is wide open - but unless it is dark and quiet - she typically
won't come out.  At least not yet.  Can't help but wonder
was is going on in that tiny mind of hers.

But as the owner, it is important that I control the narrative (or at least give the illusion that I am in control. 😆)  For example - lifting her onto the bed, onto her cube by the window, and onto my lap has shorten the time she would take to do these things independently on her own.   The first time doing anything she is tense and anxious.  Her picture is in the dictionary next to the word CAUTIOUS!  Tail is intensely whipping back and forth, eyes darting every which way before she jumps down. But within a short time she spontaneously returning to that scary "whatever" and shows off her mastery of it ... acting like it is no big deal!  Ha!

One of her beds - the cube.  A hiding place and a perch place in one.

She still sleeps under our bed!  *sigh*   My other cats never used a cat bed. Their bed was where we slept and they graciously shared 'their bed' with us.  Maybe she will do that someday, but 'someday' could be a ways off.  So I bought 2 pet beds.  One bed is the donut shape placed in my husband's closet (she visits there), and the other one is the cube that functions like a bed she can hide in and perch on while watching out the window.  She has checked out both, but use them??  Not to sleep in.  She still creeps under the bed.  The vet said to give her time. My friend who has homed feral cats said the same thing.  It may take her 18 months to sleep in one of those beds.  Or maybe never.  Cats do what they want to do, when they want to do it. and how they want to do it.

Half the time she looks out - and half the time she looks in.

She loves sitting on our window sills.  Since she is half the weight of our other big male cats - her little butt actually fits on our window sill.  Half the time she is watching out our windows at the world outside ... and half the time she is looking at the world inside!  I guess we haven't gotten boring yet.

Poor picture due to night lighting, but she is on the left technically
in our kitchen which is right outside the
bedroom door to the left.

Another poor lighting picture.  She is looking into the den
which is right outside our bedroom door to the right.

Her current big adventure is the condo space beyond our her bedroom.  Under her own steam she has stepped outside the bedroom almost every day for the last week ... a few inches more each time.  Usually she makes these forays when the house is very quiet and dark, and we are quietly reading.  But yesterday I was standing in the kitchen (during the bright light of day, TV blaring, and microwave humming - you know - normal stuff) and I looked down and found her almost standing in the kitchen.  We were both surprised.  Her eyes were huge like saucers - mine too!  Then the ice maker did its thing and dropped a load of ice in the bin!!   Too much, too much, too much!  Gone.  Being female, (and the business end of the species,) she knows instinctively that monsters may live out there!  Can't be too careful - that is clearly a motto tattooed in her tiny cat brain!

Milo, my French Bulldog 'Grandson' looking into the bedroom at  Aja.

Aja acting causal as she carefully extracts herself from
under the rocking chair while being observed by

This weekend we raised the level of excitement a bit.  My daughter's French Bulldog, Milo, came for a visit.  As you can imagine, Aja was not amused.  There was a return to hissing and tail swishing!  All behind the safety of her gate and under the rocking chair.  She stayed in her "safe zone" while Milo peaked in through the bars. Milo is an old guy and has little interest in cats.  He just wanted a look-see!  After a few hours she settled down.  She made the connection that the gate protected her from the "monster" that had just arrived.  Now she sits calming staring out at him.  Maybe one day she will be as comfortable as Wally was with Milo.

Feeding time.  She gets both dry and wet. Initially we weren't sure
what she preferred to eat.  Now we now she likes wet food
but snacks on dry.  My husband is the feeder - his
effort to make friends with Aja - who is still very unsure about him.

She still seems to favor me, much to my husband's chagrin.  The last 2 cats favored my husband.  He doesn't give up easy and keeps trying to win her over.  I tell him to just ignore her.  Cats can't stand to be ignored!  If you try too hard, they can't be bothered.  So he is doing his best to give her space and time.  And he is the official feeder!  You know, just to show off his good side to Aja.  Meanwhile, she is all over me!  Haha! Another truism about cats - they pick their people and you have no say in the matter.

She like the little laser light (left little bright spot on the carpet.)

Her first visit to the vet was May 22.  We anticipated a "betrayal of the shaky trust" we had carefully nurtured.  Cats normally don't equate good vet care with loving pet ownership. But we do.  As it turns out it wasn't that scary a trip for her.  I had to stay in the parking lot, of course, pandemic protocols, so she had to brave the vet's office on her own.  Apparently she did fine.  I warned them that she is a hisser and a smacker when anxious, but not known to be aggressive.  And sure enough the vet got one of each after micro chipping her!!  Our vet agreed with the shelter and our assessment that she was not aggressive.  Just frightens easily. The ride in the car was uneventful.  That is a big improvement over Wally who would vomit all over the inside of his carrier and yowl the whole trip.  Poor boy!  Nerves and maybe car sick.  Not her!  Not a sound.  Considering she hisses at a bunch of little things and 'talks' up a mean-streak at home, I was surprised the car ride was so quiet.  She looked all around! (Monsters could be anywhere you know!!)

She has finally got comfortable enough to pose and let me take pictures of her.

Finally, I had the good fortune to communicate with her previous owner.  The Surrender Form included that information.  Since Aja was a mystery wrapped up in orange fur, I wanted to know more.  I plugged the owner's name into Facebook on the off chance I could find her.  Success!  I took a chance and shot off an email. I know that some might have not appreciate a message from the new owner.  But I wanted to share that Aja landed in a good home and was doing well.  Thankfully, she did respond and was very happy to hear from me. She was grateful that Aja was with us - patient and experienced cat parents.  Although she had to give Aja up due to a distance move, she had kept tabs on her through the shelter website and knew she had been adopted.  Not knowing how Aja was doing was hard.  Hopefully now Aja's first 'mom' has some peace of mind about Aja's future. And for me, it was nice to have confirmation that the Aja I am getting to know is pretty much unchanged from her former life and that she had a good home with her previous 'mom.'  I invited her to visit this blog occasionally to keep up with Aja as she begins her new life with me.

"OK, I am done for today!  Please go away now!"  hahaha

As each day that passes, Aja is a little less of a mystery.  We are past the 'virtual scotch tape and wrapping paper' stage.  We have opened the lid to look carefully at the contents - at least as much as she is willing to show us now ... and she is carefully looking back!

The adventure continues!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Friday, May 15, 2020


So here she is ... all 7 or 8 pounds of her!  The smallest full grown cat we have ever had.  And getting pictures of her has been a challenge.  She can be ellusive.

Aja actually entered our home under the name of Asia.  That is what the shelter had for her name.  But when we got home we noticed on the previous owner's surrender form - her name was Aja!  After about 24 hours we decided to keep her name as Aja.

Aja is our second female cat (out of 11) and our first orange tabby!  She is also our first adult adoption.

She has beautiful markings but you can see here that her
stomach sinks in.  This picture is from day 1.

Our first evening at home with Aja was fairly quiet.  She came out from under the bed to visit the litter box - once.  No food or water, but the box got a visit.  Ok, normal.  But around bedtime my husband and I were both in the bedroom together and I think that made her nervous.  She couldn't watch us both at the same time.  At one point my husband - who is legally blind - stepped on her.  The very first night!!  He was devastated.  She was pissed!!  Hissing and swatting at him as he tried to get on the floor to 'apologize.'  She didn't know what he was doing and that was upsetting her too.  I said to stand and just ignore her.  Give her space to recover herself.  That night she let me pet her.  But it was a troublesome start.

She sleeps during the day ... and under the bed.  Periodically each day I would slip my hand down between the bed and the wall and she would rub against it.  And then she would come out.  On day 2 she began to eat.  That was a great relief to us.

We are now at day 5 she is making strides at trusting us and we are making strides at reading her body language.  She expresses anxiety with rapidly wagging tail, then a hiss, maybe a short growl and finally a paw swipe (nails retracted) ... all in that order.  Once I figured that out, we were golden.  Thankfully the things she is anxious about are reducing.   In fact, that sequence has almost totally gone away - as she has relax somewhat in her new environment.  Poor little girl.  She must have hated the last two weeks in the shelter.

There have been a bunch of fun mini steps in her adjustment.  Like the night when I was sitting in the bedroom rocker.  My husband was asleep, the lights were out and I was reading my Kindle.  She had been rubbing my legs when suddenly she jumped up into my lap.  I think we were both stunned!!  She sat there watching for my reaction and I was doing the same with her.  Her eyes were on me and her tail was waving.  Anxiety!  I gently rubbed her under her chin. She relaxed and the tail settled.  Actually we both relaxed!  Hahaha.  She lasted for about 45 seconds, then jumped down.  Next time it will be longer.

Now she comes out from under the bed (where she still sleeps) at the sound of my voice calling her.  She looks for affection.  She is checking us out for any rules - little does she know - there are no rules!! Ha.

The gate separates our bedroom and bathroom from the rest of
the condo so that our cat has a safe zone when company is
around.  We kept is closed the first 3 days.
The last two days we left it open.
She still chooses to stay in the bedroom.
And just so you know, the gray cat in the picture -
lower left corner, is a wood carving door stop.  :-)

It sure looks interesting
out there.  L-)
She still self-contains herself in the bedroom.  She is familiar with the space now, and food and litter are readily available.  She sometimes sits and looks out the gate at the rest of the condo, but her tail starts to wave and I know she is still unsure.  One time she stepped past the open gate and crept out about 4 steps - stopped - and ran back with belly to the ground.  With time she will be a bit more adventuresome, but for now she is happy to stick in her "safe zone."  But she does continue to look.

But even with the gate open
she isn't sure the time is right!
Today I decided it was time to see if she could tolerate me lifting her.  So I lifted her onto our bed.  It was a fast movement and she did not object.  I picked her up two other times today.  All to the bed.  She did fine.   Later my husband and I were on the bed, he was listening to an audio book and I was talking to her.  She jumped right up on the bed - without an invite.  And she stayed with us a bit.

So all in all ... she is doing great!!  The rate of her adjustment is progressing!  

We got lucky.  I think she is a great cat with a recent bad experience.  And she got lucky to.  We have 50 years of cat ownership under our belt.  We can be patient and understand the language of "cat" very well.

As I fall in love with this little creature, I can't help but remember that she is a heartbreak waiting in the wings of my life at some future date.  I wonder why I do this to myself when their lives are so short compared to ours - and then she rubs up against my legs purring and I remember.  Love from a pet holds no judgement.  Yes, you must earn it, but once earned - you are their 'person' until they take their last breath.

Here's hoping you keep breathing for a long time, dear Aja!  

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Our Small Miracle

After 2 weeks without our dear cat, Wallace, we knew we wanted to adopt another cat.  This time an adult. Adults are sometimes hard to place.  It would be our very first adult adoption.  We thought it would be easy - since there are so many wonderful pets needing a home.  Generally you just needed to whisper ... hey, I might want to adopt an animal ... and the array of choices is made available to you.

Not so during a pandemic.  All the rules change.  Not only can you not just walk into a shelter without an appointment, but the selection of animals is much reduced.  Apparently adoptions are way up in this time of self isolation according to the shelter we used.  That bit of knowledge I found concerning.  After all, we aren't always going to be self isolated.  This is a temporary measure.  But pets are not temporary.  What happens after everyone returns to work??

To spread the adoption net as far as I could I let everyone know we were looking - including our vet.  After 3 days of waiting for a nibble on my  'adoption fishing net' I started looking at shelters online myself.

I found a site near us called Small Miracles.  They had four adult cats - all female - between the ages of 2-4.  I sent an email.  No response.  I filled out the online application form and sent it with a second email.  No response.  I called and left a message.  No response.  (Seriously - how serious were they about finding homes if I had to work this hard?) One of my neighbors works there as a volunteer.  I emailed her.  She said she would contact them - and sure enough the shelter emailed me back.  We made an appointment.

It was at Small Miracles where we met Asia.  She is a 4 year old orange tabby - a tiny little beauty.  As we walked toward her cage she was sitting in a haunch position in her litter - a sign that she was not at ease.  When we reached the cage and poked our fingers through - she came to us and began rubbing and purring.  The shelter rep said she seemed friendly, no sign of aggression, does hiss at times but they interpreted as an anxiety response.  From the look of her body language at my first sight of her, I agreed.  When I asked how long she was there - they said 2 weeks.  My heart fell for this pretty girl who was obviously not at ease there and had been release by her previous owner (she was moving) from a home environment to this painful impersonal situation.  At least her owner took her to a "no kill" shelter, but I can't even imagine what Asia was thinking during those two weeks.  Two weeks is a long time when you are miserable.

I should say, I am terrible at shelter visits.  I am motivated to adopt everything in sight. My heart goes out to any animal that is forced to stay there more than a few days. I hate the look and feel of animal shelters. They are noisy, not terribly clean and personal interaction with the animals seems limited to meeting just physical needs as opposed to emotional ones.  And that is the situation for all the animals that shelters deem as 'adoptable.'  You usually don't see the ones who aren't adoptable.  I get it ... I really do ... no time to give full attention to any one little being.  Just a sad environment all around for me.

Asia came home with us that very day.

The shelter staff said she hissed at them when she was put in our carrier.  Pretty sure it was anxiety, they said.

The trip home was pretty quiet.  She tried pushing against the carrier, but mostly just sat still looking all around.  When we got home, we took her right into our bedroom and bathroom combination - her home until she was relaxed enough to explore the rest of the condo.

Upon being released, she did a fast scan of the two rooms (looking for monsters I am sure 😟,) took note of the litter box and the water, and then slipped under the bed.

Next up ... pictures and her first 24 hours.