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

Friday, June 12, 2020

Unveiling Aja - Chapter 3 - Little Victories

One morning, as my body began the process of waking, I turned over in my bed and saw THIS!!

Seriously, I couldn't believe my eyes.  Aja, laying in the bed we bought for her.  I slowly reached for my glasses on the night stand.  She looked over her shoulder at me.  I froze not wanting to disturb this little victory.  She returned to sleep.  Even with my glasses on she was STILL there.  I wanted a picture.  I needed a picture.  I slowly reached for my phone and as I drew it towards my body, she looked over her shoulder at me again.  I froze again -  my eyes closed pretending to sleep.  She set her head down again.  

I then took about 20 pictures of a cat that was not moving one little bit!!  Hahaha! Never in my wildest dreams did I even think I would get such a sense of joy from seeing a sleeping cat.  After all, sleeping is what cats are masters at.  I have 50 years worth of cat sleeping images in my brain!!  But none gave me a feeling of success, like that image.

                                                And then there was today - she did THIS!!!!

Yes, she is laying beside me on the bed.   She still keeps to our bedroom normally, so periodically I go in the bedroom and spend time with her.  Today I pulled back the covers of my bed and sat on the mattress.  She has become confident enough to jump up and sit by me, but today was the first time she laid down beside me.  Another victory.

She won't jump to my lap when I sit in the chair.  She did that exactly twice on her own.  And when I lift her onto my lap she doesn't seem comfortable and sometimes hisses letting me know, "Not now!!"  So I have stopped trying to lift her or hold her.  She just isn't ready for that.  But laying beside me was a pretty big step for her.  Relaxed enough to lay on her side.  I will say her tail was wagging a bit - like she knew this action was new with me and she was feeling a bit unsure.  But she stayed for about 10 minutes.  And then she jumped down. 

I am still learning!

The first few weeks I made all the advances with her.  Half the time she was receptive and half the time she wasn't.  In the last few weeks I have let her make all the moves.  She needs to seek me out - and she does.  That method has worked very much better.  What I REALLY want to do is pick her up and give her a great big hug!  But I resist as I know that would end in disaster.  And my goal is to avoid disasters - and even hissing episodes!  Bonding is the goal and trust takes time.  Peace is the path to both.  And I love this little lady enough to do all the steps her way.

I keep forgetting.  Its been only 5 weeks.  We are on Aja's time schedule and not mine!  And she likes it that way.  Now that this approach is bearing fruit - I like it that way as well!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Unveiling Aja - Chapter 2 - Two Steps Forward. One Back. Repeat.

I have come to the conclusion that of the 10 cats that previously shared our lives,
 Aja is the only one who was raised to be an actual cat!  😁
  All our other cats came to us as kittens
 and although we didn't realize it at the time, 
I am kind of thinking we probably raised them to be dogs! haha.

Sorry for the poor quality!  Aja, hunkered down under the bed!
That look is not "trusting."  Ha!  She had good reason.
Last weekend was hard on her.

First off, the weather was beautiful and cool.  Our air conditioner was off and our bedroom windows were wide open.  The curtains were billowing with a wonderful breeze.  The road noise (and we have some road noise), is a constant to our ears at times.  So constant that we just don't hear it anymore unless it is a noisy motorcycle or a fire truck - but Aja hears every sound.  And the billowing curtains???  Her look was "My Gosh!! Are they supposed to do that??"

Sunday, when I entered the bedroom and called for her - she didn't come.  I think I was getting the cat equivalent of a cold shoulder.  I checked under the bed.  No Aja.  I checked in the bathroom and under the rocker and under the dressers.  No Aja!  My little 'worry worm' started.  I checked my husband's closet. No Aja.  Finally I moved his shirts on the lower level ... and there she was - snuggly hidden from the dog (more on him later,) and the street noise, and the breeze and the curtains.  Poor baby.  I wanted to pick her up in my arms and reassure her.  But I knew it was too early in our relationship for such familiarities.

She spent most of Saturday and Sunday in my husband's closet.  I shut everything down Sunday night. It got quieter.  She got calmer.  Later I opened one bedroom window .... two inches only.  Air and some noise was allowed in but not at the same level as the weekend.  I know with time she will adjust to all this - because this is part of her reality now and there is really no choice -  but currently - she is not fan.

How can you not love a sweet old face like this one!

Then there is this old guy!  

Milo, my daughter's French Bull Dog - one of my grand babies.  He had been here since Thursday and returned home Monday.  He only looked at her through the gate - never barked.  But his presence has been worrisome for her.  Milo can't get past the gate so the protective space barrier was solidly in place.  She calmed a bit.

This morning I moved the new donut bed into the area of the closet she likes to hide.  That was a mistake!  She decided she doesn't like me messing with her hiding places.  Now she is back under the bed.

Her hissing responses increased in a really schizoid-like way.  She rubs against my legs purring, back and forth watching out the bedroom door, then she smells my hand (I am sure Milo's scent is on me), she hisses and then turns and rubs against my legs again, then hisses, and repeat.  She is very confused.  I look and sound the same, but my smell is not quite right. I go and wash my hands. She calms. How to explain all this to her.  I thought I was speaking "cat" all this time, but maybe I was actually speaking "dog," and she speaks only "cat."  All my previous cats apparently understood "dog." *sigh* - have I totally lost you all yet?

Or maybe, there are just gaps in my understanding!  Yes, that is it.  I need more educating.

So I spent time on Amazon looking at cat behavior books and found this one, highly rated, current and focused on feline behavior.

Image from Amazon
This is the way I love to hold my cats!
Bet Aja would think this is too familiar. 
The book is authored by Jackson Galaxy - a cat behaviorist and Mikel Maria Delgado, Phd, a behavior consultant for Feline Minds at the Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.  Apparently Jackson hosts an Animal Planet hit show and is the author of other books related to cats.  Mikel studied animal behavior and human-animal relationships at the University of California, Berkeley.  This book had the focus on behavior I was looking for - rather than just dedicating one chapter to behavior and other chapters all other cat care topics.


I also downloaded a few free Kindle offerings.  I am determined to not make too many backward steps with Aja.

Then I checked the calendar!  She has been with us just about 4 weeks.  Only 4 weeks!  Gosh ... I have heard adjustment time spans of up to 18 months!!  Maybe I am just rushing things.  Maybe I am speaking "cat" after all - and she doesn't like what I am saying.

Maybe I am over thinking this!!  

Oh well, can't hurt to check out a few references.

Post Script:  Just before publishing this post, two major Aja advancements happened.

Aja left the safety of under the bed and rubbed up against my husband's legs.  Let me tell you!!  THAT made his month!  I knew ignoring her would produce a positive reaction.  Cats typically seek out anyone they 'think' doesn't like them.  It is one of the signature traits of felines - across the full spectrum of the cat world.  A little reverse psychology works wonders.

And around dinner time she walked right out the bedroom and made her way into the living room - in front of us - while we were eating dinner at the table.  I cautioned my husband:

No sudden moves or loud noises,
no coughing, sneezing, 
or swallowing that food you put in your mouth
 ...  just act natural ... 
maybe stop breathing for a minute or two while she checks things out!!  😀

And she did just that!  She walked right up to my husband's chair and did her side rub back and forth!  A typical cat method of sharing their scent on things to "make it their own."  It lasted for all of 5 minutes!  But, hey, that was brave, brave, brave on her part.  And after she ran back into the bedroom I told her that!!

So maybe I don't need a book.  Maybe I am speaking "cat!"  Or maybe she is learning "dog!"

Or maybe we are just developing a new language between us ... 
Aja Language!

I sure do love this crazy cat!