Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009!

{Amelia settled in, 2009}
{Oliver watching Amelia before she had ever been in our home, 2009}
{Oliver watching the feral cats eating as a family, 2009}
While not an official Christmas gift, it is definitely a Christmas blessing to have a new (well... new to our home) addition to our family. My husband and I help to manage a feral colony of cats in our neighborhood. Earlier this fall we trapped several of the cats and brought them to the ARL to be neutered, spayed and checked. The younger kittens were to be adopted out and we "adopted" the adults with the intention of releasing them back to the outdoors to continue to live the way they were accustomed to. During this process we also decided that it would be beneficial for Oliver's active personality to have another cat in our home to play with.
Enter Amelia.
Amelia was born this summer in the foundation of my neighbor's utility garage. She was in a litter of four cats. Two orange and two tabby. The two orange cats looked identical while the two tabby cats had very different distinguishing characteristics. We watched them grow from little hamster sized fur balls into young cats and enjoyed feeding them on our deck so that we could watch them eat as a family. While watching the young cats develop, I started to notice one cat in particular that had markings very similar to Oliver. I assumed the cat was a boy (with absolutely no reasoning behind it) and occasionally Oliver was allowed to go outside and play in our fenced backyard with the young cats and he seemed to enjoy being with his own feline kind. (you know, those tough outdoor kitties). Oliver bonded with the orange cats and the little tabby that looked like him seemed afraid of his presence.
When we brought the cats to the ARL, I told them that we would be interested in adopting one of the young ferals for our home. Due to Oliver's seemingly pleasant interactions with the orange cats, I assumed we would take one one of those home and the tabby would be worked with for the adoption center longer than the others. When we were called back 2 weeks later, I was told that we would be taking home a female cat that was tabby. When I saw which cat it was, I was surprised to learn that she had made incredible progress with humans and seemed to enjoy a good cuddle or scruff on the neck every now and then. We brought her home and let her into the house. She ran and hid, while I did additional research on how to adapt a feral cat to a human home.
I learned a lot in a few hours. As it turns out, Amelia was past the age (at an ancient 5 months) when cats need to be socialized with humans for best results. Usually cats should be tamed within 6 weeks of birth. She also had a few health issues that we had to deal with: Roundworm, tapeworm, fleas and a kitty cold picked up from the facilities she had been at. I decided that even if Amelia was going to be shy, I would try to make sure we could teach her to trust us and love us, even if other humans made her uncomfortable. For the next few days she hid under the bed or couch. As days turned to weeks she would let us hold her for longer and one day even purred! (I read somewhere that you know you have won the heart of a feral cat if it will purr in your arms... success!) After two months of living with us, she now sleeps with us in our bed, plays with us, jumps up to sit with us and just ADORES her adoptive big brother, Oliver.
My husband and I love this cat and do not regret going through some tough months of feeling rejected by her. We were patient, tried not to take it personally and tried to give her space and be understanding of her feelings. While I believe we handled the situation to the best of our abilities, I also think it helps that she had been exposed to humans (us!) all her life, even if it was just to be fed or watched out in the hot Iowa summer. She is a doll and seems to appreciate the modern comforts of our home. She likes sleeping on soft blankets, loves store bought toys (Oliver prefers cardboard and other non traditional toys) and she sleeps by the radiator vent because of the warmth.
We got Amelia in October, but I still consider her to be a Christmas blessing because she came out of her shell so fast and seems to be adjusting at a miraculous rate. I guess its simple, but it is our Christmas miracle.
Merry Christmas to all of my blog readers, I hope you have a truly magical holiday and God Bless!


Melissa and Emmitt said...

Merry Merry Christmas Candace and family!

Amelia is beautiful!

Have a wonderful day!

Melissa and Emmitt

ErinFromIowa said...

Aww... This warmed my heart. Merry Christmas!

Cara Jeanne said...

what a good story :)