Orange eyes, mottled colors of white, orange and grey. My Lil clown faced kitten. Her name was Sydney. There is an interesting story behind Sydney.
I had a male kitten named Berto. My ex husband was so jealous of the danged kitten, because he was “mine”….preferred me and anyone who knows cats will tell you that people don’t choose their cat..cats choose their people.
So right after we got imprisoned, I mean…married, he left for NTC for a month and I thought it would be a nice surprise to get him a kitten of his own when he got back.
One of the vet tech’s where I took Berto had a lot of land and a huge rescue/foster place for dogs and all kinds of cats. One of her calicoes had a litter and she was trying to find homes for them. As soon as I saw those huge orange eyes…I was sunk. Michelle told me that she hadn’t been socialized at all, because she had been birthed in a secluded area of the house and no one but Michelle went in there. I was well aware that this was a skittish kitten from the word go.
I had heretofore always had dogs, rabbits, heck been around horses all my life but never a cat till Berto. So I got books galore on felines, basic care, little bits of info to help me understand them like i would any new animal. Always I’d been able to handle animals of all kinds with no fear, and in many ways, it’s easier for me to be around them than people. But that’s a subject for a wholeeeeeeeee other blog, lol.
So I decide to bring this kitten home, and I wanted her socialized before Josh got back from NTC. I would not rush her, I set the carrier down in an open space in the living room, where she could see out into most of the apartment, and left the door open. She would come out on her own, when she was comfortable, when she felt safe.
I made the mistake of pulling her out of the carrier once, the next day and trying to hold her. She panicked and clawed me tooth and nail, squirmed out of my hands and shot right back into the carrier. It was my ignorance to not realise that it would take a lot more than a mere few hours for her to trust me. I had forgotten the cardinal, most basic rule of animals. Trust is earned, and patience, infinite patience, is required to gain that precious trust.
I knew that wild animals won’t eat, and even some domestic ones, such as horses…won’t eat if they feel threatened, if they don’t feel safe. I put Berto’s food dish in front of the carrier so Sydney would see him eating in front of me. She saw me petting him and he never stopped eating, he just purred. He trusted me, he knew he was safe with me. I fully believe this has an effect on other animals, to see another of their kind behaving normally and without fear of someone or something. It influences them.
I would lay flat on the floor in the living room, sometimes for upwards of an hour…just whispering to her, always soft spoken, reaching my hand in for a minute or two at a time, petting her, sometimes only resting my hand inside the carrier. She would eat, but only when she thought no one was watching. This lasted for a few days.
I would see her poke her head towards the door, looking out, orange eyes wide, curious but still afraid. She wanted to come out, not knowing what was “out there”…hesitant to take that first step. But I saw the curiosity…I knew she would emerge eventually. I remained patient. I had a month before Josh got back.
After a week she started to venture out of the carrier, and for a few days of that second week, if she saw me, she’d dart back inside like her tail was on fire. Lol, she was so funny and cute, her back legs were low to the ground, and when she scooted like that, she looked like she had rabbit legs, heh. She slinked, lmao.
I did the same thing with Sydney that I used to do with the squirrels outside my grandmother’s home. I would lay pecans out in a pile a few feet away from me, and go dead still. The first few times it took hours, not moving and if i HAD to move, I did it excruciatingly slowly, so as to not startle them away. I would put her food dish outside the carrier, and sit there. I knew she could see me, but if I remained still enough, I became not so noticeable. I never tried to pet her when she came out, that would spook her. I kept my breathing slow and even, basically blending in with the furniture. She got to the point she would put her nose to the dish, quickly look over to me (she never forgot i was there)….and if i wasn’t looking at her, she’d take a bite, slide back a bit…then creeeeeep forward for more.
We did this for hourrrrrs. I was in school, not working, I had a lot of time to devote to this. When I saw her out of the corner of my eye, creep up to me and touch my knee with her nose, i nearly cried. I thought I had been given a gift from heaven. She did it on her own! And the day she came to my lap without running to hide….I did cry. I wanted to shout I was so damned happy. No other gift would have meant nearly as much as the trust this little, skittish clown-faced kitten had given me. I still get goose bumps thinking about her, and those first few weeks.
It took two and a half weeks. Josh would be home in a week and a half but by then it was really kind of too late. She was mine. I did everything I could think of to show this animal that I wouldn’t hurt her, that I was no threat, to coax her into living “outside the box”..her safe haven. Ultimately I learned that she would have to take that first step on her own. In her own time, on her terms, when she felt safe.
Why am I writing about a cat that I had over 8 years ago, and haven’t seen in over 4?
Sometimes, people are so very similar to animals. Isolated for so long they forget how to just jump into life again, being the social creatures that humans (most of them) are. Ultimately, they have to emerge on their own, but it takes some coaxing, and a lot of patience. I wouldn’t give up on my Sydney.
Please, don’t give up on me.