Toby

I don’t quite know where to begin. For the first three weeks, after bringing Toby home, he seemed very unhappy and that was making me pretty unhappy too. People can tell each other how they feel, but cats simply act out their feelings and sometimes it’s not all that easy to understand. We want Toby to be healthy and happy and especially we want him to recognize us as two people who love him and will take good care of him. When I look at Tobey, I forget that in many ways that he’s still a kitten inside. I began getting better acquainted with his behaviors through some good websites for cats, and decided to try some things that I had read about.I mentioned in my earlier email that I placed some “safe” boxes around the apartment that he could go to if he needed to hide. That worked very well. He stopped hiding under the furniture and used the safe boxes instead. That made it much easier to know where he was. I could see that day by day, he was making little breakthroughs in his adjustment to us and his new home. During those first three weeks, he wouldn’t let us near him and he wouldn’t come near us, so we let him be and just continued to be here for him. You’ll laugh when I tell you this, but one day when Toby was hiding in a safe box in the living room, I sat close by and read him a book out loud so that he could get used to the sound of my voice. That was something I learned online. He stuck his head out of the box and just watched an  listened. From one of the websites on cats, I learned a method to try that was aimed at petting a frightened cat without getting scratched. At that time, Toby was still aggressively scratching if we tried to pet him. Instead of bring my open hand down to him so he could sniff my hand and identify me, I only extended my pointer finger. He sniffed it, then shyly dropped his head down, permitting me to scratch around his neck. When he suddenly realized that he was making contact, he naturally tried to swipe me with his claws, but I quickly withdrew my hand, stood up and walked away. It was suggested that each time your cat did something negative like scratching you, you end the activity and walk away. I have no idea why that worked, but Toby was clearly puzzled by it enough that he’d come back to me and let me repeat the process again. A few days later, out of the blue, Toby just timidly walked up to me, rubbed by me, then stopped, looked up at me, and I knew that he wanted to be petted again. This was the first time he initiated it. That was the big turning point with Toby. He’s been like a totally different cat ever since. You probably wouldn’t recognize him today. He follows me around like a little puppy from room to room. When I am at my desk (like right now), Toby comes up to me so I can pet him, then he goes under my desk and curls up into a ball and snoozes. It took me awhile to get him to sit next to me while I watch TV, but now, I often find him sitting there waiting for me to join him. He not only sits with me on the love seat, but he’s taken over the side that I always sit on. That’s his now. He’s become very playful, but being a kitten at heart, he still forgets that the other “cats” in the house don’t have claws like his. And so, I pay close attention to his body language when he’s playful and do my best to anticipate a body posture that signals to me that he’s going to take a swipe at my hand. Every time he does try to scratch me, I tell him calmly, but firmly, Don’t scratch! Then I will stop petting him for awhile to make the point. At this point, I actually think he’s getting the message. Most of the time now, when he taps me with his paws, his claws are retracted. I think he is getting the message that it hurts when he scratches me. In his defense, I will say that as soon as he discovered the scratching post, he hasn’t even tried to scratch the furniture at all. Toby has impressed me as a very intelligent cat in these past few weeks. When he walks or runs, his tail his held high, unlike during his first weeks with us. Then, he walked around with his tail curled downward. He is still investigating things around the apartment, but overall, I think he is so much more acclimated to life here today that when he first came home. My next goals with Toby are to encourage him to let me hold him and to be able to pick him up and hug him, without him feeling the need to use his claws. I think that will happen, but I know if may take more time. I think it will happen when he wants it to happen. Timothy and I are just so glad to see the transition Toby has made from his first days at home until now. It’s clear to me that Toby is very happy to be here with us. We still have a great deal to learn about him as we go along and he also about us, but it does appear as though things are going very well. He seems to be confidently managing a good balance of independent activity with times of closer contact with each of us. One sure sign that he is comfortable living here is the fact that he isn’t using the safe boxes much now. I’ve already removed one of them and replaced it with the cat carrier bag. The idea there is to get Toby to feel comfortable being in the carrier bag, so that when he has to go to the Vet, he won’t be afraid of the carrier. I didn’t think he would go into it, but he actually has been sleeping in it from time to time. As time goes on, I think we’ll be able to remove the remaining two safe boxes and just leave the carrier out where Toby can find it.


 

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