Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Introducing: Snuggle Pumpkin

4 weeks ago, Hulky and I headed to the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, MA to pick up a little gray cat.

When we first met this little fluff-ball, she was shy and terrified of everything. The shelter people put her on Hulky's lap and as he scritched her neck, she started to stretch out and roll around. He fell in love and I saw potential, so with some back and forth, we got our landlord to approve another cat with the shelter, and we brought her home. She spent a lot of time hiding in the bedroom we designated for her.

Aggressively ignoring me.

Lucky us, this furball came with friends: fleas and tapeworms (we found out a few days after taking her home when the shelter called with stool test results). A trip to a local vet office (fortunately with a coupon for a free exam) got us a pill for the worms and Advantage for the fleas. She has the STINKIEST poop I have ever smelled from a cat. I've started adding the contents of a probiotic powder to her food, thinking maybe the medicine did something weird to her gut. It seems to be helping. Right now, she gets a mix of dry food and canned food, because she ate the dry food too quickly and was vomiting, and she needs to put on weight. She was 5 lbs 12 oz at the vet. Eventually, I'd like to get her on an all raw diet, like Fae.

To get Pumpkin to warm up to us, we started off just spending time in the same room as her. We didn't hold eye contact with her much, or try to approach her. Over time, she'd let us approach her when she was curled up in the cat cave or in her box with the faux-sheepskin. When she's cornered, she welcomes pets and scritches and will start to roll around. It's become easier to approach her when she's exposed, but she still sets her own boundaries. We make soft noises ("pss pss" and kissy noises) when we approach her and she seems to associate those noises with getting pet now, which is exactly what we had hoped would happen.

Rolling around during scritches

The first time we allowed Pumpkin out of her room into another part of the apartment (with Fae secluded to the back), we lost her. After a while, we brought Fae in, but she turned out to be a pretty useless bloodhound. I found Pumpkin hiding inside a closed door for the entertainment center below the television. With the door open, she dashed back to her room and hid. After another week, she was getting more friendly in her room, so we let her do more exploring and made sure all hiding spots were opened up so we could always find her. She's still nervous about interacting with us out in the open, but she's improving.

Fae and Pumpkin will hopefully tolerate each other over time. We've seen progress already. At first, Fae was hissing at the closed door to Pumpkin's room all the time. We've let them interact face to face a few times and they are now mostly sharing the apartment (as of the last two days). They hiss and Fae chases, but Pumpkin is lithe and just jumps up to a high point (like the top of a five-drawer dresser) and gets away. aFae is fairly old, at eleven-years-old, so it's not that surprising that she'd be somewhat unhappy about an interloper. She lived with another cat for eight years at my parents' house, so I had hoped she was be a little calmer.
Look, they're close to each other!
I think the most frustrating part of this whole acclimation experience with Snuggle Pumpkin (Hulky named her, okay?) is that the shelter did give us some information about her background (was on a farm to be bred for $$, so not much human interaction), but they didn't use the term "feral". The vet's office did. I think that there's a big stigma with the concept of feral cats and feral cats CAN become very loving and sweet companions. For that reason, I understand why the shelter didn't use the term, but I still kind of feel like they should have.

Our biggest concern at this point is how we're going to clip this cat's claws. She doesn't let us her her or stay still when we pet her. Her claws are like needles right now and the scratching post isn't cutting it!


  1. My friends put large marbles in the food bowl in order to get them to eat slower. I had a cat who was a "scarf and barfer" according to the vet and observation but I wish I would have known to put large marbles in his bowl.

    1. She has a loose tooth and is missing a couple, so I'd be worried about damaging them, though I'm guessing cats are smarter than that. If I come across some large marbles, we may try that out, but I want to get her off dry food in general. It's like cereal for cats, not the best thing for them to eat and not great for their teeth.