Published in the Rains County Leader on July 19, 2016:
Yes, Kitty’s transition is complete. Two weeks ago I wrote about her increasing but still limited freedom. We had recently been testing the concept of leaving her loose to roam the living areas during the day when we were gone. Shortly after that column, due to her excellent behavior or her uncanny ability to climb on forbidden surfaces without disturbing anything or leaving incriminating paw prints, she earned her daytime freedom. However, she was still confined to the laundry room at night.
She enjoyed her new liberty, and her annoyance at her nighttime imprisonment became more obvious. When the laundry room was the standard, I was able to entice her with a few treats, and she was grateful for them. After she became a semi-free agent, I could hold a handful of tasty bits under her nose, and she would growl at me. Several nights I went to bed with a fresh scratch on my hand or arm from a flying claw or a disapproving tooth when I gave up coaxing and carried her to her bed. There had to be a better solution.
The problem was the bedroom door. We close it at night to keep the cool air from the window unit in the room, but it would also deny Kitty access to her litter box in the laundry room if we let her sleep with us. It would be two or three months before the temperatures dropped enough for us to leave the door open. I knew the solution was two litter boxes, but I didn’t know where to put the second one. Then I noticed the tub in the master bedroom – the huge octagonal monstrosity that drains the water heater before the water level is ankle deep. Perfect.
We made a quick trip to the store and came home with not only a second litter box but also a cushy Kitty bed. That night we set up the litter box and a bowl of water in the unused tub and put her new bed on the quilt-covered cedar chest at the end of our bed. The first night, she was very concerned about the door that closed her out of the rest of the house. Then, when we turned out the lights, she spent some time racing around the floor and walking across our legs. Sometime around midnight, though, she settled down, and the three of us slept peacefully.
After the first couple of nights, she settled into the routine quite nicely. She has learned which surfaces are off limits and rarely wakes us up by knocking things onto the floor. Her bed is usually empty as she apparently prefers to sleep under ours, but maybe she’ll warm up to it in time.
Before we turn out the light for the night, she sometimes lies near our feet, but she no longer chases them every time we move. She has, however, developed an interesting way of waking me in the morning. At some point during the night, I apparently kick the cover off one leg, and around 6:00 am, give or take a few minutes, she begins licking my toes. If I don’t respond in a timely manner, she nibbles. It’s effective and less jarring than an alarm clock.
So here we are, a year later, with the feral kitten we swore would never be a housecat. To those of you who are now saying I told you so, you were right. Kitty rules!
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos