Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cats, Kittens, and Risk

Typically, I actually don't like kittens except in photos and videos. They are rambunctious, everything is a toy, they can't control their claws, and generally require a lot of attention to raise well, unless you become a monster and abuse them.

So I avoid adopting kittens, I love the look a cat gives you when they finally realize they're home after they had seen the dark side of humanity. Don't get me wrong, I wish no cat was ever abused, but as long as most humans are monsters I will enjoy the feeling of being their rescuer.

About a year ago I had adopted such a cat, she was a mess of social issues and problems cause by six years of neglect and abuse. Pepper was afraid of everything, and afraid to do anything, even to venture out.

So I did the best I could to mend her, but her fear of abandonment was so bad that she would even cry if I was gone for too long. Seeing her that upset at the thought of being torn from the only being who treated her well bothered me so much that I was unable to get much done to better our lives.

She couldn't be forced to live with an adult cat, far too timid and most cats will see her as prey, which would not be good for her. I came up with this hail mary plan to adopt a kitten, something I did not want to do but Pepper's health is my health so I began searching for a suitable companion for her.

I found an adorable little runt, all black and too small to ever be a threat to Pepper, of course he came with a few problems but that is another tale. When he first tried to say hi to Pepper, she ran off, avoiding him as much as possible.

I feared my effort was wasted, there was only a few weeks which he could wait before being adopted it would be impossible. During this time I watched them interact, every movement and reaction was logged and recorded, I wanted this to work so I could get work to improve our lot.

One day, Rhodey got particularly playful and kept trying to get Pepper to join in the revelries, but she was not interested and just glared at the runt. Then it happened, Pepper stood up for herself, hissed and swatted Rhodey.

Of course the kitten got the hint, and after checking him carefully for wounds, I petted Pepper gently to let her know it was all okay. She did what I needed her to do in order to leave them alone together, she took charge without causing harm.

From that moment things progressed rapidly, eventually Pepper began playing with the runt, and seeing my smile let her know it was all okay. The two love to wrestle, Pepper even plays defeat sometimes to encourage Rhodey.

In my mind I had, at least, found a friend for Pepper when I was out, but the two have become more like brother and sister quite quickly. One issue was getting Pepper the courage to wander about with me, Rhodey had no fears about such things, but Pepper didn't appear to improve.

To my amazement, she actually asks to go out now, and follows Rhodey everywhere when we do. They both stick close to me, which is preferred behavior, but to see Pepper walk in the apartment building, outside of the apartment, with her tail held high is amazing to me.

Among other positive changes, Pepper is getting much more exorcise, and she looks healthier because of it. She is also trying food she sees Rhodey eat, another of her fears overcome.

This kitten, who is now twice the size we got him and much more affectionate, has bonded with Pepper, something I never thought I'd see happen. Taking risks, going outside your comfort zone, trying something different when all else fails, that is how we move forward.

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