Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Patience Pays Off

Just as I was starting to wonder if Gracie would ever feel safe enough to trust me...

Just as I was starting to think that perhaps this time the challenge was too great for me...

Just as I was starting to accept that this was likely to be as happy as Gracie was ever going to get...


(Profuse apologies for the 'cat voice'. You have to talk to cats this way. They make you do it.)

I couldn't believe my eyes.

For no apparent reason, other than now, finally, being used to me, Gracie decided to test the waters. She was safely out of my reach, but fully visible. And for the very first time she was sitting up! Sitting up AND washing!!!

When you bring a cat home from a rescue centre you are never completely happy until the new housemate has done the following things:

1. Had something to eat and something to drink
2. Used the litter tray (both functions)
3. Washed herself

When a cat feels comfortable enough to take her attention away from you to focus on her own hygiene you know that she's starting to feel okay about things.

What had I done to finally earn Gracie's trust? No idea. But the following things may have had a positive impact on her over time:

1. I didn't rush her. After moving her to the smaller room I left her there for most of the day and night by herself. She had all she needed (water, food, litter tray, warmth, comfort).What she didn't need during this time was constant human company, so I left her alone.
2. It's important that you allow the cat to get used to your non-threatening presence. So several times a day I would quietly enter the room, sit on the bed and calmly read aloud. I wouldn't look for Gracie or try to engage her in any way.
3. I realised that looming over her when she was scared was only making things worse. So I stopped doing that. Instead, I spoke in a calm quiet voice and let her come to me if she wanted to (she didn't, but that was okay).

In the second video (above) I mention that Gracie should be happy because she's 'sitting by the Feliway diffuser'. Now, if you own a tricky cat but haven't heard about Feliway then you have been missing a trick. Feliway is a liquid that you can get from your vet (or online) that comes in the form of a spray or a plug-in diffuser. This magical elixir mimics the smell of a cats own hormones. Cats feel comfortable in a place when they've rubbed their sent on any available surface, either by rubbing her face against it or by scratching at it with her paws. If the cat is too stressed to leave her scent, Feliway provides a replacement scent that will help the cat to feel calmer and more at home.

Am I convinced that it works 100% of the time... hmm... not really. It's impossible to say. But you can see for yourself... Gracie is by the Feliway diffuser and she's suddenly very chilled out.

After doing all of this for about a week it was as if a switched had flicked in Gracie's mind. All that nasty hissing and spitting was no more.

LESSON FIVE: Your patience will be rewarded (eventually!)

But this is far from the end of the story.

Although Gracie was happy to let me watch her from a distance, for her to be truly happy she would still need to overcome her fear of people. Otherwise, she would continue to live an unfulfilled, unrewarding life. I wanted Gracie to enjoy all the perks of being a cat, and this would only be possible when she truly conquered her fear of her owner.