Marius is settling in quite well to his new life. He is playing with me, letting me touch the top of his head a little bit both with my fingers and the wand toy, allows me to watch him eat and even comes out to use the litter box (and play with catnip at night). He is still hanging out behind the couch where he is just a little too happy. While he still prefers to hang behind the couch, he clearly feels very secure with me and his surroundings. When I check on him he will be lounging behind the couch. That’s right, he’s already lounging! His body language is so relaxed most of the time. He still has his moments when he gets scared and nervous, but even then his body language is not that of a stressed, petrified feral cat but that of a cat adjusting to new surroundings.
A few days ago I was pondering why he was displaying such relaxed behavior behind the couch, yet refused to come out. It has been my experience when fostering and socializing scared or feral kittens that they spend the first few days hiding, then, as they feel more comfortable with the space, come out to play and explore. They will hide again when they hear people, but they are out and about during the day. It hit me then, that hiding behind the couch is probably all Marius knows how to do. He is an adult cat who may or may not have known a home in a previous life. He is not a kitten learning about the world for the first time. He spent at least the past two years living outside, where life was all about finding a safe, dry place to sleep and finding something to eat. Marius was clearly on his own, so he probably didn’t even have a friend to snuggle with the way Momma and Little Black do. When he wasn’t finding food or sitting in the sun warming himself, he was probably chillin’ in a safe place waiting for his next meal or nap. I think about what Crash and Muffin do on a daily basis. It involves eating, bathing, sleeping, asking for attention and maybe a little bit of play time. If Marius spent the past two years just trying to survive he never had time for playing. So, as far as Marius knows, living behind the couch is what life is about. He is safe, warm, dry and has room service, but otherwise life is essentially the same for him.
Now that Marius knows he is safe and doesn’t have to worry about predators or his next meal, it is time to teach him there is more to life than lounging behind a couch. I am starting slowly with this. I moved the couch a bit and blocked part of it off, so he just has one section to hang out in. There is no more slinking behind another part of the couch if I try to play with him or touch him. The only place to go is out into the rest of the room. I am moving the food further away too so he has to come out to eat. When I have time I try to make sure I am sitting in the room at feeding time, so he knows he has to eat in front of me. So far this is working well. On the few instances he has emerged from behind the couch in my presence, I try to ignore him. I will look at him out of the corner of my eye, or talk to him but I try not to move or stare at him.
This morning we had a great play date. Marius rolled around on the floor swatting at the feather toy and purring. He showed his belly, he stretched, he rolled from side to side and he purred. Those are not the actions of a petrified feral cat, that’s for sure. I think he might still be a little confused though, because I heard the faintest of hisses while he was rolling around purring, but hey, we all have our moments! After he stopped playing he slipped out from behind the couch and went to sit under a table for a few seconds, then headed back to the door concealing the washer and dryer. I moved to get comfortable and he was back behind the couch. Over all I think Marius and I have made remarkable progress in the 10 days he has been with me. We have a long way to go, but have made some great first steps on our journey!