Sam's Story continued
Baby Steps with Scamper Elizabeth Fall
Sam, 7 and his girlfriend, Scamper Elizabeth, 1, are cats who have FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus). Both were feral outdoor cats and now live indoors with Judi and Bill. This is their continuing story - updated quarterly.
The taming of Miss Scamper continues. The first requirement with a feral cat is PATIENCE. We're taking baby steps: responding to her name, coming when called, allowing me to clean goop out of her eyes, nestling her head in my hand, snuggling with Sam and me in the Big Chair, playing with my fingers without using her claws, letting me brush her, greeting us at the door when we come home. Double face sticky tape has helped teach her not to use the furniture for a scratching post. She'll climb in my lap for food and will take food from Bill's hand. She's a smart little girl and learns quickly. She has learned that it's OK to get up on the kitchen island, but not on the counter by the sink and stove (not that she doesn't do it, just that she knows she's not supposed to!). That took some learning on our part about not leaving food there. We've been spoiled by several years of cats who understand and accepted that certain places were off limits. I wake up in the morning to two faces, big and little, side by side, about ten inches from my face. Scamper likes to watch what we're doing and sometimes try to "help", which is good for me since I'm used to having a feline shadow most of the time. She especially likes to help me lay out quilt blocks on the floor.
When I make their "breakfast" (they know that word, so it's used for any meal) on the kitchen island, Scamper likes to get up and try to get her nose in the plate. It's very hard to wait, you know. However, Sam's nose would be quite out of join if she got food before him, so I scoop her up and deposit her on the floor. After a few repeats of this, she no longer panics, but being picked up off the floor is still extremely scary. I pick her up every chance I get, but she seems to know when I'm thinking about it and she's very quick-footed! Sam has never liked being picked up either, but over time, he has learned to accept it, if briefly. That's all that's required — just enough to put him into a carrier when I need to. We still don't have a Scamper vet visit to report since we're still working on being picked up. I see the trust building in her every day and I don't want to lose any ground on that until it's more firmly established.
We did have a large step in July — Scamper allowed me to trim all her front toenails! the two cats had had a lovely dose of catnip and then settled in for a fine afternoon nap which I rather rudely interrupted — first to trim Sam's nails and since all was still calm, I decided to go for her nails. Sam's her hero, so she followed his example and took it quite calmly. Life is much better with her nails trimmed. The furniture, my handmade quilts and my skin are all breathing a sigh of relief. She has also finally learned that there's a difference between a treat and the fingers offering the treat, and is now very careful and polite with her teeth and nails when accepting treats from hands.
I contacted and animal communicator when Scamper had been with us for a few months just to see what she and Sam had to say. What she said was "I LIKE FOOD!!!" And she does. She's very slender, but not bony so it seems to be just the way she's built. She eats very well, and her coat is very silky and shiny. I asked if Sam minded that Scamper's favorite toy is his tail, and he said "YES!....but not really." They curl up together, groom each other, chase each other and play together.
Sam loves to groom his little girlfriend and she's happy to let him do it. He's much more active with her around, and hungrier and leaner, although sleeping is still his most favorite thing to do. His food has been increased accordingly, which is his most other favorite thing. He's been having some issues with swollen third eyelids, conjunctivitis, runny nose, and goop in his ears. I suspect it's partly allergies and partly the result of the dry food I'd been using for treats, so we're eliminating that and using strictly chicken for treats. We use either the freeze dried chunks or fresh cooked that can stay in the fridge for three of four days. It's more costly, but better for them and they really like either of these better than the kibble anyway. Their regular food got increased a little since dry food is so much higher in calories. Sam has had to put up with being pilled, poked, and picked at by me for these issues and he's none too happy about any of that but would never even consider biting or scratching. Of course, although he will struggle when I try to clean his ears at home, he stays absolutely still and doesn't even whimper when Dr. Kathy and stacey swab his ears or draw blood.
Bill and I took classes in Reiki Level I and II for Animals this summer. Sam loves his Reiki. He'll very happily lay still for a half hour or more of Reiki. Scamper will take a little hands-on Reiki, but after about five minutes, she seems to be giving it back — I get lots of heat rushing up my arms. Reiki being a form of energy medicine or life force healing, I sometimes think carts ARE Reiki.
We are comfortably a two cat household, and when Gracie had been gone a couple of months, I was very anxious to get another female. When Sam's results came back positive for FIV, it was a bit of a blow. I didn't really want to get into the FIV+ cycle, assuming that we won't lose both cats at the same time and the next one (since there will always be a next one for us) will always have to be FIV+. It definitely limits the field of options when there are so many cats in need of a good home. But the amount of time it took to find Scamper gave me time to get used to the idea and accept that this is clearly what the Universe intends for me to do, and Scamper's a wonderful little girl. The Universe has a way of making sure we find the right one.
NAVC Clinician's Brief, June 2007 reports a new PCR (nested polymerase chain reaction) test for FIV and FeLV which show promise for fewer false positive/false negative test results than the ELISA tests. Costs and availability of the test are yet to be determined. Study continues, especially since cats have been useful in finding treatments for HIV patients, although the HIV drugs have proven toxic to cats.
Next time: Scamper's first vet visit and Scamper's first Christmas tree — should be interesting....could be exciting!