Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Meet Our Pwincess!

(This was originally published via the Facebook Fan Page for Virtually Home Chicago, and submitted in short form to The Animal Rescue Site's "Heartwarming Story" contest in 2011)

From Confection to Royalty

In April of 2010, we received a plea for help from Virtually Home Chicago, with a need for fostering some cats and kittens. We had two boys already from VHC, but we took a look at the list of cats and kittens mentioned. In the middle of the page was a cute-faced, all-black, 5 month old kitten named Fudge. Fudge was a feral girl that someone was feeding from their home, and in turn was picked up by Virtually Home. You could tell from her picture that she was not amused to be held by a human being, much less have her picture taken. But, there she was.

I had worked with a feral cat before, and Fudge had such a sweet face, in spite of how scared she looked. I showed her picture to my husband, Alan. “What do you think?” I asked him. “Can we take her in as a foster at least?” He also took one look at the photo and said, “Absolutely.”

I wrote back to Cindy at VHC and told her we could foster Fudge, knowing that she could be with us for a while. Feral cats need a lot more care and attention in order to boost their tolerance for humans, as well as other cats. One week later, Julie at VHC came by with a kitty play pen, and a very, very scared little Fudge. We set up a secure spot for her, loaded it with a litter box, food, water, and a blanket-covered shelf she could perch on and still have some privacy. We eventually got her out of the carrier her 'space'. She immediately hid under the soft kitty cove we put in there.

The next morning, we saw evidence of eating and pooping, so we carefully pulled the empty bowls and the litter pan, replenished and returned them. We removed the kitty cove after a couple of days, to start the process of getting her used to the goings-on in our home. Our boys came and started to sniff the stranger that had invaded our home, and the usual posturing occurred. But once Fudge realized she was in a safe place, she calmed down a lot when the boys came around; she even instigated some play time with them.

Touch-therapy is very tricky in ferals, because of the potential for being bitten. I purchased a toy that could double as a petting stick; it was made from a material that would also allow her to bite without hurting her teeth. We started slowly, just a few minutes a day. We gradually increased it to several times a day. Some days she would tolerate it, other days she made it abundantly clear she was not in the mood.

Since she seemed intent on trying to play alone, I suspended a bungee toy from the top of her perch. She eyed it for a while, not sure what to do with it. Then, one night while watching TV, we heard jumping noises. There was Fudge, getting to be a kitten for probably the first time in her life! She would even bat at Alan's toes from her safe spot if his feet were nearby.

After a month in the play pen, the Big Day arrived: we granted access to explore the rest of our home. I made sure the boys were in our bedroom, then shut the door so that Fudge could explore freely without fear. She spent about an hour sniffing and exploring, then promptly walked back to her safe spot. The next day I let her explore again, and she has roamed, played, and napped freely in allowed places, where ever her little kitty heart desired. It was on this day that we not only decided to keep Fudge, but we renamed her Pwincess.

As time has gone on, Pwincess has blossomed into a beautiful, more confident cat. She snuggles up with her brothers and baby sister, asks for attention from both of us, and rubs up against your legs simply because she wants to. And last week, she hopped up in my lap and stayed there for about an hour before hopping down to pursue other things. She hardly seems like the scared little ball of fur from a year ago, but she now knows that she is a Pwincess, and always will be.

Pwincess (left) enjoying a chat with big brother Jelly Bean.

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