Rietta came back after a two-month stint with a rescue organization nearby, and I noticed immediately something was different in her behavior. She had previously been a quiet, self-contained, calm, sweet-natured cat, friendly and easy to handle, and her chances seemed good for adoption, and these folks were willing to help. They had many more opportunities than I had at the time, being a larger, wellness-oriented non-profit organization, and I was overwhelmed with a number of issues. Rietta stayed in two of their three facilities.
Assessing Rietta’s emotional condition upon her return, I thought about the word “catatonic”, but it didn’t quite fit, though in comparison to her previous behavior, it seemed close enough. She was out of it. She found an unlikely roosting area, and never moved from there, rarely even changed position. I put it down to the trauma of three moves (from here to there, from there to another place, from the other place back here) in two months, and the cage confinement she’d become used to while at the shelters. She isolated herself and took up a spot on a rafter high above the window at the front of the garage, against the wall. A ledge only about 5 inches wide jutting out from above the intersection of wall and window, but she made herself a nest, and stayed there. I never saw her anywhere else. After a few days, I wondered if she was even coming down to eat. So I got on a ladder, climbed up, Rietta started to panic, I talked to her softly and slowly rolled a fleece blanket across the beam, folded it and stuffed it in so it would stay, placed a dish of dry food a few feet from the blanket in the middle of the ledge, and a weighted bowl of water a little closer. She went right to the water and drank, and then edged over to the food. I talked to her, but she wouldn’t let me touch her.
It took another day to realize she might not be coming down to use the litter boxes (umm, duh!), and I worried that she might be sick. So I took a capture net, climbed up again, caught her (she did not fight back, or try to run, which seemed strange as well) and carried her without incident upstairs to the “clinic”, a large cage in the main room, with three levels, bed, food and water, and litter box. I use this cage, and another one like it, for separating any catizens with health or behavior issues that might affect the others, and to give them a safe enclosed “cave” where they could be watched through recovery and treated as necessary. Most cats find enclosed spaces, boxes, bags, cages with coverings, or half-coverings at least, comforting – during trapping I learned how a blanket thrown over a trap would usually immediately calm a frantic cat, suddenly captured, unsuspectingly enclosed, terrified, thrashing and howling – with a blanket covering the cage on all four sides, the physical reactions would just stop on a dime.
Sigh. I went back to the ledge to collect her “belongings” and found she’d been using a space on the far side of her little abode on the ledge, as her “litter box” (though to a cat, it might be more like the remotest patch of woodland available). It was a BITCH to clean, just FYI. Why hadn’t I smelled it in that room (the front room of the garage-turned-cathouse)? – you might ask. It had, apparently been going on for some time. Either because that ledge is 14 feet high or I just can’t smell right. I don’t in fact smell the shelter with any appreciable discernment, I have to ask visitors, “where do we rank on a scale of 1-10?”, and most often I get 1 – 3. Which means it’s probably more like a 5, because people are trying to be nice.
Rietta is now 8 years old, and she has monopolized the 3-story kitty apartment upstairs. It isn’t that she’s been in the cage consistently. Usually a month-or-so stint at a time. Then we start the next cycle by opening the cage doors. She may stay in, she may have some visitors, she may go out. One time she was out for two months, was doing well, amazed me in fact, and then something (I don’t know what) triggered inappropriate P&P’s again, that time it was in the living-room, totally unacceptable (it did discolor a 2′ square on the floor). Rietta, back in her palace, seemed glad to be enclosed again, and had no problem using the litter box in the provided area, and there she is again now, and we start all over again for the nth time. But look at her. She is Rietta. Henrietta without the Hen. I still want her to be happier, while I’m seemingly not making progress fast enough, and at 8 years old, everyone says it’s too late, but I won’t give up trying, and maybe I should just start expecting her to change for the better instead of projecting a difficult scenario. “Rietta So Pretty”, I say that to her every time I see her as if it was her first, middle and last name. She knows me for that, at least.