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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
I had to learn to love my cat. We got Bash on my birthday. Tor had… 
21st-Oct-2013 12:43 pm
Bash
I had to learn to love my cat.

We got Bash on my birthday. Tor had passed away just a few weeks before, and no one was really ready for a new cat, but Max was terribly, horribly, lonely... crying every night. So we went to the shelter and got him a brother. See here for Bash's origin story! And go to Facebook for more pics.

I bonded with Max right away, but I've always had a warm-up period with other cats, where I've liked them okay but haven't felt a huge connection immediately. Maybe because Max is SO my cat. Not enough room for others. So the people who spent the most time with Bash were Elayna and Judah.

People who were around during Bash's first 3-4 months with us know that he was a difficult cat, prone to attacking. Clamping onto people with jaws and claws. I despaired of him at times. And Judah would rile him up. Playing rough, encouraging him to bite and attack. He thought it was funny. Me, I didn't like Attack Cat mode. I got him to be gentle with me most of the time. Elayna did the same.

Then all the shit with Judah went down, et cetera.

And so here's Bash, who I like but am wary of because any gentle touch can result in a) purring and headbutts or b) him biting my damn face.

And here's an impending visit from michaeldthomas, rarelylynne, and their daughter Caitlin.

Caitlin has a condition called Aicardi Syndrome. If that sounds familiar, perhaps you remember it from jimhines's Aicardi Syndrome fundraiser in which he did terrible cover poses for a good cause, partially inspired by Caitlin! (There's a pic of Cait on that page.)

The thing about Caitlin that's particularly relevant to this story is that she's most comfortable resting on the floor, and she doesn't have excellent control of her body movements.

Which meant that if Bash pounced her? She'd be defenseless.

So I had to launch into an aggressive Bash-socialization program. I work from home, so I was able to continue working with him throughout the day. I would give him love and affection - but withdraw it instantly if he swiped or bit, with a firm NO, and didn't give him affection again for a while. I walked the line of petting him until *before* he'd had enough. We learned each other. Gradually, he learned how to signal that he was done in nonviolent ways. I started to be comfortable lying down with him. I would text Michael - "He let me spoon him today." (Bash is large.) "He discovered the couch!" "I kissed him on the forehead and he didn't bite."

And... he adopted me. He started following me around, curling up on my bed, asking for pettings.

And I found myself able to scoop him up and carry him around, and he deigned to sit next to me on the couch, and he has even submitted to actual snuggles.

Fast forward to the Thomas's arrival, where they found a fluffball so sweet that I think Lynne still doesn't believe the horror stories. He liked Michael just fine, but he adored Lynne. Lynne took over the #1 human spot while she was here. :) He even let her trim his claws - he was a squirming mrowling demon seed back when Judah tried, but with Lynne? Only slightly unsettled.

I introduced him and Max to Caitlin very carefully. Cait startles cats; her arm movements are irregular, unpredictable, and cats seem to have a hard time with that. They both did very well with her, though neither lingered long.

And then, on their last day, when almost everything was loaded into the car, we looked over to see Bash on Cait's blanket with her. Just standing there, eyes on her. Calm. Being petted by Cait.

Only cat ever, say Michael and Lynne.

Wow.

We don't know much about Bash's previous home. We were told he lived with a dog, but we were also told he was 12 (he acts 6) and that he likes balls (complete indifference). Things we have discovered through living with him: He had never before encountered stairs. He had not been allowed on couches.

And we think he was in a not-good home. We think people, and maybe other animals, were aggressive with him, and Judah's behavior continued that thread.

Because this, finally, is the real Bash. The Bash who will actually sit in my lap, who follows his humans around and curls up close to them, who is sweet to tiny humans. This is Bash when he feels safe and knows he's loved.

He's been curled up under my desk, by my feet, the whole time I've been typing. That's new, too. The couch is new, under the desk is new, the bookshelf with its nest of shawls is new.

It's been a hard year. So it took a while. But Bash is my cat now. And I love him so.
Comments 
21st-Oct-2013 04:49 pm (UTC)
<3
21st-Oct-2013 04:51 pm (UTC)
<3 <3
21st-Oct-2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
Aw!

Our little wildcat had to be tamed. I'd experienced impolite cats when I was a child and was determined this wasn't going to happen. I did much as you did.

But I also added: and if the cat pushes you gently away with her paw, accept it. She has a right to say no. This seemed to give MIss P the space to be her own cat.
21st-Oct-2013 05:28 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. Bash has learned that he can express "not now" in nonviolent ways and be heeded!
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21st-Oct-2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
He is a GOOD cat!

i don't think he was actively abused. But I think people and maybe other animals were too aggressive with him, and that he wasn't listened to or appreciated, if that makes sense? The shift is so radical.
21st-Oct-2013 05:46 pm (UTC)
I went through the same process with Mia (pictured here in her younger days). She was always prone to getting anxious and attacking when stressed by strangers moving and making noise and being loud. Certain friends set her off, and house parties were the bane of her existence.

She had bonded heavily with my husband when he moved in, mostly because he tended to be the quieter of the two of us I think. When he moved out a year and a half ago, it took the two of us a while to get used to each other, but now she does a much better job of tolerating being brushed, and will come ask for pettings and skritches, and sleeps with me most nights. Occasionally she'll butt-snuggle me on the couch. She doesn't swipe at people nearly so much any more, though I still warn all my clients and new friends at the house, "The calico will be your best friends inside 30 seconds, but make no attempt to touch The Black Cat."
21st-Oct-2013 05:46 pm (UTC)
(One more data point: We think he might have been exposed to smokers previously.)

One thing I've also noticed recently: he's decided that the two spots on the couch where he wants to sit are the ones usually occupied by one of us. He never seems to take the other spot.
21st-Oct-2013 05:50 pm (UTC)
Yes! OMG the way he went after Jason's head.

He sits on the middle cushion fairly frequently when I'm sitting in my spot. He just defaults to my spot or yours when no one's on the couch.
21st-Oct-2013 07:51 pm (UTC)
OMG the way he went after Jason's head.

That sounds like a story.
21st-Oct-2013 08:46 pm (UTC)
Huh... that might make sense. Nicotine is known to affect cats, somewhat in the way it affects humans, but as far as I know it takes longer to detoxify for them. Could be some of his earlier behaviour was the result of withdrawal from passive secondary exposure if his former owners were heavy smokers.
21st-Oct-2013 05:48 pm (UTC)
Aww. Hooray for better socialization between cats and other people, and happier homes for everyone. Hooray for love.
21st-Oct-2013 06:17 pm (UTC)
<3 all around. Good people, good cat, good love.
21st-Oct-2013 08:48 pm (UTC)
D'awww!! You did good, and yay for Bash finding himself.
21st-Oct-2013 10:58 pm (UTC)
What a beautifully written description of helping Bash grow more comfortable.
22nd-Oct-2013 01:24 am (UTC)
This is beautiful. I love Bash, just from what I've read. He sounds remarkably like my Joshua.

Humans (often) are quite similar.
22nd-Oct-2013 02:13 am (UTC)
Oh good. I'm so glad!
22nd-Oct-2013 03:12 am (UTC)
Love to the kitty and the tiny human, and to you for sharing them with us in this story.
22nd-Oct-2013 03:44 am (UTC)
Sounds great. We've been volunteering at a local no-kill shelter, and watching "my cat from hell". There are no bad cats; as the guy on the show says, it's almost always due to the humans.
22nd-Oct-2013 01:32 pm (UTC)


You're a good kitty-mama. I applaud you for taking the time to socialize him - and I think it's not just socializing, but the fact that you've shown him what it's like to be loved, really loved, and not just tolerated. He's relaxed because he knows he doesn't have to turn into attack-cat at a moment's notice. You helped Bash to heal.

On a semi-related note, I have a friend from high school whose daughter also has Aicardi Syndrome. Small world, eh?
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22nd-Oct-2013 05:01 pm (UTC)
Soft good cat cat :-)
22nd-Oct-2013 11:42 pm (UTC)
Awwww, and yea, it can be hard to bond with a new animal after the loss of another one. I think I'll need some time alone to adjust when my elderly baby goes.
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