Allison's Book Bag

Bootsie Learns to be a Pet

Posted on: August 6, 2015

When God puts something on your heart, sometimes it means He wants you to be the person to do something about the situation.

About a year ago, I got involved with a local Trap-Neuter-Release group. Going into the group, I took to heart the advice that most adult feral cats never make the transition to house cat. In other words, I made myself accept that the cats I helped feed would have to live out their lives on the streets and never be rescued.

This past spring, that resolve got shaken. The reality is that while TNR might typically be the best option, some colony cats do turn out to be people-friendly. Such was the case with a cat named Bootsie. Therein lay a dilemma. Bootsie seemed to have potential to be someone’s cat, but first someone would need to step forward and show her how to be a housecat.

Originally, my husband and I had no intention of taking in a second cat. But the more I pushed for the group to find her a foster home, the more I felt God telling me that my husband and I should be the ones to take her in. And so finally, after a flood threatened her home, we became her foster parents.

In May, my husband I began the adventure of introducing Bootsie to Cinder. A feisty Tortoiseshell, she is our two-year-old cat whom we adopted from a no-kill shelter in December 2013. During this whole process, Cat. Vs. Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett became a critical guide.

To start, we set up a sanctuary room. Bootsie got delivered to us in a dog crate. Inside was a cardboard box with a cozy blanket. There were also essentials such as water dish, food dish, and litter box. We added toys. The dangler proved key, allowing us to interact with her at a comfortable distant. After a few days, Bootsie made clear by her growing agitation that she wanted more freedom, and so we opened the door of her crate and gave her the run of the library.

Then began the process of preparing the two cats to meet. A huge part of this step involved exchanging scents. First, I started with socks. By rubbing the socks on their fur, I put Cinder’s scent on one pair and Bootsie’s scent on the other. I then put the Bootsie-scented socks in Cinder’s favorite areas, and vice versa. Cinder reacted mildly, hissing initially but then going off to play, while Bootsie showed no interest at all. Encouraged, I moved on to swapping beds, toys, and even litter.

The cats’ reactions remained mild. I moved onto one last exchange, that of rooms. Cinder was deposited in the library, while Bootsie was invited to explore our living room. After a few hisses, Cinder simply settled into taking naps on our printer, chair, window—all her favorite library spots. Bootsie remained undisturbed by Cinder’s ever-present scent, but she did quickly become overwhelmed by the large unfamiliar space. After a short time, she snuck behind our recliner and hid for the rest of the evening.

Finally, the day of introductions arrived! We put a partition between the library and the hall, to limit their exposure to each other. At first, the library door was only opened about a foot. After about a week, we opened the door further, so that the two cats could sit across from each other. We let them eat and play within sight of one another. After a few days, Bootsie had enough of even this confinement and tried to climb the partition. Time for the next adventure!

BootsieCinder_TowerAnd so the partition was finally removed, allowing Bootsie and Cinder to share the same living space. Some of the time. At night and when we both have to leave the house, we return Bootsie to the library.
The results have been mixed. There have been no fights. But Cinder is not happy about Bootsie’s presence. Often she will hiss at Bootsie, even lunge towards her. Other times, food proves a strong motivation, causing Cinder to push past Bootsie to coax from me. Then are even moments when the two share a space on our bed or recliner. The two girls even use our one cat tower. A lot of this success is due to Cat Vs. Cat.

It’s also due to two special cats. Even just a few short months ago, Bootsie knew nothing of indoor life. She clearly wants to learn. Cinder has begrudgingly accepted the presence of a second cat. I tell her daily about how Bootsie’s colony had been in danger of being flooded, and so she needed a home. Maybe Cinder’s listening to me. Whatever the truth, my husband and I are fosters again.

BootsieCinder_Together

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5 Responses to "Bootsie Learns to be a Pet"

Beautiful cats. Now that I’ve done everything wrong, I’ll start over again. Just hope it’s not too late. My cats are both older. We’ll see what happens. Love your story.

You’re wonderful to even want to try! Cinder and Bootsie are both adult cats. The techniques in Cat Vs. Cat didn’t initially make them friends. In fact, Cinder acted like a bully for a time. Gradually though, the two at least learned to tolerate one another.

PS The author does admit some cats will NEVER get along. Yours may or may not fall into that category. 🙂 All the best!

Well, we’ll see what happens. If they don’t become friends, or even learn to tolerate each other, at least I’ll have tried.

My first reaction to “Bootsie Learns to be a Pet” was to its opening, my thinking much the cat in the first photo resembled Tippy, my sister Ruth’s cat when we were growing up in South Porcupine. (BTW, today is my sister’s birthday–if she reads this, happy birthday, Ruth!)

Then I read the article and found it to be a fascinating account of Bootsie’s becoming a pet and of Cinder’s and Bootsie’s learning to accept each other’s presence. Congratulations, Allison, on another well-written and well-illustrated article.

Trying to figure out what details to include and leave out were difficult. I struggled to write an interesting and information piece. Your compliment then is appreciated!

Thanks too for sharing about Tippy. If Aunt Ruth reads these, happy birthday from me too!

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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
  • The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee

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