Since I have been back from Kazakhstan my two cats, Mungbean and Sweep have been so affectionate. I half expected either one or both of them to have the sulks with me for abandoning them for a whole fortnight, however it has been the complete opposite. They have been very cute and clingy. The best thing was when I woke up the first morning after being home and opened my eyes to find Mungbean curled up on the pillow next to me only a couple of inches from my face with one paw on my head and Sweep curled up on my other side under my arm. My little babies – I don’t know what I would do without them.
You are probably wondering where the training comes in… Well, at the moment I am renting a room at my aunty and uncle’s house and since I moved in I have been very paranoid about them going missing. They have a cat flap downstairs and I recently got one fitted in my bedroom door as well so I can keep it shut but they can still get out. The problem is I have been feeding them in my bedroom for the last six months and because of this they see no reason to venture downstairs for anything, least of all get to know my aunty and uncle.
Until now this hasn’t really been a problem as to go outside they have been using the window in my ensuite bathroom which I have been leaving open for them. This opens out onto a little roof which slopes conveniently down to a fence which they have no problem negotiating when they so require. However, as my aunty pointed out when I got back from holiday, when the winter arrives I am not going to relish the thought of the window being permanently open. Good point I thought, so what to do about it?
We decided the best bet was to start feeding them downstairs. This is something I have avoided until now, mainly because Rosie the dog would scoff all their food as soon as she saw it which would mean feeding them on the sideboard where she wouldn’t be able to get at it, and also because I was worried they were simply too nervous of meeting other people that they would not come downstairs and therefore slowly waste away from starvation. I wasn’t keen on feeding them on the sideboard either because I was worried how long it would take them to learn where their food was and that they may, again, starve in the process.
However, my aunty was right and if something was to be done it should be done now, while it’s still warm, in plenty of time for the colder months to come.
As I had two days off in which I was going to be downstairs the majority of the time sewing I decided to start the training immediately. Monday morning I filled their food bowls as normal but instead of taking them back upstairs with me I left them on the sideboard in the utility room. I then went back upstairs to pick up and carry a very indignant Sweep downstairs and placed her on her new feeding table. She was extremely nervous and only managed a few bites before someone made a noise she didn’t like and scarpered back up to my bedroom forthwith.
By this time Mungbean, who is definately a lot bolder and will venture downstairs of his own accord as long as I’m there, crept in and when I picked him up and showed him his newly designated feeding area, promptly began to tuck in with no further encouragement necessary. This could have gone a lot worse.
Throughout the day Mungbean spent quite a lot of time with me and went as far as to settle down on a chair next to me (when he wasn’t trying to unsuccessfully help me with my sewing). Sweep showed her wary face a couple of times before making a dash for it when Rosie padded past, but neither of them showed any signs of remembering where their food was and going for a little munch (unless they weren’t hungry – I think not!).
By the time it was evening I was sorely tempted to bring their food back upstairs for the night but instead I hardened my heart, carried Sweep back downstairs for one last feed and lifted Mungbean up too, then let them follow me back upstairs to bed. They had both had some food at least and a night without was not going to do them any harm, especially after six months of a somewhat sedentary lifestyle. Besides, it was downstairs waiting for them if they felt like going to get it.
In the morning I went through the same routine and again, Mungbean spent the day with me but this time Sweep came down a lot more as well. Then in the evening I had to lift Sweep up onto the sideboard but Mungbean jumped up on his own. So, at least one of them knew the setup now.
By Wednesday morning both cats must have been getting quite peckish because when I went downstairs to top up their food bowls I turned round to find them both sat waiting for me. I still had to lift Sweep up but she seemed a lot less nervous and jumpy with other noises around her. I then left them both to fend for themselves as I went back to work. I don’t think either of them came down during the day but when I came back home in the evening they were at the top of the stairs waiting for me and came down for more food whilst I was around to keep a lookout for any danger.
Mungbean wonders why I am so interested in his eating habbits all of a sudden while Sweep just gets tucked in.
This morning saw them a lot more relaxed, even though I had to carry Sweep downstairs again, and when I got home my uncle informed me that Sweep had come down on her own a couple of times during the day and even sat next to his chair allowing him a quick stroke. Progress at last!
You are probably thinking this is all very rediculous and why on earth didn’t I do this in the first place? The simple answer is I love my kittlings to bits and didn’t trust their survival instincts. I was scared they would have panic attacks in their new and strange environment (they have never lived with a dog before, even if Rosie is a real softy, is used to cats and doesn’t even give them the time of day) and do something silly like try and run back to the old house.
The long and short of it is they are not stupid. Cats are supposed to be more clever than dogs and I should have trusted them. Instead, in my paranoia, I wrapped them up in cotton wool and turned them into bedroom hermits myself. Well, I think I have learnt my lesson and hopefully with continued gentle persuasion they will come to like my aunty and uncle, not be scared of the dog and to have the run of the whole masive house and garden as they choose, just as they should have right from the beginning.
Bless their little cotton socks!
(Pictures to follow)