I admit I've been dragging my feet about writing this chapter. It means that the last few stories I'm able to share about Tweetie will draw to a close; even though there IS so much more to this story than I can tell here, right now. Reflecting on our last day together, too, will remind me that my relationship with one, very special kitten is also possibly coming to an end.
If you don't already know this, introducing a new cat into a home where there's already one or more cats, should be done with great care. As with people meeting one another, first impressions matter. Get off on the wrong foot, or paw, in this case, and it can set up years of discord, damage to the home and stress for all concerned.
When the new cat is about to meet a Celebukitty, there's even more at stake. Not only is their meeting going to be of concern to their new family, but to the Global Press at large. Will the headlines read: "Sockington Rebuffs Tiny Twin, Tweetie" or "Sockington Welcomes Ward Warmly"?
The answer won't be completely obvious for some time. You simply MUST be patient about how things will pan out. Be willing to give it time, whether it be hours or MONTHS, for your cats to all get along. They may never sleep snuggled together on your bed, but at least they should respect each other's space and not fight. You must NEVER toss the new cat into a room and "let them work it out" with the cats whose home has been usurped!
A Few Introduction Tips
The new kitten or cat must be separated from the group, in their own space, with their own litter pan, food, bed and toys. It will be their "safe haven" when the day comes that they're allowed the freedom to explore the rest of the home. It's from this separate room that the introductions are done, either by opening the door slightly or, in our case, by putting window screens across the doorway.
Even though Sockington and Penny are famous kitties and it's really really cool that Tweetie looks a lot like Socks, their introduction is a serious matter. This is about their lives together as a new family, not a publicity stunt.
The Big Moment
I had a can of what I call "Kitty Crack." It's the one brand of cat food I've never seen a cat turn away from. I won't say what it's called (Solid Gold), but it's really expensive and if they want to ship me a crate, that would be awesome!
The plan was to feed Penny and Socks this delicious treat on one side of Tweetie's room divider, with Tweetie being fed on the other. This would help the cats to associate a positive experience with seeing each other. Using window screens, the cats could see and smell each other through the screen, but Tweetie would be safe from harm should one of the cats decide to lunge at him.
Food Lady, Mr. Scott, Sam and I stood breathlessly as Food Lady put down food for Penny and Socks.
Penny didn't even get close to the screen or her food. She figured out what was going on and immediately ran off. At least she wasn't aggressive. No tasty treat was going to change her mind. This left Socks to meet Tweetie.
Socks wasn't sure what to make of the creature behind the screen. His skinny tail puffed up while Tweetie looked eagerly at him. There was a sharp "hiss" from Socks, who wanted to lick at the yummy food, but was distracted by his tiny doppleganger.
Curious, Socks took a step closer. Tweetie, remained eager and friendly, with tail held high. Perhaps he hoped he could play with Socks soon?
Socks and Tweetie sniffed each other's face through the screen. Though Tweetie did nothing to provoke him, Socks hissed and Tweetie hissed only in retaliation. This cat may be big and look strangely familiar, but Tweetie wasn't gonna be no scaredy cat.
Food Lady reached down to comfort Socks, but shocked by the sudden distraction, he lashed out with another quick hiss, this time at Food Lady. This is not unusual and it's worth noting that when a cat is stressed, a comforting voice, staying neutral is great, but hands off until the cat is in a relaxed state. Yes, this is how I got bit-trying to handle a cat who was highly stressed and I assumed I could deal with him. Wrong! Sometimes it's better to let things cool off a bit, if possible.
Fortunately, Food Lady was only startled, but not hurt. Socks just wanted to let us know he was distressed at this visitor. Point taken.
Then Tweetie was given some food, which he happily ate, regardless of the giant cat towering over him with the rather silly attempt to scare him with his almost pouffless tail. We all had hoped that Socks would just eat and relax, instead of try to look menacing, but he ran off.
With a bit of cajoling, we were able to encourage Socks to return. Tweetie was still ready to be friends, but Socks wasn't ready for that. With a short, guttural growl and quick hiss, Socks ran off again, seemingly for good, this time. Poor Tweetie. He just wanted to make friends. He behaved far better than I could have hoped. He didn't run and hide. He didn't flip out. He was brave and confident. Gone was the fearful feral kitten I once knew.
Finally, Face to Face. Tweetie Wonders; "Are You My Daddy?"
Even though the introduction was far from a Hollywood Ending, it could have been much worse. Penny will need time to come around or she'll just stay in "her space" and avoid any interaction with Tweetie. Socks showed interest and although felt threatened by the newcomer, he returned, just moments after running off, with tail held high, looking as fabulous and calm as ever.
It was time for me to go. Enough excitement for all the kitties for one day. Time to let them all relax. I asked for a moment to say goodbye to Tweetie and everyone kindly left the room. I stepped over the window screens and Tweetie dashed behind the toilet. I called to him and he came right over to me. Unsure of what was going on in this new place, with new smells and a giant cat hissing at him, he was still willing to leave the safety of his hiding place. I picked him up, then was surprised to see a mirror on the wall in front of us. I hadn't noticed it before. Tweetie looked at the reflection just as I did. I took a mental portrait of us at that moment, sorely wishing I had my camera. It was the first time I ever saw myself with Tweetie and it made me tear up. I realized this may be the last time I ever hold this sweet little cat. The last time I feel his quick purr or hear his goofy burble. I got to this moment with a lot of hard work, patience, a few painful bites on my finger and a lot of love. Though my heart suddenly ached, there was nothing more that I could do other than to kiss his forehead and leave him to settle in his new home. I promised myself I wouldn't cry in front of his new family. It was a tough promise to keep.
This is my life; to socialize feral kittens and to help find them good homes. I'd done my part. Now it was up to Food Lady and the rest of her family to decide if Tweetie will be a good fit in their home. Part of me wishes it wouldn't work out so I could take him back, but I realize I'm being entirely selfish and this just feels like the place where Tweetie was meant to be-I know again with my silly predictions!
I hope that Sockington and Penny will find their way to love Tweetie, as I have, and that their home is filled with a lifetime of joy. I really enjoyed meeting Socks. He's just awesome in every way. I'd love to get to know Penny. I feel badly we only had a moment to visit with her. She's really a beautiful girl. I wish I could tell them both that it's going to be okay. That they'll still be just as famous and just as loved, if not moreso than before.
Food Lady and Fat...err...Mr. Scott are both focused on what's best for all the cats. Their sincere desire to make certain the introduction is done in the most positive manner possible is truly impressive. They're very good people who I hope to become friends with as the days pass.
Here's to new beginnings-a new chapter, of either Tweetie's visit?...or Tweetie's rise to fame, alongside his older mentor, Sockington?
What will happen to this little fella? He no longer has to fear being released into the woods, but will Tweetie's visit turn into an adoption or will he come back to Connecticut to find a new home?
All I can say about that is, of course, stay tuned...and...shoot! I forgot to get a pawtograph!