I recently had a chat with a friend about feral kitties, and she told me a hilarious (but tragic) story about being asked to adopt some abandoned kittens, taking the four home in a cardboard box, opening the box and getting a big surprise. All four shot out of the box, hissing, growling and scratching. One jumped out an open window, never to be seen again, one shot up the chimney, one up the curtains and another under the bed. Three nightmarish days passed for my friend before an animal rescue group arrived and relieved her of her duties, by which time her arms were shredded and she was exhausted and traumatised.
I told her of my experiences with Kai, who happens to be her favourite amongst my kitties. I knew nothing of ferals when Kai arrived and if I had my time again, I would do much better job of socialising him and be much more patient and gentle. I tell the story of Kai’s introduction into my home here.
These days, Kai is an incredibly handsome cat – he is large with an extremely smooth and glossy coat. He is beautifully proportioned, with long legs and a solid, muscular torso. His face is beautiful and his tail is very long and slim with the unique kink at the end. But it is his personality which is most interesting; he is a sweet but complex boy.
Since he has been living in my home, Kai has developed a love of being patted and stroked, and has a very loud purr that he cranks up to full volume as soon as anyone touches him. Once you start to pat him, withdrawing your hand will result in him grabbing it with both paws, and he will chew on fingers to keep you close. He is also my most talkative kitty. We can have long conversations: Kai meowing in his soulful, broken voice, and me asking “What is it, Kai?”, “Tell me!” and “What else?”. His conversations are long and detailed, with very specific tonal changes. But for all these lovely socialisation achievements, approaching Kai results in him running. If he doesn’t think he can escape, he will stop and press himself into the floor or the rug, looking at me like I am going to hit him, flinching in anticipation of a beating. Kai of course has never had a hand raised to him in all his time with me – who knows what he experienced in the first few months of his life.
If I pick Kai up, he never struggles, but develops the thousand-yard stare of a battle weary soldier. It’s as if he knows there is no point in trying to escape, he just can’t win. And he moans his objections – moans and meows. I don’t pick him up often, but when I do, I transport him to a favourite spot so it’s a positive experience. Sometimes if Kai sleeps outside of the cat room, he will sleep right next to my pillow, and not move all night – not for the litter box, or a snack or a wander. He stays there, sleeping, stretching and snoring, happy to be near me and have my hand reach out for a pat in the darkness.
The downside of a complex boy like Kai is that something in his personality compels him to bully the weakest, meekest, quietest kitty in the house. It used to be Maxi, but now it’s Lulu. Kai plays rough – he chases, catches his playmate and jumps on them, grabbing them round the middle with his paws and bites them. All the other kitties can fend for themselves – they fight back, and quite often start the fight with Kai. But both Maxi and Lulu are frightened of his dominance, and instead of fighting back, they run and hide, hissing and growling. It is this defensive behaviour that drives Kai to bully them even more.
This fighting between Kai and Maxi resulted in both of them peeing in my house, everywhere. Maxi was miserable, the other cats were upset, so eventually Maxi was rehomed. (The full story of Maxi’s departure is here). I won’t rehome either Kai or Lulu – I need to find a way to deal with their fighting until one of them grows out of their current behaviours. For the time being, poor Lulu steers clear of Kai whenever she can, and at night they are separated.
Having Kai in my home is wonderful. He has a huge personality and his difficult beginnings make him a delight to have around, because I can see him growing and learning from each positive experience he has.