March 22

The Hissy One

We picked up our friends’ two cats yesterday for three weeks of crisis care while our friend Bob’s immune system recovers from cancer treatment. Having fostered 26 cats and dogs since last June, we’ve learned a lot about reading the behavior of animals to new environments. When we picked up these cats, the kids in the family told us that they both hiss but one of them is known not by her name but as The Hissy One.

Upon arriving at our home she hissed constantly so we put her in a small bathroom and let her get used to the smells and sounds in our home. Her sister is shy but came at one point and sat on my lap before crawling back under the bed. I tried my favorite trick of offering them each a finger full of chicken baby food to associate my hands with food. After an hour or so the shy one licked it off my finger and called a tentative truce with me, or at least my finger. The Hissy One refused the baby food and hissed at me for even offering it. It’s clear that she’s scared but it’s also clear that she was like this even in her own home. So there’s not much I can do to encourage her to interact with us and enjoy the affection we have to offer her. She continues to stage an Occupy Movement in the litter box, signaling that she’s stressed and not enjoying this new adventure. I check on her several times a day to see if she’s interested in interacting but I’ll respect her choice of solitude. We partially closed the door to the bathroom allowing them to have privacy and access to food, water and the litter box as we went about our day.

Hissy Ones as we know are not limited to the feline species. I was reminded this week that no matter how kind you are and how much you try to help someone, respect, friendship or appreciation are not a given. Although the Hissy Ones may choose to spend a beautiful sunny day in the litter box doesn’t mean I have to join them.