Friday, May 9, 2008

The Cats are Okay

We humans aren't very good at communicating with animals. I can't be the only one who has known that a cat was talking to me, but had no idea what he was trying to communicate. At the very least, I know CKL feels this way. This is a very familiar exchange, "Jasper. Yes? Yes? I hear you; I hear you; I hear you; I just don't know what you want."

For CKL and me, this trip is an experience of a lifetime, but it has always been critical that the cats be okay too. They may not enjoy the experiences we do, but I want them to be comfortable.

As CKL has mentioned in previous posts, more than half of the stuff that we brought with us is cat-related. We brought their favorite blankets from home, as well as their towels, catnip mats, fleece pad, perch, and food dishes. Even the car carrier and cat box are things that they used for a month or more before we left. I'm paying careful attention to their weight and health.

Because I can't hear what the cats are trying to tell us, I'm also paying careful attention to their behavior. In the broad strokes, I can see how they're doing. I know they're frightened but not terrified when they go limp and unresponsive. That's what they do at the vet. Terrified is a screaming bottlebrush, all slicing claws and biting teeth. That's what the cat who fell out the window did... and what Jasper did the day the movers came to the house on Calderon. We've been careful not to let that happen to him again.

I know that the cats are comfortable when they eat well, sing in the bathroom, demand treats and attention, sit in the window, play, and snuggle us and each other. Bayla snores when she sleeps. Jasper naps in high places. I know they're not comfortable when they eat less, make no demands, and scuttle from one hiding place to another, long-necked and low to the ground. Bayla does not snore. Jasper hides under the covers. I have hope that they'll get comfortable when I go to their hiding places, reach out to pet them, and find them welcoming.

Every day has been an experiment, where I hope that although the cats are not comfortable now, they will be comfortable soon. I'm very hopeful now. I see a positive pattern.

True, the cats are frightened on the way to the car. Nor are they comfortable in the car, but they are no longer afraid to demand attention. They both yell at us now, a little louder on each trip. When we reach in to check on them, the cats don't flinch away anymore. They reach for us. Jasper tries to climb out to explore the rest of the car. I'm looking toward the day when they're going to start trying to escape. I'm probably not going to like that day, but it's going to be a great sign.

The cats also go limp in transit to the hotel room. When we get into the hotel room, the cats go right under the bed. But now they don't stay there for long. Jasper is out exploring within minutes, albeit long-necked and ready to scurry under cover. After a while, Bayla does her own exploration. With the notable exceptions of our Motel 6 stays, they've been out and comfortable more quickly at each new place. Here in New Orleans, they were both in the window in less than two hours.

Each day, I've been watching the cats, with one finger on the abort button. But now, I think it's okay to relax a bit. Bayla is snoring. Jasper is napping on top of the playpen, four feet high.

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