Crouched defensively, hissing and spitting with claws drawn. The message was clear. Stay away. Unfortunately this was my bathroom and I needed to be in there.
I know people who have said, “Okay cat, this is your space, and I’ll run down stairs to the guest bath as long as you live.” The bathroom door is closed, and posted with a keep out sign. Food and water is shoveled in, and you get in and out to take care of the cat box as quickly as possible. It’s just life with cat.
Whisper wasn’t that lucky. Whisper had me, and the door was left open. Whisper came to our home with our boy, who brought this critter with him when he joined our family. Trying to prove to us that he knew better, our boy promptly got bit. We were not going to have a cat biting our boy in our home. We made a plan.
The food was taken out of the bathroom and the door was left open. Only our boy hand-fed Whisper, who was his cat. A bonding experience for cat and boy. Whisper did get a little hungry before he would accept the food offered. Ironically, when our boy was first adopted, he got a little hungry when he refused to take part in our family life, and was served his food at the dining room table like a boarder, as the kitchen was for family. Bonding can be a difficult processes when you haven’t had a loving family.
Feeding Whisper twice a day our boy tested how far he could get the cat to go out of the bathroom. After a week Whisper was out in the hall, but would run back to the safety of the bathroom. Fortunately we could use the room again, while the cat watched for any threatening moves. At the end of the second week, Whisper would come down the stairs to the main level of the house for his food. It took a month to get Whisper to the foodbowl in the laundry room where our other cat, Francis Ann, would eat.
Once Whisper got out of the bathroom, conflict between the cats was addressed, with a water bottle. The cat that hissed, or showed any thought of aggression, got discouraged with a spray. Our 85 pound dog, Buster, longed to be friends with Whisper, and would stay just far enough away to be protected from a swipe of the paws. Eventually, Whisper accepted the big lug.
Getting Whisper out of the bathroom was only part of the plan. We also needed to be able to handle him without getting bit. We used a back-scratcher with a long handle to gently touch the cat. Whisper quickly learned he could not intimidate the back scratcher with his claws. Soon Whisper was tolerating the scratcher, I’m not sure he ever got to the point of enjoying it. Slowly I inched my hand to the claw of the scratcher, until I could actually touch Whisper. A few times a day, I would force this attention onto the once aggressive Whisper.
At some point, Whisper was able to live peacefully with the family, enjoyed petting from everyone, shared the cat box and food bowl, made friends with Buster, and enjoyed the freedom of the entire house.
I call this a happy ending.