Mocha is the first cat I have ever adopted. The first thing I did was to change her name from Mocha to Kita. I don’t know who named her Mocha, but if I know an animal has been abused or neglected, I want to give them a fresh start and a new name. I was told that Kita was three years old and she had been in six different homes. I vowed never to abandon her or hurt her in any way. She had been left at a shelter because the other animals in the home "beat up on her", according to the Surrender Form.
As a Family Therapist, it was easy for me to diagnose Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome in my little one. She ran under the bed when I let her out of her carrier, after bringing her home from her foster mom’s. She would come out at night to eat sometimes after the first week or so. Still, the smallest noise and she ran right back under the bed. For the first month, my interactions with my new kitty consisted of me walking around my apartment, saying to the air, "I thought I had a kitty. Am I wrong? I don’t see a kitty. Where’s my kitty!"
Her other symptoms of previous trauma besides flight were:
- Inability to be touched without a ritual of smelling my hand first every time I touched her, even if it was two minutes after I had touched her the last time
- Inability to play
- Body language of extreme caution and hyper-awareness
- Fear of being held or restrained in any way
- Withdrawal when anything changes (inability to handle change): new people enter the room or a chair gets moved across the room, for example
Kita’s foster mom was surprised that I wanted her because she wasn't outgoing. Her mom said, "Everyone wants a cat that comes out to greet them and rubs up against them and purrs." Kita didn’t purr. She stayed in the corner of her cat cage and stared at me.
On Ebay today
The only prescription for Kita was to take time and let her be awkward at every stage of development, as she started to let herself be more comfortable with me. Trust took time and consistency on my part and bravery on Kita’s part.
Now, a little over a year later, Kita is out and around most of the time. When she goes under the bed, it’s usually to nap undisturbed by too much light or activity. My neighbors in the apartment building are so impressed that she will come out in the hall to talk to them and not want to go back in my apartment. She has become quite social. She is a beautiful cat and they love to look at her. I was very excited when, about a month ago Kita's desire for attention overcame her shyness and she started letting me know she wanted to be petted by coming up to me and patting my leg. She still doesn’t like being picked up, but she plays and her favorite toys are the caps off medicine bottles.
My favorite times during this year were when I actually saw Kita become aware of a behaviour she knew I wanted from her and then take a big breath, walk very purposefully across the room, and try the different behavior. She seemed resolved. For example, she still doesn’t want to be held, but she has made herself sleep on the edge of the bed if I am in it... and she lets me brush her. We have communication with our eyes and bodies and we understand each other most of the time. I am really glad I brought Kita home. I would have liked an overly loving cat, but Kita has brought joy to me, as well. It’s just different.