Mindful Monday – Olivia Update: There’s a Kitten in the House!

Where to begin… Some of you may recall that we lost our precious Lily in May. She had lifelong chronic kidney disease and we were blessed to have her for all of 11 years. As an aside, we got word over the weekend that Lily’s veterinarian made a donation in her name to a veterinary school here in CA. What a kind thing to do.

An adorable calico kitten came into our life on the last day of July. She’s been on this earth for just four months, having been found living under a house with her siblings. I have to say, as rough as this year has been, there certainly are some wonderful things that have come into being in 2020. Olivia is one of them. Another is the birth of my identical twin great-granddaughters on August 10.

So how’s it going with Olivia? Beautifully. She is not Lily and she keeps reminding me of that. I was concerned that I might compare her to Lily and that she’d come up short and I’d be disappointed. This is not the case at all because a cat is not a cat is not a cat, as some people believe. People who say, “I don’t like cats,” have never really known a cat. Or maybe they’ve known one cat. I find it interesting that while cats all come with catlike behavior and abilities, they can also be very different in some very unexpected ways.

Lily came to us without a purr. She developed it when she was about eight years old. Olivia is a purring machine. Lily curled up to sleep on my lap or in a cat bed. Olivia sprawls. She does love my lap, but she prefers sleeping on the hard floor to a soft cat bed. Lily played with soft toys—small stuffed things. Olivia would rather bat and chase balls and other hard plastic toys. Olivia is very vocal at times. She calls out when she discovers she’s alone and she wonders where everyone is. She chirps sweetly when you talk to her. We’ve noticed that she has quite a range of sounds.

Olivia does have a similar approach to food as Lily did. OMG she is a voracious eater. When we give her treats, she hovers over them like an owl or an eagle does as she eats to protect them from any possible intruder. I’m determined not to share my food with her or let her lick my bowl. I created a monster with Lily by sharing bites of my food. If I wanted peace while I ate, I had to close myself in my office. So far Olivia will come to see what I’m eating. When I discourage her from getting close, she’ll back off. She seems to be a fast learner, but she also has that calico determination and stubbornness.

Have you ever used a spray bottle of water or a can of pennies with a cat? Olivia and I were butting heads about one thing. My computer desk. It’s off limits to cats, but Olivia wanted to battle me on that topic. She has access to my lap while I work, my big desk next to me, and anywhere else she wants to be in this house, but she was fascinated with my computer desk. Well, yeah, that’s where my attention is, right? So I’ve been taking more breaks to give her more attention while I’m working. However, that wasn’t enough. She would come from out of nowhere and dive across my keyboard, sometimes hitting keys—making me so nervous I’d sometimes close her out of my office. Then I’d feel the guilt. Oh, the guilt.

Finally a dog handler friend suggested an old-style coffee can with pennies in the bottom. Oh, how I hated to resort to a scare tactic, but I was getting desperate. So I found the appropriate can in the garage with nails in it. I emptied it, brought it in, dropped a few pennies into it, and placed it inconspicuously next to where I work.

Four times. That’s all it took that first day. If she jumped on my computer desk or started to, I’d say “NO!” if she continued on, I’d shake that can and she couldn’t get off the desk fast enough. Four times is all is all it took and she obeyed the rule for the rest of the day. Twice more over a period of a few days, she slipped up. She either forgot or she was testing me. I’m thrilled that she seems to have learned that lesson and without spoiling her wonderful spirit. It makes my life so much more pleasant for me.

Over the weekend, she began chewing on strings that hold our wood window blinds together. That’s been another potential problem. She’s fascinated with those strings—not the pulls—we keep those out of reach. So after having used the can of pennies and a stern “No!” in my office with success, I considered using the same technique with the blinds. I started with just the “No!” Surprisingly Olivia immediately stopped the activity and quietly laid down on the window perch. She didn’t bother the blinds again all evening. Wow! Is she really that smart—well-behaved—interested in pleasing us? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, we are in love with little Olivia in so many ways. To have our older cat, Sophie accept her and even invite her to play when she gets the urge is truly a bonus.

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