Thursday, February 13, 2014

#RecipeForMoments-Hansel the Cat Talks for First Time

A baby's first tooth, first steps, first words...these are small physical acts but in larger context, they are significant.

Working with feral, semi-feral and scared, rescued cats, whenever I can get closer or barely touch  a frightened cat, I want to jump with joy. More often it takes self control to hold still. Instead jumping jacks are replaced with tears of joy.

With six rescued cats, only one is terribly shy--Hansel. Recently, Hansel at the age of  four and half years of age, reached a new milestone. While the other cats are set in their ways, Hansel continues to emerge from his shell. Another year, another precious moment.

The story of Hansel & Gretel follows that of the story by the Brothers Grimm.The siblings were rescued from the evil clutches of wicked machines from the doom and gloom land of  The Construction Zone here in downtown Miami.

Hansel & Gretel arriving inside their new home

Hansel & Gretel as kittens July 2009

Their mother Midora gave birth to seven kittens. Sadly one was run over by a speeding vehicle in a parking lot. So Midora moved her nest across the street where new dangers lurked. Little Gretel was discovered  trying to scale a cement wall with her nails to reach her mother on the other side. Every fall produced a painful wail.   Gretel's fur was visibly ripped and dangling from her bone like a torn rag. I soon learned the excruciating pain was from a bone fracture. I could imagine the fear of the other kittens--the thunderous noises from bulldozers, automobiles, the wailing of little Gretel... 

Hansel play wrestles with his sister Gretel

I set out to capture her siblings with a trap and was successful.  The two sisters were adopted immediately, within days.  But Hansel was noticeably frightened and found comfort with his sister Gretel.  I secluded them in my oversized shower. Since Gretel could not walk, Hansel kept her distracted and played with her, licked her, and comforted her.  They became inseparable.

a few months later 2009

In time their personalities blossomed and Gretel gained confidence and in true Tortie fashion, emerged into a Diva, demanding attention and affection with her constant beckoning meows.  Meanwhile Hansel was clearly shy and reserved, frightened most of the times. Always quiet never a peep. I wondered why. Was he traumatized from the outdoor noises?  Or did he have birth defect to his vocal chords? Was it due to the fact that Gretel's daily treatment of her leg wound (cleaning, rebandaging, cuddling and cooing) afforded her more human- to- cat bonding?

Once Gretel's leg healed, efforts were made to get them adopted.  Several people expressed interest in Gretel but no one wanted the pair. In many cases I separated siblings during adoptions. But Hansel & Gretel were extra special.  Hansel was part of his sister's recovery. But it was clear Hansel would suffer more without his sister, especially in a new home. The two remain together today with me.

But Hansel appeared more reclusive. As his caretaker, I could not approach him to pet him.  Sudden movement or noise frightened him. Perhaps because our home in the beginning was a merry-go-round of rescue kittens, strangers entering our home to meet them, decorating (this was a new home for me too) and weekly monsters by the  name of "housekeepers" and "vacuum cleaners", Hansel would remain distant. Keeping this in mind, and learning the benefits of routine for my own health, I finished home decor and furnishing, adhered to a set schedule, and hoped for the best. At least Hansel lived indoors, free of dangers and had plenty of places to hide, plenty of food, water and unconditional love.

After one year, Hansel allowed me to approach him quietly and steadily and pet him. I wanted to shout with joy but remained a gentle giant.

In the second year, he gingerly climbed the dog stairs to my bed and lay next to me at arms length! Hansel came to me willfully!   I looked up at the ceiling as if peering to the heavens and thanked God for this milestone.

Recently, as I sat at my office desk, Hansel stood in his regal poise, looked straight at me or my profile (which I found extraordinarily odd  for a shy cat) and meowed in measured tones. He did it again. HANSEL WAS MEOWING, TALKING FOR THE FIRST TIME.   I froze and slowly like the hands of a clock, rotated my head in Hansel's direction and asked "What is it Hansel?".  He kept holding my gaze.  This was amazing. He really was telling me something.  Gingerly I stood up and repeated "Yes Hansel, what is it?". He proceeded to walk over to his cat bowl.  It was empty. I poured some dry cat food and he began to eat. He was telling me he was hungry and that the food bowl was empty.  UNBELIEVABLE! None of the other five cats ever did this.  I could share a number of stories boasting about the level of intelligence of my other cats, but this was remarkable.(Despite having a high definition video camera next to me at all times to capture these moments, Hansel  is still scared of the unknown object facing him and the beep noises that I have not been able yet to record his meows, yet).

Hansel looking straight at me and talking, telling me to follow him

Hansel is indicating the food bowl is empty

A few days later, Hansel spoke to me again. I followed him and this time he walked to the black velvet Ottoman. This was the petting throne of the living room. He paused and looked at me waiting. This was a signal that I had to squat to his level and remain parallel to the ottoman, wait for him to climb the ottoman and pet him.  Common sense told me, this was a result of many naps he took on the ottoman and I would take advantage to approach him quietly, on my knees and began stroking him. In deep slumber, he awakened and when Hansel realized I was petting him he did not flinch or run away.  I had gained his trust on the ottoman while he slept and the surroundings were calm.

Hansel on the Ottoman, the petting throne

Hansel has found his voice, his way of communicating.   In a third communication, Hansel assumes the position, lets out a meow and leads me to my bedroom. At first I assumed he wanted me to pet him on the bed. But he often scurried under the bed as I reach out to him. Then it dawned on me. He came to the bed at night while I was laying in bed. So I slowly stretched across the bed, my head on the pillow and he proceeded to park parallel to me so I could stroke his fur.  Some languages take more time to learn. I am constantly learning Cat Speak! 

Two valuable lessons I learned:

1- All cats communicate through body language and/or vocal sounds; listen and observe
  intently and you'll learn to decipher and differentiate.

2- Routine, patience, TLC and TIME is the winning formula to gain the trust of a scared cat, any cat, even feral ones.  This is called "socialization". For most cats it happens sooner. Hansel just needed more time.

Hansel's progression has taken several years. He will be five years old this July and this past month was another first for him.  I'm gushing with pride and joy.

I share this #RecipeForMoments so you too can nurture that bond with your indoor pet cat or outdoor community cat and help them live humanely, happy lives. Just remember it takes time. Even years for cats.   All creatures, big or small, two-legged or four legged seek the same comforts--food, shelter, and companionship. These are moments for the scrapbook. In our case, our scrapblog.

(Feel free to leave a comment below by clicking "Comment").

Do you have a special moment to share about you and your cat? 
Nature's Recipe® is looking for stories through the eyes of your pets. It's a chance to celebrate the special bond that connects our hearts and brings us so much joy.

Our story is a part of the #RecipeForMoments blog hop hosted by BlogPaws. Link up below to share your story of the bond you and your pet share. What do you think your pet feels in your special moments? Five random U.S. winners who link up their blog post will win a Nature’s Recipe® lightweight collar camera to capture special moments from their pet’s point of view. See BlogPaws for official rules and details.

This post is sponsored by Nature’s Recipe on behalf of the BlogPaws Blogger Network. We are being compensated for helping spread the word about Nature’s Recipe For Moments on behalf of Nature’s Recipe, but we only share information we feel is relevant (and FUN) to our readers. Nature’s Recipe is not responsible for the content of this article.


  1. That is such a wonderful story and I am so glad that the chatting is happening!

  2. What a wonderful story! My Skootch has never found his voice - all he can do is squeak when he's excited or scared. I wish he COULD meow. Good for you for letting Hansel blossom at his own pace!

  3. What a beautiful story, Christine.
    So happy for Hansel and his milestone.
    ...we know how important big and baby steps are with our furries.

  4. hansel & gretel...we LOVES your storree !!!! high paws N headbonks...ouch...two ewe both...hansel...ewe rock dood...plane N simple...ewe rock !!!! hapee hearts day oh love two everee one !!!

  5. What a gorgeous coat he has! I've never seen a tabby with that coloring before. :) Love this story, and I'm speaking from years and years of similar journeys with my own kitties (especially the restraint part - it is SO hard to be still and quiet sometimes). But the feeling one gets when a toughie finally opens up and seeks human companionship is like no other. Congratulations on your breakthrough and thanks for saving these babies. :)

  6. Bravo! I so admire cat rescuers' patience and understanding during times like this. The rewards for doing so are incredible. Yay for you and Hansel!

  7. TW is bawling like a baby but I think she likes this beautiful story. She knows the feeling of wanting to jump for joy cos the first and only time she’s gotten to pet one of the Park Cats, she wanted to jump up and down but didn’t. Super great post.

  8. This is such a wonderful story. Hansel and Gretel are just adorable and I think it is wonderful they can stay together. And to learn that Hansel is not only talking, but very very smart about what he wants!
    Our little Alice, just under a year old, does a lot of what we call "meeping". It is somewhere between a meow and a purr.

  9. What a wonderful story, and you do have so much to be proud of. We have a shelter cat who mostly hid the first few years of his life. He was friendly with us, but no one who came to our house ever saw him. Over the years he very slowly warmed up to the dogs and to strangers. Now at about 15 years old he is constantly underfoot. It is so great to see.
    What a handsome cat Hansel is!!

  10. What a beautiful moment! You are right that every cat has their own way of communicating. Thank you for having the patience and persistence to love Hansel as he needs to be loved :)