Monday, June 18, 2007

Project Finn

Finn McCool relaxes on the couch.

Finn has been at Ft. Harrington for two weeks now, and he's slowly, slowly getting comfortable.

He's going to be more of a project than expected, but he's smart, basically affectionate, and wants to get along here. He just doesn't quite know exactly how to do that yet, but he's learning quickly.

That Finn was going to be a little bit of a challenge became apparent on his first trip to the vet, after he had been with us for a mere 48 hours. Here's a slice (heh) from the doctor's writeup on that visit (click the image to see a legible version):
The "bold, inquisitive" part comes from Finn's behavior whenever anyone would open the exam room door from outside: he'd come to full alert and stalk toward the corner of the exam table nearest the door instead of shrinking away. The "may scratch or bite, a little wild" comes from our mis-adventure in attempting to take his temperature the first (and, so far, only) time. He had behaved very well up until then, but as soon as the thermometer made contact... BLAM!! Finn went off like a tactical nuclear warhead, writhing, screaming, biting, slashing, and I swear I could hear him in my head, saying "THAT'S A ONE-WAY STREET, YOU PERVERTS!"

We managed to constrain him pretty quickly, but not before there was blood on the exam table, none of it Finn's. It could have been worse; there could have been some on the walls.

On the third day, he rested behind the CPU.

Through the first week, it became more and more clear that Finn had never been socialized, either with people or other animals. Consistent encouragement/discouragement of specific behaviors is working very well with him, though, and I'm sure he'll eventually be safe for Grace-the-Granddaughter to handle. Not quite yet, though.

His interactions with the other animals has been fascinating -- sometimes heartwarming, sometimes frightening, sometimes infuriating, but always fascinating. He has the computer room all to himself, but we've had it open to the other animals (and for him to visit other rooms when he's of a mind) for increasing periods each day.

Finn bowling

His first forays out of his room were times for finding hidey-holes and nooks (of which there are many in the Fort.) He seems most comfortable in high places (like the bowl above up near the kitchen ceiling) where he can keep an eye on things. It says a lot about him that he prefers those places to dark, hidden places under furniture.

The other animals have varying reactions to him, but the weirdest by far is what goes on with our Maine Coons, Alnitak and his nephew Copernicus. The two of them are together so much that we almost think of them as one cat, but their reactions to Finn have been polar opposites, almost like they're playing a "Good cop, bad cop" routine on the little guy. That's got to be confusing to Finn; the two coons look so much alike that I'm not sure how long it took him to figure out that they are actually two different cats.

Cooper has been a big, fuzzy, warm friend from the start -- but Al's behavior has bordered on the hateful, never physically hurting Finn, but intimidating him to the point of terrorization sometimes. It's a relief that his behavior is ameliorating rapidly -- and today I caught him sitting with Finn at the computer room window watching "kitty TV" (chickens in the yard) happily together.

Cooper, the good cop.

Al, the bad cop.

Fonzie sleeps under Boo's picture.

Fonzie, the spacey, lovely little Aby, has been fond of Finn from the outset, and Finn has always seemed comfortable with him, too. It may be a red cat thing; Fonzie was always very fond of our old ginger bobtail, Boo, too.

Kelsey and Finn McCool

Finn is slowly coming to grips with the dogs, but I don't think he'll ever actually like them the way the coons do. They don't freak him out now like they did in the first week, but there's still plenty of room for progress.

And then there's Oolie, the Black Freighter. Oolie completely and utterly ignores Finn unless the little guy gets inside his no-trespassing zone, which seems to be about a foot and a half. When that happens, the Freighter spits a little and threatens to call his lawyer:

So far, the name "Finn McCool" seems to fit pretty well. He's in a terribly alien situation, with lots of strange things and animals to get used to, and he's holding his ground without hiding. Not bad for a little 8-pound yearling.


ronnie said...

Oolie's reaction is, by far, the most terrifying.

Poor Finn! It sounds like he's doing all right, but my heart just goes out to him during the tough days of settling in. Bless him, he doesn't know yet he's landed in Critter Heaven.

Give him big smurgles from me. When he's at smurgling point, that is.

Brian Fies said...

Cat hierarcy is interesting and, I think, more complicated than dog pack hierarchy. We've got three cats: twin sisters and poor, stupid little Amber who came along later. One of the sisters is obviously the laid-back alpha, the other one is kind of a defender/enforcer, and both barely tolerate the newcomer even after a few years. Each has a different relationship with the other. And they all seem fine with that status quo.

I turned a small corner in my cat thinking when I realized I had a place in the hierarchy as well, and I could upset the household terribly by acting out of place--for example, by feeding the wrong cat first or being kind to Amber. That doesn't stop me, although when I'm kind to Amber I try to lavish attention on the others as well so they don't make her life hell. Of course, sometimes I just like to screw with their minds.

I confess it boosted my ego to realize they also all have a high regard for me. I am my house's Cat King. As long as they wish me to be.

ronnie said...

What fascinates Husband and myself about our two is that they have completely unique and complex relationships with each of us.

Veronica naps with Dad if he naps in the afternoon on weekends. But never, ever naps with Mom if she does.

In the winter, Veronica sleeps through the night curled up under the covers inside the semi-circle of Mom's body. But never, ever sleeps through the night under the covers with Dad.

Mojo wakes Mom up in the morning before the alarm goes off. Never, ever Dad.

Mojo sits on Dad's lap if Dad is using his laptop. Never, ever does this with Mom while she's using hers in the same chair.

If Mom is in the bathroom, Mojo cries at the door and begs to be let in. If Dad is, no similar reaction.

I could list 100 more examples.

Queer, no?

I actually suspect this has something to do with how they perceive our places in the household hierarchy - and judging from the differences, it would seem we are not at exactly the same place.

Probably best not to think too much harder about that...


Sherwood Harrington said...

Brian and ronnie, your comments led me to wonder how I'd go about describing in simple sentences the relationships among all the Ft. Harrington indoors critters -- which was a mistake, because it gave me a headache.

If we only had two or three pets, it would be pretty straightforward: "A gets along well with B but seems to have a dominance problem with C," or such like. But with eight mammals (ten, if you count Diane and me, of course), just one simple sentence per relationship could run to almost a hundred sentences. Not very feasible.

So I generated this matrix.


Brian Fies said...

Ronnie, same with our cats. Different relationships with everyone.

Sherwood, too much time on your hands, I fear. Although you've convinced me that Diane is a treasure.

Dann said...

Hey! What the heck is that "worships" doing in the diagonal with all the other "is" identifiers??!!

What are you trying to do? Mess with my mind?


Sherwood Harrington said...

Brian, what can I say, Diane is a saint. One with a not-to-be-messed-with temper, but a saint. I was proctoring an exam, and probably should have been doing something scholarly with my time, but I've got tenure.

Dann, you don't read "I Am Mojo!" (ronniecat's cat's blog), do you? I'll let ronniecat -- or, better, Mojo himself -- fill you in here, if they choose.

ronnie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ronnie said...

With pleasure.
It's quite simple:

I am Mojo! is my cat's blog.

What, Asha and Brooke don't have one?

Sherwood, i treasures your matrix.
(your matrix. i treasures it.)


ronnie said...

Oh, I should clarify Oolie's role on I am Mojo! He is a frequent commenter with an exquisitely crafted sense of his own importance and magnificence, and is a great corrup^H^H^H^H mentor of Mojo and the other cats who read his blog.

That the matrix reads "Oolie (worships) Oolie" is no surprise at all.

Dann said...

Oh. Cat humour.*

I'll just politely grumble in the corner so as not to disturb the assembled felinophiles. 'Cause my thoughts on cats as pets are a buzz killer. [grin]

"I am Mojo" is pretty cute.

But I'm not inclined to create an Asha and Brooke blog right now. Mostly because I don't have enough time to write for my blog, much less one for the critters.

Although at one point I was thinking about writing a book based on Asha's antics. Or perhaps more correctly, his regular harassment of my wife in his attempt to become the #2 dog in our pack. We had my co-workers in stitches for weeks on end when we were all a bit younger.


*which I did figure out some time ago. Yet another attempt at humor falls far short of the mark.