Unlocking Bellatrix: A Rescue Story

I have two disclaimers here. The first: I don’t recommend getting a pet at Christmas under most circumstances, especially a rescue pet who can carry some emotional baggage. It’s such a nutty time of year. A new pet needs time, peace, quiet to adapt to their new surroundings. I made the decision to bring Bellatrix home the day after Christmas because I was off of work for nine days, and my kids were leaving home for most of that time.

My second disclaimer: this post is sponsored through a partnership with Nakturnal. Wag.com has info and deals on the  best cat litter boxes for odor control on their website. Click on through. They also offer for sale tons of other goodies for cats (I’m getting the kitty girls a giant cat tree from them after Christmas -Shhh! Don’t tell!)  and other critters.

And let me catch you up! Two years ago in August, we adopted Pixel.She is strange and wonderful, and I can’t imagine life without her. Shortly after adopting her, I sent a note to the rescue group we got her from. thanking them for our furry little weirdo. I received a note back telling me that her sister was still available. Which led to this post.

So I brought Bellatrix home the day after Christmas. She was about eight months old and roughly the size of a cross town bus. She hid under the bed for a few hours once she was released from her carrier.

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Bellatrix was out of sorts the day she came home. New cats, new people, new smells and noises.

I knew that Bellatrix, formerly “Cocoa,” had been returned to the rescue program because she was the wrong fit. The family had gotten her “for the kids,” all of whom were under the age of 6. They brought her back to Happy Paws because she ran from the children and wouldn’t let them pick her up. I don’t necessarily think they were bad people, but animals aren’t toys. What I didn’t know was how long it would take to earn her trust.

Bellatrix and Pixel fell into step immediately, like they had never been separated. Pixel’s favorite thing was to wrap Bella’s head with her paws and give her a good ear washing. Bella was cool with it.

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Bella says this is the life. Pixel says “Don’t you ever wash your ears, cat?”

Bellatrix was also very happy lying beside me in bed, especially by my feet. She adored being petted, but make a sudden move, and she’d vanish into thin air. And we could forget about picking her up.  She simply couldn’t tolerate it.

But as sad and damaged as she was, there was still a little kitten hidden deep inside, just waiting to be let out, a playful little kitten full of mischief and silliness. Every now and again, I’d get a glimpse of that baby kitten when Bella dragged a bow out of the cat toy basket and batted it around the living room. She’d play with joyful abandon for a moment or two, and then she’d run off like she was afraid she was in trouble. And if she thought she had displeased us, she would hide.

My kids encouraged her to play, with shoe laces, with a feather cat toy, in boxes. And gradually, she let them join in her games, chasing yarn balls and playing with string. Over time, she started letting them pet her, too. But hugs and kisses were still too threatening. Try to give her a gentle squeeze, and she’d bolt.

I began sharing my breakfast with her, spooning a wee bit of milk onto the table. She climbed up in a chair to get it. While she drank, I would sneak in a few head scratches. Yeah, I fed my cat on the table. But my goal was to make her as entitled as a cat has a right to be.

Then one day I was sitting in the kitchen minding my own business when this happened:

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Look! She’s letting me HOLD HER! It only took 8 months to get to this point.

And from there, my Bella began to unfold. She still doesn’t let me pick her up, but she wants me to love her. It just has to be on her terms. She yells at me when she thinks my idle hands could be put to good use petting her. She hides under our bed at night now, but not because she is afraid. She hides so that the Padawan won’t find her when it’s time to put the cats downstairs in the family room for the night. She wants to spend the night in the big bed with her people.

She’s more playful than ever and rather a genius. At night there is no one to throw a toy for her, so she has problem-solved her own game. She found a Nerf ball from the Padawan’s Nerf Reactor blaster. She carries it to the top of the stairs and lets it go. It bounces down the stairs with a Jelly-Bella in hot pursuit. Then she runs up the stairs with it and lets it go again. For hours. On wooden stairs. In the middle of the night. But she’s playing! And happy! So happy that the kids want to get her an entire pack of Reactor balls for Christmas.What is loss of sleep compared to a rescue cat who is finally beginning to enjoy herself? She makes me smile.

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So many teeth marks in that ball! Does anyone know where I can get more of these things?

And is she entitled yet? You tell me.

Bellatrix is a wonder and a joy, the gift that keeps on giving. Tell me your favorite rescue pet story. I want to hear it!

 

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25 thoughts on “Unlocking Bellatrix: A Rescue Story

  1. We didn’t get our cat Smokey from a rescue, but we did rescue our cat. An elderly lady who lived next door to my work needed to move into assisted living and could not take her cat with her. She did not want him to go to the shelter, because at 5 or 6 she was told he had little change of being adopted.

    Krystal and I decided to take him home with us around Thanksgiving 7 years ago, and boy was he a mess. He hadn’t been litter trained, had zero social skills, and ate whatever food he could get his mouth around (or take bits out of). He was terrified of thunderstorms and even more so of cat carriers – we found out later that just prior to coming with us, the woman’s son had left Smokey outside in a carrier – during a North Carolina hurricane. Some people.

    And so, we worked with him. Or rather, we let him be him and gently moved things in the right direction. It took over a year for him to let us pick him up or pet him, though he would come and cuddle at our feet on on our blanket, any contact was a no-no.

    He finally figured out the litter boxes (it’s true what they say: get two boxes for a cat) and now eats mostly his own food. And right now he’s sitting on my lap purring up a storm because I’m typing this and not petting him.

    He gave us a scare a few months ago when he fell off an 8ft cabinet, but he’s recovered and back to his normal royal highness self. And as he’s at least 13 years old, what he wants he gets. 🙂

  2. Thank you for going through a rescue to adopt! I volunteer with our local spca (dog training mostly and a variety of fostering). My favorite part of volunteering is hearing from adopters and seeing pictures of our former residents in their “furever” homes. Our 11-year-old, 70-pound dog (was at the shelter for over 6 months before I finally caved) is asleep at my side and snoring loud enough to make the paint chip. I wouldn’t trade her for a million dollars!

    • thank you for doing this work! my last dog, a doberman, snored sooooo loudly she’d sometimes wake me up and I’d have to move her head to make it stop. (she always slept on the bed with me, I lost that battle early)

    • All of our cats have been rescues. Four of them came from the same rescuer. They do such good work. Now my husband has declared a five-year moratorium on looking at their website because apparently my ambition is to become a crazy cat lady.

  3. This is such a lovely story! (And I went and read about how she came in to your family in the first place.) She’s a beauty.

    My last cat, who recently passed away at 20 or so (rescue so who knows exactly), was abused when I got her. (I took/was given her from/by the guy after hearing it happen….bad story with good ending) It took 1 1/2 years or so before she would come out from under the bed. Somewhere in year 2 she started coming out for me, but would dash under for anyone else. Somewhere in year 3 she would come out for women. Then, about 8 years ago, she met my brother and his tiny rescue dog (who was about 6 pounds to her 13) and fell in love with both of them. So my brother finally got her over her fear of men. The little dog used to use her as a couch and she didn’t care because she loved him deeply. And she had the misfortune of living with a vegetarian (me) and my brother is an omnivore and introduced her to the delights of chicken. (I will say that when I first got her I lived down the street from a superb French bakery who baked almond croissants on Sundays – there would be a line and you had to get up early to get them – and she LOVED them and I also was a consultant for an upscale cheese shop and she really, really liked cheese. Really expensive, cheese. Which I brought home all the time.) I did force her in to being picked up. In an emergency, sorry, but if I need to grab you and put you in a carrier, it’s happening. Always had to carry her feet facing out tho. She was a member of our family for 16 years, and by the end of her life you would never, ever guess what a rough start she had had. And yeah, she was super feline-entitled somewhere a third of the way through. So it took awhile, but she got there. She even survived skin cancer.

    You’ve done such a good thing for this little one and her sister. So happy they both found a good home with you and your family. They look so happy and loved. And I love the nerf ball story. Hysterical.

    My next pet will be a dog & I’m still months away from her, I think, but I really, really want one. I want to have a decent pet vet savings account going before I adopt and I’m not there yet.

  4. Oh my goodness what a sweetie. I just love the ball in the mouth picture. We got Nestle as an adult. She hid a lot at first. But all these years later, now if you are sitting down she is on your lap. Truth–kind of annoying at times.

  5. Oh Bellatrix, you gorgeous thing! As you’ve unwound this far, there’s every hope for a cuddle or two in the not distant future. Having her sister back must be rather special.

    Bella’s distant cousin Iggy Pop (turned up at our door starving) moved into our house and then took four months to let me touch him. We can still pass him in a corridor and he’ll look at us as if we’ve got two heads. Not likely to change but when the dogs have gone to bed, out he comes and demands love.

  6. I have a story almost identical to Bella’s! My Cali is just like her. I had been begging my boyfriend for a second cat as long as I can remember. We already had a gray one named Stella, but I had so much love to give I really wanted another. Day after day I would tag my boyfriend in various rescue/humane society Facebook posts saying, “How about this one?” Finally one day I tagged him in a picture of Cali, and he told me to fill out the adoption paperwork and he’d give me half of the adoption fee. I thought for sure he was pulling my leg, but he wasn’t. We brought our sweet Cali home on December 19, 2015. Cali also hid under the bed immediately and wasn’t in any hurry to get out. We didn’t see her for almost an entire month. If she would peek out for food or potty time and she caught a glimpse of us, she would be gone. Many people would have taken her right back to the shelter saying just as Bella’s previous owners had, that she wasn’t a good fit. I knew she just needed time. I have no idea what her background was. Maybe she was abused or neglected, maybe she hadn’t been in a home in a while. Either way, I made it my mission to allow her to get comfortable. Slowly she started to emerge from her hiding place and make herself comfortable. Still to this day she fights with her big gray sister, but you can tell that it is 100% play fighting. They love to chase each other and give each other the occasional smack in the face (they are both declawed, so it is a pretty funny sight to see!). Cali now sleeps in bed with us most nights, loves to splash around in her water dish, and chase her green-tailed mouse. She’s a pretty big box fanatic as well. She’s getting a little chunky these days as she has made herself at home near the food bowl, but she can still run, jump, and play with the best of them. She talks (her favorite word is “no” lol), and will even jump up in your lap and purr. So glad we took a chance on our baby girl! She has brought so much love and joy into our house and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Thanks for adopting!

  7. While my husband’s very allergic to cats (had I known…), so we can’t have one, I love them! We rescued a beautiful guy who collapsed in our yard, back in Michigan. He was weak, and wild’ish, but seemed like he’d once been a pet. We named him Nike, and he lived as an outdoor cat with us for a very long time. When we moved to the West coast, we left him with a friend, planning to have him sent out once we found a place to live. 9/11 put a kibosh on that plan. He ended up living on a farm, where I’m told he was very happy… LOVE this tale of rescue and love, Heather. And I think I’ve said: Bella is indeed a gorgeous girl!

  8. Bellatrix is very cute! Thanks for sharing. I have just started a poetry blog here on WordPress in case you have time to have a look? Wishing you a sunny afternoon, Sam 🙂

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