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We adopted two kittens!

After two years of asking for a cat, we realised that our teenage daughter really was serious, so we decided that the time was right to get her a kitten.
We looked and looked but soon realised that winter isn't the right time to be looking for kittens for our daughter's December birthday.  Then by luck we found two young kittens being given away by their owner as she was moving due to new work commitments. She had paid for the kittens next set of vaccinations and was also giving away their toys and equipment.  We would be very reluctant to advise getting a cat/kitten under these circumstances, but in this particular case, we had made the right decision.  However, just a few days before going to collect the kittens, the young lady called, her job offer had fallen through, so no need to move and no need for the cats to have a new home, she was very, very sorry for our daughter.  And although we had fallen in love with the two beautiful, loving, playful kittens from their photos and descriptions and talking to their owner, we were also glad they were staying with their rightful owner.
So on with our searching again...
We asked in the local Petts Wood pet shop where to get a kitten (at this time of year) and they told us about Romney House Cat Rescue.  We went home and checked the RHCR website and found Bunnie and Tigger, two little kittens who had been found abandoned in someone's front garden and then kept in a carrier as they were very nervous, making them even more timid and frightened of people.
We contacted RHCR and said we would like to adopt the kittens.  Due to the kittens past experiences and that we had not owned cats before (although we had kept other pets in the past), RHCR advised on visiting the kittens to see if we would still be interested in adopting them.  Although the kittens stayed hidden or just sat and watched the other kittens playing as they had been so traumatised or just sitting quietly with other mother cats, the RHCR volunteers could pick them up and handle them.
As part of the selection process, RHCR volunteers visited our house and talked us through adopting the two traumatised cats and asked if we could we handle this, as it wouldn't be easy and could take weeks/months of patient work.  For the sake of the kittens, we had to be sure, so we had researched on the internet about feral cats, traumatised cats and about cat body language, so we felt that we would be able give them a home.
For all the pets we had in the past, we had always researched how best to look after that species and bought their equipment and had this set-up before bringing the pet home, so that they could be calm and we would be too on their arrival!  This makes all the difference to bringing home a new pet and introducing them to their new home.
Before Bunnie and Tigger arrived we bought their bedding, food and toys, so it would be quiet and settled when we brought them home.
We bought them a high tower so they could relax and feel safe being higher up - a natural cat instinct wanting to be high.
We bought them a scratch post - so they could exercise their claws and not damage the surroundings as this is another natural instinct to claw.
We bought them a cat basket that had a back and top, to feel safe being surrounded - a natural cat instinct to be protected on all sides.
We bought them a water bowl, dry food bowl and wet food/raw food bowl (keeping the water bowl away from the food) - a natural cat instinct not to drink water near meat that could contaminate water and ensure they would drink enough water every day.
We bought them a litter tray for deep litter - a cat instinct to bury their faeces so predators cannot smell where they are.
We bought them toys that they could play with by themselves and toys that we would need to play with them - to build trust as our hands would be bringing laughter and playfulness, not terror and fearfulness.
We bought chamomile aromatherapy oil to give a calm atmosphere in the house - to make them feel safe and relaxed.
We moved our dining room furniture into the living room, so the kittens had their own quiet/safe room and could also start to venture into the adjoining kitchen area when they were ready.  We chose these rooms, as the kittens could not hide away making them even more nervous, but could hear our voices and we could walk into the dining room and kitchen to regularly talk to the kittens.  We put a futon on the floor in the dining room so that we could be on their level and play with them with hand-held toys, so they could get used to our hands that they were terrified of.
We went to get the kittens at 9.30am one Saturday morning at the beginning of December.  We put chamomile oil around the house and in their quiet/safe area to try to keep them as calm as possible when they came to their new home.  We bought the kittens home in their carrier and immediately opened the door, leaving their food and water by the carrier entrance and left them to come out when they felt safe.  We got home about 11.00am and the kittens did not come out of their carrier until about 5.00pm.  We walked in and out of the dining room and kitchen during this time, sitting down on the futon where they could see us and just watched them come out and start to eat and drink - a good sign. Unfortunately, the stress of moving to a new home brought out a cat virus and they started sneezing later that evening with eye discharge the following morning.  We started using the cat body language, slowly blinking at the cats - and they blinked back already the next day!  Within days the kittens were lying down in front of us, showing us trust, and we were satisfied with this, that they felt safe in their new home.
We kept in contact with the vet by phone at this time and gave the kittens steam baths for the sneezing/wheezing and bathed their eyes with cotton wool and chamomile/rose/lavender tea.  After a couple of days, they needed to see the vet for antibiotics which cured their bacterial eye/chest infections.
Sitting on the futon we started to play with the kittens using their toys, for building trust and learning not be afraid of our hands, that they were terrified of and to start to trust us.
As we learnt more and more about cat food, we decided on using the highest protein dry food without cereal, combined with a raw meat diet of muscle meat and offal/kidney/heart/liver and bone, but the kittens wouldn't eat bone, even ground up bone, hence combining the dry food and raw food to ensure they had the correct nutrients. This diet has cured their cat herpes and is also helping towards their dental teeth/gum health and not developing diabetes.  The second (and last) bout of cat herpes they had was at the end of December with only a little sneezing, a little eye discharge kept at bay by using the herbal teas for cleansing - and completely went within days, not deteriorating as before and not requiring antibiotics. To this day, it has not returned.
When we fed the kittens we always called their names and banged their bowls, so they soon started to learn their names, very valuable for when they started to go outside and to call them back for staying in overnight - changes in temperature and dampness could also re-activate the cat herpes until they were slightly older with stronger immune systems.
The kittens start to use the living room and we use lots of blankets on the floor, to be comfortable for us to sit down at their level and cosy for the cats to come and sit with us.  Little by little, they sit closer and closer and by playing with them using their toys, they start to jump over us, walk/run across us and jump up on the sofa with us - building more and more trust.  We then started to hand-feed the kittens and tried stroking them (with the same hand, mistake).  We tried again but this time, hand-fed with one hand and gently stroked with the other hand, which worked, but still took weeks of being very patient, stroking them very slowly, showing them both our hands, moving our hands slowly towards them and just touching a paw, watching how the kittens behaved towards each other and copying their behaviour.  We had put treats close to the kittens and then left a trail to our laps!
The cats were gradually introduced to each room, until they had full reign of the entire house.  Now they follow us from room to room, again showing us love and affection.  The high tower is left in the dining room and the covered cat basket is high up on the bay window in the living room, giving the cats somewhere they can go to and relax when they need to.
My daughter is able to pick up Bunnie and stroke her for long periods, a daily occurrence now.  Bunnie will sit with my daughter on her bed, sitting next to her legs, while she reads.
The kittens were terrified of going into their carrier, necessary for taking them to the vet to be neutered, for regular vet appointments and emergency vet appointments.  We didn't want to unnecessarily traumatise them, so after speaking to the vet, left the carrier out all the time, with lots of blankets, toys and food close by, with the door taken off.  When the kittens started to go inside, we put the door back on and showed them how the door opened and closed and later shut the door when they were inside and encouraged them to open the door themselves.  One day, I was sitting in the study and could hear a noise louder than an engine and wondered what on earth it could be - when I turned around there was Bunnie and Tigger both sitting together in the carrier purring as loudly as could be - we could now take them to the vet to be neutered.
Bunnie found her way out through a bedroom window we thought was shut but had not been fully closed and so she pushed the window open only by a couple of inches just enough to be an escape artiste!  We were distraught, knowing that Bunnie was very nervous and our intention was let them out about March/April time when the evenings were lighter and the weather milder due their cat herpes and after being neutered.  We walked the neighbourhood at 6.00pm, 7.00pm, 8.00pm the first evening and then again the same times the following evening, also calling for her up until 10.00pm that evening from our front garden.  Then Tigger jumped up on the bay window sill in the living room and instead of prowling up and down and looking out as usual, stayed on one side looking down - I wondered if this was Bunnie, went to the front door and there she was sitting under the bay window in the front garden, then ran in as fast as her little legs could carry her.  Fortunately, these two days had been the mildest two days of the year so far and had only just started getting windy/raining, so Bunnie was very grateful for the warm towel we put round her to take away damp and chill.  We had left her food, water and a shelter outside in the front garden, together with some of her litter so she would recognise her home territory.
Tigger is neutered.
Tigger jumps on the sofa next to me, comes and lays down next to my leg and then jumps onto my lap - and stays for an hour to be stroked.  This has now been a daily occurrence since 14 February, and more often several times a day.
We wake up in the morning and the kittens come upstairs to our bedroom doors, wait to see us come out of our rooms and wait again outside the bathroom door until we've all finished our morning routine, talking to us all the time, then jumping up onto our beds to be stroked.
We watch the kittens play with one another and they play with us in the same way, if they use their claws a little too much or bite a little too much with their teeth, we just say 'ouch' and they put their claws away and bite without using their teeth, so we can have a 'safe' play fight with the cats and their human companions. 
I am able to stroke Bunnie a couple of weeks before she is neutered.  She nuzzles me and kneads me.  I sat down next to her on my daughter's bed, didn't look at her but slowly stroked her - and she played and showed her tummy in trust.
Bunnie is neutered - long story!  When Bunnie came home, she was so pleased to see us and to be home.  The next day, I am stroking her on the stairs, she comes to sit by me, sits on my lap and then jumps up into my arms and turns over like a little baby, then nuzzles up into my neck - I am so overcome and astonished by this I call my husband and daughter to see this.
Now both cats are neutered, more confident and being stroked/picked up, we let them out into the back garden for the first time.  We chose a weekend when we would be at home, leaving the patio doors open for the cats to come in and out to feel safe.  They stayed in our garden for weeks, coming in when they were called in the evening for their food.  They did not stay out for a full day on their own for weeks, coming in when we were going out, perhaps we were lucky or they were nervous being on their own outside?  We put their litter out in the back garden so they would recognise their home. 
At the end of May, they ventured into our neighbours' gardens and the park/wood behind our garden.  The first time they went exploring we waited by the fences calling to them and let them see us through a small patch, so they would know where to come back to.  When we are inside, they go exploring into the big wide world, when we are in the garden they come back to be with us.
They stay outside for the whole day now but come straight back to our garden when they hear the patio door opened or hear our voices.
We leave water bowls and sun shelter/rain shelter outside for them should they need it during the day.
All three of us can now stroke and pick up the cats.
Lots of playing, showing both hands.
Lots of stroking, very slowly and showing both hands.
Lots of picking up. sitting down by them without looking at the cats so they are not worried.
But also not to over do it and put them down before they might get irritated.
The kittens love playing outside, only stayed out for three nights when it's been a hot/humid evening.  They usually come in when they are called, but we leave them their water and shelter outside just in case.
They are starting to recognise human words, so when we say, we need to shut the back door, they run to be outside again, so now we have to use code language, to try and keep them as safe as possible in our home overnight.  We use simple words and point to what we are talking about, so they are intelligent in learning verbal-sign language!
Bunnie and Tigger are going back to RHCR to be boarded as we are going on holiday.  We wanted to support RHCR and for them to see the difference in these two beautiful, terrified little kittens, now the most loving and affectionate cats you could wish for.
Tigger is very affectionate and very playful with us but does not like to be picked up;  Bunnie is very affectionate but is still a little nervous of hands, so we show them to her very slowly still before stroking her but she loves to be picked up and kissed and cuddled.
It is an absolutely joy watching them play inside and outdoors in the garden, they are fantastic companions to one another and to us, their human playmates!
We would now like to foster rescue kittens and cats so that they can be re-homed to a loving environment that all animals deserve.  Our kittens have brought us so much happiness, we want to help other cats to have a loving home.
Bunnie and Tigger go back to their rescue home, Romney House Cat Rescue for two weeks while we are on holiday.
We collect them - Tigger straight away comes for a fuss - but Bunnie has become nervous again.
We bring them home and leave them to settle, don't fuss over them too much and keep them in for a couple of days - they are back to normal the next day for strokes and cuddles.
After our holiday, Bunnie and Tigger became even more affectionate - we know they love us as much as we love them, they sit in the same room as us, come and sit with us, come to us for attention.
And then, a massive change again - they actually push their heads into our hands asking to be stroked, not frightened at all of their head/eyes being covered.
As soon as they hear the door being opened, hear our voices in the garden - they run back from wherever they are exploring to greet our homecoming!
Tigger will now be picked up and stroked - and loves being fussed over!
Although we have been stroking and cuddling Bunnie and Tigger for months now, they have still been too frightened to be stroked if we are standing up over them, calling them to be stroked - but just recently little by little in the last couple of months, they come to us when they are called and head butt our hands asking to be stroked and showing their tummies to play - this is the last remnant of their nervousness gone now - when we open the door to let them out they walk around us meowing asking to be stroked and stroking our legs before they go out - when they come back in again we are circled and our legs stroked and meowed at to be stroked and picked up before they go off to have some food and drink and to find their favourite spots to settle down for the evening.
By researching how to care for these cats and being patient is all that we have needed to do - they are beautiful and joyful creatures to watch and give us as much love and affection as we give them.
It is due to the care and responsible nature of Romney House Cat Rescue volunteers that advised us about being patient that our kittens came to trust us.
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