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Mau Mau’s Long Journey Home

December 3, 2016

Ken is a volunteer foster with Phinney’s Friends who fostered Mau Mau the cat while her dad looked for housing. We hope you enjoy his story, and we thank you, Ken, for helping Mau Mau in her time of need!

When my cat, Tui, passed away in February, 2016, at the age of 22, I knew I needed time to process the almost 20 years we had together, and that would mean remaining cat-less for a while and enjoying the new-found freedom of being able to come and go as I pleased. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking about opening up my place to foster cats through Phinney’s Friends. I was already familiar with the organization since Tui’s former vet had convinced me to do the Phinney’s Ride fundraiser a couple of times. Helping people who could not keep their pets seemed like a way I could readily contribute to the organization, while getting used to the idea of having a cat again without rushing into it.

After one successful foster in the spring, the opportunity to help Mau Mau came up. Poor Mau Mau had moved around quite a bit in the summer, but sadly her dad was homeless. When Phinney’s said Mau Mau needed a foster, I jumped at the chance and was encouraged when, the very first night, she emerged from under my bed and began happily rubbing against me and anything else nearby. I decided to lead her to her room and show her where all the important stuff was, but she never made it, ducking under the living room sofa where she stayed for two days. Our rapport went downhill from there. While at first she just looked at me, the next day she meowed but that gave way to hissing and finally growling. She then hid behind sofa pillows in the office, in what I would somewhat affectionately refer to as her “lair,” only emerging at night to feed and cast more spells on me.  

I just wanted to be loved and love her back, but she would not hear of it – to the point that one day, when I lifted the pillow in my office to see her, I saw a cat in full fight or flight mode, ears pinned back, mumbling incantations and looking fierce. But at that moment I saw through her and, with some coaching from Daniela, President of Phinney’s, I realized it was not my job to be Mau Mau’s friend. Rather, my role was to provide her with a safe space until she could be reunited with her dad. That simplified matters quite a bit for me, and I set about doing everything I could to make her feel better about her environment, with no (or at least, with fewer) expectations. 

I dutifully left her food and water, and talked to her every day. As long as I did not approach, she did not growl or hiss. After two weeks of apparently little progress, during one of my monologues, I saw her peek over her pillow and yawn. Progress? I mean, if she was bored, then she must have been off guarded a little, right? And then, a day or two later, something amazing happened. She waltzed right out from behind her pillow, came pretty close to me without flinching, made a side trip via her food, and went back to her lair. It was a lesson in measured progress.  

Over the next week, Mau Mau and I got to the point where she would rub against me and even let me pet her. On some of these excursions from her pillow she would actually leave the office and explore my place. True, she had a somewhat disturbing habit of swatting at my feet without warning, along with a warrior cry. But as time went by, these swats seemed half-hearted, her tolerance for touch continued to improve, and she purred more and more freely. I discovered that she could even be a lap cat. (On her own terms, of course!)  

Then there came the weekend that I had company. I allowed my friends to stay in my room and I took my chances on the sofa bed in Mau Mau’s domain. I survived! I remember Mau Mau actually being a lot less disruptive to my sleep than Tui ever was. One of my guests asked if Mau Mau’s name came from a Kenyan group of rebels that fought against the British army in the 1950s because, if so, it was apropos. It turns out she had indeed been so named!

Then, I was told that Mau Mau’s dad had secured housing and was ready to have her back. I was thrilled for them both. I came to the reunion at Mau Mau’s dad’s new place. Mau Mau immediately made herself comfortable in her new home, exploring every corner, while her dad spoke with her and comforted her. During our two months together, she never talked much apart from the growls early on or a meow here and there. But now she was speaking whole sentences and directing them at her dad. I imagined her saying, “Why did you leave me?” “Where have you been?” “I have been missing you.” “I am so glad to see you!”  “I had a good time with Ken but never forgot about you.” And so on. I was also so pleased that during the reunion, Mau Mau still knew who I was and let me pet her and talk to her.  

I never imagined that this story would have such a happy ending, especially given the way it started. But the best part for Mau Mau and her dad is that another happy story for them is just beginning, and I’m grateful I could play a part in it.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Elizabeth Warshaw permalink
    December 3, 2016 8:39 am

    Ken–you must be so proud and happy to have played such a huge role in Mau Mau’s life. Fostering animals in need is sooooo rewarding and often a challenging (and sometimes heartbreaking) experience, but it sure was worth all you put into giving MauMau a safe environment. I hope you have found a new role, happily taking care of these older animals in need. Congratulations, Ken.

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