This time around, I’m a little more prepared for the semi-sleepless nights listening to a kitten yowl for freedom. Little Jude (his temporary name since we can’t really see his personality yet) is starting his fifth day and still works up a good loud cry every hour. Yesterday he slowed down a bit and I managed to sleep through last night without worrying.

Jude has beautiful soft velvety paws and a mixture of chocolate and tan stripes. He’s fluffy and fat and his head is twice the size of his brother Sasha’s. That extra month of mother’s milk must’ve been like kitten steroids. And there’s no doubt who his father is; he’s the spitting image of the dominant tomcat we like to call “Bob”.

We have a daily activity called Oh No, It’s Bob Again. I know the routine so well that I don’t have to look: it all starts with a series of low, emitted groans followed by one loud screech. Purple, our enormous Russian blue tom, is the first to arrive on the scene. Bruiser and Fat-face follow. Four toms, two neutered, but all in the mood to fight. Bruiser likes head-butting. Purple likes jumping in the middle, but he always looks stupified and confused. Fat-face was our first alpha and the firestarter, but neutering has calmed him down considerably. So he’ll make a noise then lay down or run. Nine times out of 10, Bob’s very loud challenging swipes the front porch clean of all cats.

Some days when the Oh No, It’s Bob Again starts up, Teddy, our tamest and sweetest boy, accidentally gets caught in the middle and I’ve seen all four go after him, chasing him up a tree. Um, a psychologist might call this misplaced projection!

Back to Jude, whom I’d love to save from this madness. I know he is going to be a much longer process than the other kittens. After four days the smaller kittens were so young and desperate to be touched, they started rubbing themselves against the feather toys I stuck in their cages. It took about two weeks to be able to pet them. While they remained aloof and disinterested in me for over a month, unless I had baby food or a really interesting toy, they were nonetheless safe to pick up and pet. Jude has spent the better part of four days hiding in the top of the cage, hissing if I get too close.

I decided to withhold food last night. He’s only had one tiny can of food in four days, but I figure that he’s getting hungry enough to eat in my presence now. He took a few bites this morning before hiding again.

Ok, decent start.

I admit I coaxed him out of his hiding by letting the other kittens come look at him. They’d been dying of kitten curiosity since I trapped him anyway. Sasha was the first to walk up to the cage, letting out little chirrup-y trills (is this a good thing? I must study cat noises) and sticking his paw in to try and touch Jude. Surprisingly, Jude came down from his hidden perch out of his curiosity. There were a few hisses and growls, but nothing major.

At least I know what gets him interested. It’s going to be at least a week before I feel okay about letting him out into the room, or letting him possibly play with the others. I definitely don’t want him reinforcing any kind of feral behavior with them.