The next morning, I opened the bathroom door, uncertain what I would find. I found a kitten who had bedded down for the night inside his carrier, as it was the most sheltered place in the room. Upside: He’d eaten his food, and he popped his head out quickly to see who had come in and, on recognizing me, was willing to come out of his carrier and have some attention. And he’d apparently used the litter box once. Downside: he’d peed on a bathmat and also in the carrier where he was sheltering.
So I dispensed more food, removed the bathmat for cleaning, and cleaned out his carrier. I acquired some “litter attract” herbs to sprinkle into his box. And Keith and I took turns sitting with him in the bathroom and/or adjoining bedroom, so that we’d catch him if he wanted to pee and redirect him to the litter box.
But there was no need, apparently. Once he’d figure out the litter box was OK to use, he didn’t mess up again.
His skin condition, it turns out, was mange – a parasitic infection of cats and dogs that is similar to scabies in human. Which is to say, it itches madly. He’d scratched the itchy spots until they were scabbed and infected and the poor guy was miserable, spending most of his time scratching and only pausing to gulp a few bites of food or water. But the medication he’d received at the vet (ivermectin) was starting to kick in, and he was getting a few moments of rest here and there.
His itchiness probably helped with his accepting us as safe, because he quickly discovered we could rub our fingers over his face and chest and it felt so much better than scratching. This presented us with an interesting set of choices. Mange is quite contagious, which put our other cats at risk and possibly (depending on the variety) even could affect us. So one recommendation would be to avoid touching him, and to use latex gloves when we did handle him. However, latex gloves would block our scent, and avoiding touching would also get in the way of bonding him to us. So we chose to interact with bare hands and hold him close to us, and then every single time we left the room, we scrubbed down all exposed skin and completely changed our clothes before going into the rest of the house.
So that was Scrappy’s second day, which was a lot of effort but worth it, I think. It was a joy to see this little guy start to be able to relax and get some food and sleep.