Sunday, July 25, 2010


I never set out to be a cat lover, but some 20 plus years ago a beautiful white cat walked into my arms and into my life and suddenly there I was: instant cat fan. Spaz and the second cat that followed him some seven years later, Calvin, were both strays that I could not resist. They adapted easily to the household and let me pet them, pick them up, hold and snuggle them to my heart's content. Although there were some bumps along the way, I could always count on their affection and company.

My current cat companions did not get that memo. You know--the one about how fabulous it is to be held and snuggled by their owners and to openly give and receive affection. Instead of being strays, all of my current felines were once feral who missed out on the socialization necessary to become well-adjusted pets. At random times they will all run through the house as if they were a herd of gazelles chased by a lion, and after they have knocked over everything in their path I come to discover the source of their panic was a random noise or a book falling off a shelf. It has taken years of work to get two of them at the point I can pet them at will, but picking up and holding my kitties is a gamble at best.

One of the cats, Simone, caught my eye years ago with her long white fur and big blue eyes. She looks like one big ball of fluff and the only thing that has stopped me from nuzzling my face in her tummy is the image of a late-night trip to an emergency room full of bites and scratches. I took her in when she was about 3 or 4 years of age, and that was 5 years ago. Although she has spent more than half of her life in my house, it feels either like an arranged marriage or some form of kitty d├ętente.

She is a beautifully well-mannered house guest. No accidents, no destructive behaviors just lots of love and affection…towards the other cats. Prior to my decision to take her in, if I had known the likelihood of taming an adult feral cat was so slim, I probably would have made a different decision. But, I took her in…for better or worse…and although the majority of time we have little or no contact, there are small glimmers of light.

Right now, she sits perched on the edge of the desk, not so much out of a need for companionship but instead looks dismayed that I came and disturbed her perch. In these rare scenarios, I use every form of bribery imaginable. Treats, wet cat food, catnip, diced chicken…you name it, I'm there. As my reward, she occasionally lets her guard down, and allows me to pet her. On a good day, she'll roll over and reveal her tummy while purring loudly. On a not so good day, she sits tense and anxious as I pet her, just waiting for the moment I will walk away. Last night, she let me have my way with her…and didn't run away.

So, as your reward here is a short clip of Simone (all in white) relaxed and sleepy with Matilda, my capricious little calico sitting on the corner of the desk. Yep, five years of hard work and persistence can lead to one immensely rewarding scratch under a chin.

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