Saturday, May 16, 2009

At Ease


It is good to see Grendel finally becoming at ease enough with us now to come out of her "den" during the day and even partake of the luxury of sleeping in the sun. She has accepted more contact over the past year so that I am now able to pet her at dinner time, though she still is wary if I approach her directly at any other time. But she will stay in a cat bed while I work on a computer just a few feet away from her.

It has only taken a decade--but I am guilty of not pushing her harder to socialize. When I brought her inside, it was enough to know she was safe and warm. If she didn't want companionship from us, that was okay. We have plenty of other cats for provide that.

I reckon that she is about fifteen now. She was a young, pregnant feral when I first saw her in the spring of 1996. I trapped her before she could further contribute to the unwanted, uncared-for cat population and she had her babies in our downstairs bathroom--two little black kittens.

That was the year our Bunny was born--just a day or two after Grendel's kittens--and after a week or so, I took Grendel's kittens and mixed them in with Bunny and her littermates so that they would grow up in a socialized setting. Soon, I couldn't tell Grendel's babies from Bunny's black siblings. Grendel was spayed shortly afterward.

I felt bad about taking Grendel's only companions from her but I knew it was the best thing for them. I hoped to tame Grendel over time but before I could get started, she escaped and resumed her wild life in the woods.

I didn't see her again until the winter of 1998.

I had given her up for dead by then. Feral cats lead short, brutal lives. We keep food and water outside for any hapless ferals or abandoned pets that come our way, but in those days we didn't see who was coming by in the middle of the night. As the weather grew bitter, I set the cat trap out to bring the unfortunates inside and was shocked when we caught a vaguely-familiar tortoiseshell.

I had been wondering about her since she left so abruptly over two years before but figured coyotes, eagles or other predators had made short work of her, or that some feline virus or deprivation had carried her off. But there she was--the little feral tortie--her nose banged up from trying to escape the trap but whole nonetheless.

Many of our cats have come into this house in the cat trap. Almost all have turned out to be abandoned pets, not truly feral cats. But Grendel was different. She hissed at us and spent her days in hiding. When it was necessary to handle her for vet visits, we had to wear the big leather gloves and stampede or wrestle her into a carrier. Since she didn't want human interaction, we have largely left her to our cat society, where she gets along fine.

So, the small victories have been sweet. The first time she didn't run to her hidey hole when I walked through the room. The night she sat a foot from her food dish while I spooned her dinner out. Then, the tentative sniffing of my fingers and a hesitant acceptance of my fingers stroking her head.

She tolerates our touch but unlike our "civilized" cats, she doesn't seem to crave it. I don't think it gives her pleasure to be touched by us but perhaps that will change now that we have established a foot-hold in civility.


Cats of Wildcat Woods said...

Lovely photo - so peaceful.

MmeBenaut said...

Oh Laura, this is such a lovely story about Grendel. She does look at ease lying in the sunshine. She might begin to crave more companionship but I understand how demanding it can be trying to be constant companion to many cats. It's simply not possible! She is lucky to have spent most of her fifteen years in your care.

Cats~Goats~Quotes said...

What a sweet story. She is a beautiful Tortie, and a true one, too.

Meggie said...

Beautiful story, Laura! Isn't it interesting how we are so happy for such little, baby steps they make?

Karen Jo said...

I really enjoyed reading Grendel's story. I think it's great that she is becoming friendlier with you.

Anna said...

Wonderful. I recall the day I first touched my Bandito's nose - ever so briefly - it was like that E.T. moment. I know the feeling so well.