Despite my asthma there has always been a cat in my life. The first was Sneezy, when I was a toddler. A grey, short hair. Mom let me name it and it seemed to do that cute little cat sneeze a lot, so I called it Sneezy. One day, I couldn’t find Sneezy. Mom said it had run away.
About 15 years ago, during a Christmas gather, Mom finally confessed. Sneezy had gotten run over. The typical story. Mother doesn’t want to break the child’s heart, so she tells a story. I truly believed for those four plus decades that Sneezy had gone to live in the woods.
After Sneezy came Fuzzy, a wonderful female calico. She stayed with the family for 12 years. During Fuzzy’s reign came Lord Pahrump, named for a little town near Las Vegas, NV where he came from, and then Leo, an absolutely majestic gold longhair male, hence Leo, as in The Lion.
There was a brief period during college when I did not have a cat, but I didn’t have a place to keep one. But once I had my own place . . .
There was Flash, a white short haired female, and Barney, a little short haired gold tiger. Both unfortunately passed away just prior to my first divorce. Then came Castrado, a black, longhair Maine Coon. Amazing cats with opposable thumbs! Along with Castrado there was Shy, a gray, medium hair female. Castrado got his name after being fixed (yes, as in castrated, but he got a normal fixing). Shy was a meek kitten.
My second wife and I had to move out of the place we were in and the new apartment didn’t allow cats so we had to find homes for those lovely animals.
During our time at the new apartment the management changed and so did the rules. At the time we were the tenants that had been there the longest, so we got pretty much whatever we wanted and a cat became a possibility.
The summer two years before my second wife and I separated was very hot and miserable. One day this poor, pathetic little tuxedo cat (black with a white patch on its chest) was in the driveway, meowing pitifully and panting. Cats don’t pant unless they are really stressed. I tried to get near the animal but it wouldn’t allow it. I got the feeling that it knew that humans could help it, but that it didn’t want any part of humans. It was feral. Well, as feral as any city cat can be.
I put out a bowl of milk and walked away, spying from inside. Sure enough, it took some. It took the milk so quickly it had to stop at times to keep from gagging or getting a brain freeze. Over the course of several months I would put out water, milk, or food. At first I stayed hidden. Then I allowed myself to be partly visible. Then I would sit outside boldly, 30 feet, then 20 feet from the bowl. Foot by foot, inch by inch, day after day after day.
After three months the animal allowed me to sit in a chair beside the bowl as it drank or ate. Another three months and I had it coming inside to eat, provided nothing was in its path between the door and the food, the door stayed open, and no one moved during the process. During the cold of winter it started to like the inside. It would not stay there, except overnight, and then would head out again quickly. She took to my little office room, hiding under the computer desk.
Eventually I was able to pet her. To this day I cannot pick her up, except by holding the scruff of the neck. She will not get on or stay on my lap. She will not climb up on anything inside my home. She stays outside most of the time, but comes in to eat or during bad weather. She never bites or scratches, not even the tiniest bit. I have heard her hiss only once, and that was during a face-off with another cat. If anything is even remotely uncomfortable or seems threatening to her, all she does is run. And yet she always comes back quickly. She is always here, waiting for me.
The year before my separation, and one year of work with this animal, it was in the cat’s best interest to get her fixed. Catching her was an ordeal. After getting her inside to eat and then quickly closing the door, it took my wife, a huge quilt, a broom, and about 40 minutes of running around the apartment to finally get the animal into a cat carrier. Off to the vet we went.
The receptionist asked, “What’s its name?” Name? Hadn’t given that much thought as it was feral, and I had not really thought of myself as its owner. It was just a poor thing I was taking care of. I said, “Scaredy Cat.” I explained the cat was feral. “Oh, if you got her in that carrier, she can’t be feral.” I thought, “Really?”
A few hours later I got a call from the vet. “Keith, the fix went fine. I normally keep animals here for 24 hours, but I need you to come get this feral cat. She isn’t mixing well here.” I thought, “Have a talk with your receptionist.” But I was just glad all was well.
During the separation my ex suggested that I keep the cat. The new place she found charged extra for pets and she knew that Scaredy Cat had bonded with me as much as she was going to with any human. It was heart wrenching for her because she did enjoy Scaredy Cat, and I appreciate her sacrifice.
I appreciate it all the more because Scaredy Cat has been a real comfort to me. She will never be a lap cat. But she grows more friendly every day. She is less afraid of humans, though very few can pet her. She comes to me to ask for petting and enjoys it as long as it is one-hand only. She even comes running when I drive up, like a dog would do. Strangely enough she treats me like a member of a clowder. She will get my attention and want me to go walk with her. I’ve never walked a cat before.
That such a small, skittish thing, can bring so much warmth.