Saturday, October 16, 2010

Feral Cat

I learned, first from EB Misfit, then from Balloon Juice, that today is National Feral Cat Day. Okay, sometimes I wish we'd just go with National Everything Day (Week/Month) and be done with it.  This week has been National Earth Science Week; Monday was National Fossil Day and yesterday was International Water Day.  I didn't post on any of those, not because I have anything against them- quite the contrary- but because I couldn't think of anything interesting to say.  And if I do think of something interesting to say about them, I'm not going to worry about whether it's the "right" day.

On the other hand, sometimes I appreciate the reminder that something is important, such as National Coming Out Day, or at least important to me... like National Feral Cat Day. See, my companion animal is a feral.  I moved into my current location about five and a half years ago, and she and her siblings were around that spring. I remember them dashing out from the dumpster when someone would walk by.  A neighbor and I took to feeding them occasionally at first, then regularly, then dependably. Over a period of three years, Ozma and sibs became more tolerant of human proximity and even contact.  Sure, I expected to be swatted and scratched at first, and I was. We went through a hilarious period, for about a month, where the obvious attitude on the cats part was exasperation- "Would you Just...Cut... That... OUT!? We're tryin' to eat here." My occasional gales of laughter were much more frightening to the cats than my hand, by that point.

Patience.  Quiet and calm. Gentleness and persistence.

Then in April three years ago, I held the door open when they were done eating, and Ozma walked into my apartment as if it was the most natural thing ever.  Her sister, a little black fluff ball, disappeared shortly afterward, though for over a year I would see her occasionally- she was almost as affectionate as Ozma, and I suspect she adopted another human. Her brother, a gorgeous black and gray cat with a white bib and paws, was always the least comfortable with me, and never warmed to being touched.  He's still around- he and Ozma were cuddling in the hall just a couple of days ago, and I generally set out some food for him when I see him, but I make no effort to lure him in anymore.  He looks quite healthy.

So she walked in, carefully inspected the apartment for forty-five minutes, then headed under the desk and curled up and went to sleep by my feet.  There have been lots of entertaining, exasperating and warm moments since.  The latest being that, despite having a bin with kitty litter in it for over two years now, Ozma has just in the last week figured out what it's good for.  She is apparently delighted.  After finishing her business, she spends five to ten minutes burying it, over and over and over.

She spends most of her time inside now, but during the summer, I leave the porch door propped open.  Most days days since spring, she chose not to leave with me in the morning. She was there when I came home too, and I was worried she wasn't getting out at all.  But a couple of times I came home early, and she showed up about 4:30.  I generally come home between 5 and 7, so she obviously has her own schedule. She is extraordinarily affectionate; I don't think I've ever met a cat that has been as deliriously happy to be petted, scratched and rubbed as she is.

On the other hand, she's downright terrified of other people- which may not be a bad thing in a neighborhood full of frat boys. When I have visitors, she either bolts out the porch door, or hides quivering in my bedroom.  So she's not "domesticated" in the normal sense of the word, and despite the fact that I've been a powerless possession for over three years now, she will always be feral in a way. Corvallis has a program to catch, neuter and give shots to feral cats, then release them in the neighborhood where they were caught, so I imagine most of her other interactions with people have been scary and traumatic. To this program, and the people who volunteer and staff it, I say "Thanks!" You have contributed to some of my happiest moments of the last few years.


Dana Hunter said...

So that's what she looks like! She's a beautiful girl. You're lucky to have each other! And huzzah - she finally learned what a litter box is all about! Just in time for winter, too.

Lockwood said...

Yeah, I have to close the door during the cold months. I try to make sure she goes out a couple of times a day, but knowing what the litter box is for will make both our lives easier, I think.