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My black cat Lucy—three years old now, adopted from the pound—came to me with a confession last night.
“Yes Sweetpea?” I said as Lucy settled down on my chest as I lay in bed, trying to read a book. No more of that though: Lucy’s innocent and sweet whiskered face was right next to mine.
“I think I’m feral,” she meeped, looking around wild-eyed in case her happily domesticated sister happened to pounce upon this snuggly moment, ruining it.
“No you’re not,” I cooed, patting her butt, which rose into the air; there’s a butt-button back there somewhere. “You’re just shy. You stopped being feral the moment I took you home from the shelter. Remember?”
I remember sitting in a large but friendly room with about 200 kittens and other people who were there looking for good ones. I’d been instructed to let my kittens pick me, so I sat there cross-legged on the cement floor, waiting for who would come up. The first one was Sara: she was definitely not feral, simply laid off from the Flying Feline Wallendas. She trapezed into my life and has always been outgoing.
But then there was Lucy, a little pudgier than Sara, a solid color black—bused in from another district? For whatever reason, she too wandered toward me, sniffed, and climbed into my lap. She was home. She was five weeks old.
I’m sure that in some way, my cats remember their kitty-colds, their eye infections…all from being at the pound too long. I nursed them for three weeks once they were in my house, every day gently applying salve to their eyes, squirting antibiotic broth into their tiny mouths. I fed them and nursed them back to good health; I clipped their nails and started learning about their toy preferences.
But still, Lucy struggles. She continued last night with her whiskers in my face: “It’s hard for me to live with a more assertive cat, so even though I love you, I hide from you.”
“Luce,” I said, massaging her shoulders which I know she likes. “I always know where to find ya. Just because you’re shy doesn’t make you feral.”
There’s the snack issue in our house: We get snacks twice a day, fairly promptly at 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sara reminds me of this routine by leaping into the air from a sitting position over and over (she is, after all, a retired Flying Wallenda, probably a dog in a former life.)
Lucy—always most comfortable in the back of the house, under my bed—wants snacks too. She has a good nose and will conduct a commando mission from underneath the bed to the kitchen, where the snacks are dispensed, but time and again I have to follow her back to wherever she has come from before (darkness under a bed), and leave the snacks within her reach.
I lie on my back and push kitty treats under my bed. “I can’t see you, sweetie, but I know you’ll like these!”
For over three years I’ve been following Lucy around. She enjoys the sunshine patch in the middle bedroom at 10 a.m.; I make it a point to go in there and rub her belly. She comes to me when I’m working at the computer later, meeps and makes mini-dashes towards whatever sun might be shining in my house at that time. Her message is always clear: “Mom! There is sunshine that you’re missing by the back window. I want to enjoy it and share it with you! Come, Mother, and lie in the sunshine with me.”
Lucy always has good ideas.
She came to me this morning as I worked on the computer, feeling her way gingerly onto my lap. All cuddled in, she began: “It’s hard not to be feral, Mom. You don’t know the conditions I was living in before I met you. I love living with you because we play fun games, my food bowl is always filled, and I know the rules of this house. But I’m skittish and afraid, and nobody ever taught me to be confident. I’m sorry I run away from you, but am glad you find me.”
Then I sneezed and she was off again like any child would be, playing with her sis, tormenting her sis, running down the hallways of my house looking for a new adventure.
Maybe I am feral too: untrained, wild, anti-social. Sometimes I even have fear in my eyes.
No wonder these two picked me.