17 September 2012

Mary, the Cat

Reading the insightful WayofCats blog makes me want to wax loquacious about my own kitty companions. I'll start with my beautiful big cat, Mary. 

Before we got the furniture into our new house, Mary couldn't find anywhere comfortable.
Until she got on top of the fridge, that is.
This is where she stayed, day and night, for the better part of a month.

We picked up Mary from a Furkids-sponsored PetSmart one lazy Sunday afternoon. Where we lived at in downtown Atlanta, there was a strip mall no more than maybe five or ten minutes away. On nice days, we liked to go walking and check out the Staples, the organic food mart, the Home Depot. But especially, we liked to go hang out with the kitties. 

Every sunday, they would let the kittens and the cats out of the cages that they had been temporarily sequestered in, partially to let the cats socialize with each other and get some of their boundless energy out, and partially to entice potential owners over with their cute shenanigans and scratchy mewling. There was always a volunteer there, of course, but we were welcomed pretty effusively into, essentially, a big wire bin full of cats and cat toys. The wife simply adored it, and we would visit the animal shelter repeatedly, sometimes twice or more a week. On the weeks we missed the free-roaming bit, we'd just check out the cats in their cages. They were generally happy to see us, if they weren't sleeping, and even though you're not supposed to poke your fingers through the cages, we would anyways. Only a single cat ever bit at our fingers (it bit me, the crazy thing), and I just learned my lesson. 

Besides, I'd had a cat pretty much my entire life; my wonderful (now deceased) Mittens was the guidepost for my cat interactions- through him, I'd gotten used to a cat that waited at the door for me; a cat that licked marshmallows; a great big cat who would beg for your attention and yet run from strangers. He was a great grey blur when he decided to try and relocate his massive body (which was only ever when new people came to the house) and he was one of my best friends. The day he died, it left a great fat hole in my life. He taught me how to read cats' body language, how to understand their thoughts through subtle head motions, tail quirking, and slight dilating of the pupils. With him as my spiritual cat guide (so to speak,) cats were easy to understand.

Which is why it hurt me so badly to see poor Mary. Where other cats had been more than happy to come out and say hello, or meow for attention, or just sleep and ignore us, I could see how badly the skinny black cat wanted our attention. She peeked at me from the back of the cage with her great green eyes, but made no motion whatsoever to come up to the cage. She was pushing herself as far back from the bars of the cage as she could get, and yet her eyes weren't wide and afraid- they were cautious, and searching. 

After our car was totalled in an accident, Animal Control picked  Mary up.
She had to stay there while we stayed in a hotel nearby.
When we got her back, she'd lost weight and was really afraid.
This picture is of me coaxing her out of her carrier, which I draped a blanket over.

I'd seen this look before. It was the look my poor, scared Mittens gave me when we had company over. It was the look that said, "Please, I'm so lonely and afraid, please help me." My heart melted when I put my fingers up to the cage and stood there. Mary edged closer, before she finally rubbed her head against my fingers. And she started purring!

I'd been telling my wife that I wasn't sure if we should get a cat. Money was tight, extremely tight, and cats can get expensive. Besides the adoption fees and potential medical bills, the cat would need food, dishes, cat litter, a cat box, all things that weren't going to be easy to come by on the skeletal income we were subsiding off of. Furthermore, I knew my wife (girlfriend at the time). She had, and still has, an extremely soft heart, and a tendency towards impulsiveness. If I said, "We can have a cat, yes," then we'd have one the very next day, probably the same day. 

So, it was surprising to her when I turned to her and said, "We are getting this cat."

And we got that cat. 

When we brought her home, she was terrified. It was an ordeal getting her into the temporary carrier the  shelter gave us. When cornered, she hissed until she realized it wasn't doing any good and then cried piteously. When we got her out of her cage, she scrambled into the first open cage she spotted (much to the consternation of the cat sleeping inside of it), sprinted out again, and kept trying cages until she found an empty one. The volunteer there insisted that she'd be ok, and offered to show us how to trim her claws. Mary wanted nothing to do with it, and managed to deal a couple of pretty deep gashes into the legs of the oblivious woman with her back legs. Who in their right mind tries to grab an obviously terrified cat and trim their claws? I was just ready to get her home.

When she was home, she wasn't much better. I opened the cage and she slowly peeked out, then sprinted into the closed, dove into the corner on some of my clothes (damn it, cat) and set up shop. I didn't see her move for weeks. But I knew she was eating when I woke up to her using the litterbox the next night, and to the sound of her eating out of the bowl I set just outside the closet. 

I'll spare the rest of the details, but soon she moved under the futon, a spot that remains her favorite in the house. She outgrew most of her shyness, although she remains a very, very timid cat. But she has a big personality behind the seeming shyness. When she wants food, she will come out from her sleeping spot and stare at you. If you ignore her, a couple quiet mews. If you keep up, she'll try a nice yowl or two, and maybe she'll come over and poke at you with her paws. When she wants to cuddle, she will walk over to you and ask, politely, with a mauu and a stare. When she wants you awake, she'll poke her head over the side of the bed, and quietly mew until you wake up. 

For a period of nearly two years, she was our only cat- first in Atlanta, and then when we moved out of the city to accommodate my loving mother after her divorce. Mary never much liked moving, of course, but the futon was always there, I was always there, and my wife was always there. And Mary was happy. Until, that is, the arrival of Pat aka Patricia aka Dammitpat. But that's a story for another time; I've already spent way too long talking about my damn cat. 

1 comment:

  1. A nice read there. We recently adopted a very timid cat into a house already run by a huge black Tom name Chewie. It took a couple of months for her to let us get near her without complaint, but after 9 months, she now sleeps on the bed with us a bit each night, and as long as the wookie cat isn't around, will even head into the front room for a bit of fuss.

    Oh, and as an aside, nice to see the scarlet letter on your blog.