Good intentions


Friday morning, Nov 26

Today is the day I’m finally going to bring Pretty, the feral cat that I’ve been taking care of for the last five years, into the house and try to tame her down. I’ve prepared my home office with a litter box, a safe hidey-hole and have spritzed the entire room with At Ease, a pheromone-based herbal calming spray.  I have no illusions that this will be particularly easy, but I’m going to give it a go. It has taken a long time for this little cat to trust me enough to let me pet her, to be able to pick her up.  I hope I don’t blow all that collateral in this attempt to bring her in so she is safe and warm.

Friday afternoon, Nov 26

Pretty was no where to be found when I went downstairs to feed her this morning.  I am not entirely surprised as this has been happening more and more. Other cats in the neighborhood have apparently caught wind to the fact that there is food and a shy cat who refuses to fight for her territory over here.

What does surprise me, however, is that someone picked up her food dishes from outside my back door and placed them on my porch while I was out of the house for a mere hour.  I find this extremely disturbing.  And while I’m not proud of this leap in logic, I took it as a sign that Pretty was dead.  Yes, in my dark fantasies, people kill cats and then leave their empty dishes on your porch as way of letting you know.  (Note to self: skip the annual Godfather marathon on AMC next year.)

Friday evening, Nov 26

Pretty isn’t dead. When I head out to my car to go to the grocery story, she comes dashing up the stairs in search of food.  I’m ecstatic to see her, but the nerves kick in as I know this is my big chance.

I put down half a can of food for her and reserve the other half for when she is inside – an immediate reward for her cooperation.  As she wolfs down her meal, I put grab the towel I planned to wrap her in so she doesn’t hurt me or herself.

I lean down to pet her as she licks the last morsels from the dish.  Her fur is so soft, and she’s so damn pretty, I smile every time I see her. Such a good girl. I pet around her neck, softly gathering enough skin for my next move.

Quickly, I scruff her and she goes limp, like a kitten being transported by a momma cat.  Foolishly I think, “ta da! This wasn’t so hard.”  That is, until I had to remove one hand from the cat in order to open the door.  At which point she became extremely agitated and squirmed right out of my arms. Damn!

Fortunately, rather than running back into the bushes never to be seen again, she parked herself a just a few feet away from me and looked at me indignantly.

In my fantasies, she knows that I only want to keep her safe and healthy. And while she certainly is on board with the ends, she ain’t crazy about my planned means.  If she had her druthers, I’d chase away all of the other neighborhood critters so she could live easy and unharassed. But I can’t. So, this is the best I can offer her.

Saturday, Nov 27

Pretty is a no show today both for her morning and evening meal.  I guess she was more pissed off at me than she let on.

Sunday morning, Nov 28

I’m started to get a bit more agitated about Pretty’s lack of cooperation with my grand scheme.  Once again, she is MIA at feeding time.  In her place, however, is a black and white cat who has been hanging around for the last week or so.  I feel a bit guilty at how antagonistic I feel about this stranger, knowing that it is partially responsible for Pretty not showing up. Yet, it’s just another hungry homeless cat. Where is my compassion?

Sunday afternoon, Nov 28

I had sadly resigned myself to the fact that Pretty was going to disappear for a few days due to my clumsy first attempt at capturing her, and the fact a new cat has moved in on her territory.  I was trying to keep myself from going down my usual path of thinking the worst possible scenario, but those thoughts were still bubbling in the back of my head.

Around 5pm, the Boyfriend comes running into the house. “Guess who is outside?”  Like me, he is very invested in making sure this little cat is safe.  “I put some food on the curb for her and she’s chowing down” he said conspiratorially.

I grab a can of wet food which I know would lure her up closer to the house.  Standing in her usual feeding place, I open the can so she can hear it. Within seconds, she is making her way upstairs. I can tell she’s nervous, but her hunger and desire for the good stuff is stronger than her fear.   The Boyfriend is standing at the ready by the door holding a towel, which, somehow I thought would make it easier.

As I did before, I pet her as she scarfs downs, paying attention to the area around her neck so that if she decides to bolt, I am ready to scruff and grab. I look back at the Boyfriend to signal I was ready to make my move.

Once again, I grab her by the scruff of her neck, but this time she’s not having any of it and tries to bolt, with me holding on for dear life and in the most awkward of positions.  Finally I have to release her as my legs cramp up and my back starts crying for mercy.

She runs down the stairs to her lower level feeding area and starts scarfing down her crunchies.  I’m amazed that still allows me to touch her. It’s a testament to her sweet nature (or her ravenous hunger) that despite two foiled attempts to grab her, she trusts me enough to still pet her.  So, what do I do to repay her kindness?

Once again, shooting a silent glance to my co-conspirator, I position my hands around her midriff, just like you would pick up the family cat, and pull her in close to me.  Immediately she struggles and squirms. The boyfriend comes in and throws the towel over her, which freaks her the fuck out.  Now Pretty ain’t playin’. She’s unfurled those long, wild claws and starts fighting for her life. She wins and runs into the bushes as if being pursued by a deadly predator.

I sadly call for her and apologize for scaring her.  When she doesn’t call back, I know she has fled the area. I’m afraid that after three times the trust has been broken.

Monday evening, Nov 29

Apparently, she doesn’t know how to hold a grudge and comes bounding out to see me when she hears my car drive up.  (Yes, I am fully aware she is probably much more excited about the food I provide than she is about me personally, but I do like to think she likes me.) She shows no signs of wariness or fear.

For now, the plans to capture Pretty are on hold. Perhaps indefinitely. While the security of knowing she is safe is a high priority for me, I think freedom may be a higher one for her.

8 responses »

  1. Quite an adventure you’re having with Pretty. I hope you’re able to lure her in. I went through something similar with a feral cat back in January and February, wanting her to be safe and warm (instead of out in the snow and ice). She showed up during a blizzard.

    Keeping my fingers crossed for you and for Pretty.

  2. Maybe just continuing to feed her, and allowing her her freedom, is the best thing you can do for Pretty. As an adult cat, possibly the trauma of being brought inside would freak her out so much that it would negate the benefits of being warm and dry and safe from physical harm? Could you provide a dry, safe place for her to sleep that’s in the yard, not in the house, for the winter?

  3. Bethipoo – Thank you. I’m glad you, even as a non-cat person, enjoyed it.

    BBG – She’s not so wild that she requires a Have-A-Heart trap. Since I can touch her and pick her up. However, should we try again, I am going to have a carrier at the ready so I don’t have to lug a squirming kitty several yards.

    Robin – Thank you. How did it work out with your feral?

    Omsbudman – Right?! I try to explain it to her, but she just doesn’t listen.

    Trucie – Oy, if only you knew how hard we’ve tried to build this little one some shelter. The boyfriend build her a beautiful little house – complete with insulation! Nope. Not interested. Then a neighborhood cat lady put these little plastic dog houses and furnished them with soft old blankets. Again, she won’t touch them (though they did not go to waste as other stray cats have moved into them). So, I figured maybe she’s a little claustrophobic and doesn’t like to be boxed in. Granted, the house is nothing but a big box, but it is a big box with places to hide and places from which to survey her territory.

    If it was just a matter of the elements, I would let her be. It doesn’t snow where I live and rarely gets below freezing. My concern is the influx of dogs and other cats, and for whatever reason, she always comes out the low cat on the totem pole. The last time she got completely pushed out of her territory for over a month and she came back scraggly and paranoid. I know, I know, life is full of suffering and perhaps I can’t stop the inevitable for this little one, but I really want to try and see if she can adjust to a comfy life inside.

  4. We ended up trapping her, and a lovely and very kind woman who does cat rescues took her. The woman, Brenda, works for a vet and was extremely good with the kitty when we brought the kitty to her. Brenda had her spayed and vaccinated, worked with her for a while, and then found her a nice home.

    If interested, you can see some photos of the kitty here:

    I probably should not have used the term “feral” in relation to Barny (as we named the kitty when she was here). I think she was an abandoned kitten, although it was hard to tell. She would come near the house for food but never did let us get close to her.

  5. Shy was much the same regarding this bringing in to safety issue … i did suggest, every time i took food out to him, that winter was coming and he should seriously consider moving in … in the end it happened just like that

    i think it took 2yrs to earn his trust and while i did carry him indoors, he allowed it and settled instantly as if he’d never been living out in the cold

    another thing to consider might be to try and catch her before she’s eaten enough? or even at all? every beauty’s different of course but Pretty’s made it clear you’re her person …

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