An exercise in composition (written with tongue firmly planted in my cheek):
She had been recovered from a rescue clinic and was quite traumatized by her first few weeks in this world. She was discovered hidden behind a tub in the bathroom caring for her new siblings. I later discovered that the sound of a grocery cart rolling made her jump and run in abject fear. I surmised it was the sound made by the original caretaker returning home to continue drowning her family in the toilet.
She was quite sick for the first few days and we both doted on her completely. A completely alien experience had transformed her existence from cowering in fear to a cold cell with noises beyond comprehension, to a relatively quiet place of mystery. Nothing that immediately threatened her life appeared to be present after three days of hiding in a variety of enclosed dark areas and so she began coming out to explore in the open.
On the fourth day of her recovery, I returned home to find a new ‘kitty condominium’ had been delivered and this was a new kind of heaven to her. What began as a tiny cotton-ball hanging upside down from the dangling ball of twine has become a fully-grown adult curling up in one of its compartments. This has been without doubt our wisest investment for her to date.
As I’ve come to know her well from working out of my home, I’ve seen many a variety of moods and expressions, all providing for me a means of communication where I can understand what she wants. She has taught me well for I’ve come to witness and recognize many that are distinctively clear. What follows are some of my observations and interpretations of her behaviour:
1. Give me ALL of your attention, NOW.
I, if not responding as quickly as desired, am reminded of this request on an insistent basis, either by scratching my chair or jumping in front of my face and staring until I do something about it, to tapping on and getting her claws trapped on whatever portion of my anatomy is closest to her.
2. OH…. That’s Wonderful, Do it some more.
Her favourite seems to be the double back-scratcher. This is when I drag my fingers in a claw position down her back hand over hand. When she turns her head to look, her eyes are half-closed in bliss.
3. OK, That’s ENOUGH. STOP.
Once I exhaust her interest level sufficiently, she begins to withdraw, slowly at first and if I’m not paying close enough attention to this change, am reminded of it by degree. Usually, I’m able to tune in by the time she starts moving away, instead of in and toward the scratching.
If I’m being particularly dense, I learn to be more attentive in future as a result of the scratches I have to nurture for a couple of days following.
4. DON’T Touch Me!
If she’s walking by in this mood, her back can sag at any point along it that may be affected by my hand as it approaches. I can almost feel the magnetic force of my hand as it repulses her to the point where it seems her belly is pressed ground-ward by the invisible force on her back.
5. Can’t You Do ANY better?
“Ya, yer giving me what I want, but it’s only because I’m doing YOU a favour… so, come on…. put a little effort into it, will ya?”
What more can I say about this phenomenon?
6. TREAT? Now that’s what I want to hear!
Say the magic word to make her ears pop and instantly bring her to full attention. Shake that familiar-sounding container and she’ll come running out of hiding.
However, if she’s too caught up exploring taboo territory while on a full belly though, is the only instance where this can fail and one in which it can be almost impossible to capture her attention.
7. SURE! I’ll Have A Snack, too.
If I’M eating, so is she, dammit! She will do whatever it takes to present her case and starts out with friendly requests. If I don’t respond correctly, she will plant herself directly in my field of view and stare at me until I do.
Her expression will change from feigned disinterest to agitation and disgust over the length of a time determined by a corresponding level of her desire.
8. So… Where are WE going?
If I put my coat on when she’s restless, she will guard the door until it opens. If she’s not sure of her interest, she will decide after being halfway out for a while. If she has no interest, I don’t see her anywhere nearby.
9. NOT YET!
I’ve learned to recognize when she’s decided she wants to return indoors, usually only a few seconds are required, enough to allow her to feel in control when she does comply.
If I don’t remember to keep the balcony door open long enough for her to decide if she wants to join me outside, she will stand up pressing her entire body against the glass until I notice her.
When returning indoors, at times; she’ll be ready before I am and is poised waiting for the smallest crack to open and allow ingress. She is the only cat I’ve known that will, when she feels like it, respond to a verbal request.
Many times I like to simply sit and watch her as an expression of nature unfold in front of me. A live theatre event personally performed for my own benefit. Her expressions are many and varied; from the multi-staged positioning of her ears attuned to adjusting priorities arising from a surrounding environmental aural chaos to the manner in which she daintily holds her paw in a practiced pose amidst a mid-step.
I’ve often entertained the thought that if I were able to provide a larger space to allow her more freedom of movement, I would get a male cat in order to provide a counter-point to my observations. I often wonder how much of her behaviour is characteristic of her species and how much is an expression of her gender.
When such moments of reverie are shattered however, by a penetrating scream in the form of a command such as “SHUT THE DOOR“, I smile inwardly with a comforting knowledge that some things will never be the same.
Perhaps the only thing that all of this truly means is that we’ve simply just gotten to know each other.