I promised I would write about :
As I said, even though I personally do not believe in letting my cats outside, I understand that other people DO. In the seven years we’ve lived in this house, we’ve had a succession of neighbor cats who visit the yard for awhile (my bird feeders are a cat magnet.) Unfortunately, it is unusual for us to have long-term visitors out here in the sticks. We have a burgeoning coyote population. Which does not make for long and happy lives for cats who are allowed to roam unprotected, especially at night. I’ve lost count of the number of cats and kittens that have appeared, hung out in the neighborhood for a few months, and disappeared. Then the forlorn little “Lost Cat” flyers go up on the light poles. And all I can think is, “Uh-oh….another ‘coyote lunch…’”
Last fall, a new visitor started hanging around my yard. A big, light orange tom with an out-sized, round head that looked like a full moon. And he didn’t just pass through on his rounds of the local bird feeders. More often than not, I would see him outside one of my two sliding glass doors. Staring in. Hopefully. As if he were one of my own who had been out for a stroll, and was ready to come back in for dinner and a nap.
I’m a sucker for any cat, so of course I had to try to make his acquaintance. When I opened the door to go out and pet him, I had to play “kitty goalie”—that little foot-pushing shuffle perfected by cat people wishing to keep a feline on the desired (by the human) side of a door. He was all prepared to march into the house and make himself at home. But I didn’t think he was a stray…he was clean and fit and wasn’t the least bit shy around people. He had a purr loud enough to rattle the windows. Certainly he must have a home somewhere—probably with a new neighbor. So I limited our encounters to outside, and since he didn’t look hungry, I didn’t feed him. But I had to call him something, so I dubbed him “Orangie.” Hey, you don’t get too creative when naming other people’s cats…
As fall deteriorated to winter and the weather got ugly, Orangie continued to appear outside my back doors. Gazing longingly through the glass. In the dark. In the wind and rain. Though I grew increasingly incensed at whoever his owners might be, I still did not let him come in the house, or feed him. With all the stuff going on in my life at the time, I did not have the resources to try to introduce another cat to the household. Especially not a full-grown, unneutered tom. I hoped against hope that he had a decent home somewhere and enough to eat. And I felt like crap.
As spring approached and we emerged from the worst of the weather (both emotional and meteorological) I realized that Orangie hadn’t appeared at the door for many weeks. I hoped that he had decided to stick closer to home,wherever that was. And then, one day, I caught a glimpse of a light orange body skulking away and scrabbling over the fence when I was out in the back yard. It was Orangie. But he looked awful.
He was thin, scruffy and bedraggled. His once soft, puffy coat hung in damp, dirty mats. He had scratches and scabs on his face.
And he was deathly afraid of me. No matter how sweetly I talked to him, that day or any day since, he has cowered and skittered away from me every time.
My heart is broken for him. The once sweet, loving, ready-to-be-anyone’s-friend kitty was obviously dumped or abandoned by someone who apparently had treated him well, then decided they didn’t want him anymore. And since, after all, he’s just a cat, they figured he would be perfectly fine without a real home, fending for himself. By some miracle, he hasn’t ended up coyote lunch. Not yet. But it’s obvious that someone here in this place where he was expected to find a new home was so mean to him, abused him so badly, that he is now as deathly afraid of human beings as the most wild of feral cats. I cannot imagine what horrible thing some person might have done to him to so completely change his personality in such a short time.
Now, I would like to adopt him, if I could. I hope I can convince him not to be afraid of me. I’ve started leaving food out for him. He still seems to spend a lot of time in my yard…he sleeps curled up on the gravel by my back fence. If I talk to him softly enough, I can get him to turn around, sit down and look at me, but he won’t come anywhere near me. Unfortunately, with my insane work schedule, I don’t have a lot of time to invest in the process of helping this kitty trust some person again. I’m going to try, but it will, if anything, take way longer than it should—if it happens at all. And time is one thing I’m afraid homeless kitties in my neighborhood do not have.
In the hope that we will eventually be able to take him under our roof, I’ve given him a new name: William. As in “William of Orange.” (Who apparently is one of my ancestors, a fact uncovered in a genealogy trace done by my grandmother years ago.) We will call him “Will.” I hope…