Last fall, as the leaves of our dogwood turned from green to wine on the branch, we noticed a small gray kitten hanging around. Our six-year-old house cat, Dragon, didn’t seem to mind sharing his territory, in fact, he brought the stranger to the back door on numerous occasions.
Eventually this furry bundle lived in our garage, where we provided warm bedding, food and water to offset the steep drop in temperature. I thought this gray kitty was a boy for the longest time, so named ‘him’ Oscar. In a very short time there seemed to be an approval of this name with an acceptance of our presence. We could enter the garage and ‘he’ would remain in the blanket watching us. But Oscar was no tamer now than when hunting sparrows in the yard before the onset of winter; contact had to be initiated by the feline, not the human.
With temperatures in the low twenties outside, I would wrap up in a jacket and sit on a thick mat in the garage to talk to the kitten and let ‘him’ get used to me. In a week or so Oscar would chatter back at me, rub my legs and seemed to enjoy my presence. As long as I kept my hands to myself we were fine. Sometimes I would be rewarded with a quick kiss on the nose or forehead before the food dish on the counter above my head would become irresistible.
About two weeks before Christmas we propped the door open to the kitchen. The black cat was accommodating, sharing his food and water dishes, not minding as this small gray fluff ball followed him around, learning to drink from the tub faucet that perpetually runs for
them, finding the litter box downstairs, and playing with his toys. It took about two weeks of leaving the door ajar before we thought the kitten was comfortable enough to close it. Our heating bill took a hit in the name of caring for a feral beast, but it was worth it. Still, Oscar had to call the shots when interacting or we didn’t know where to begin looking for ‘him’.
Were we surprised when 2013 found our little bundle of fluffy joy in heat! She got very friendly, allowed, even encouraged us to pet her head and back. She wouldn’t leave poor Dragon alone. Calling a vet to get a spay appointment I still wasn’t sure how I was going to get her into the borrowed crate, but it had to happen. Boxes and the crate were strewn around the house for two weeks to help her feel safe with them.
Two months later and the scars from that first attempt at capture are still visible on my arms and chest. For weeks Oscar would hide when we wore shoes in the house or got too close. We made a second appointment, this time my valiant husband donned his leather jacket and gloves – we knew we had only one chance to catch her – but she was still not interested in getting anywhere close to either of us or cornering herself in a box. I returned the crate to its owner, put all of the cardboard boxes in the garage and resigned myself to being patient for an indeterminate length of time.
For nearly two weeks now my normally sanguine fat, black cat has been hissing and attacking the bolder, brasher, bigger-than-she-was gray kitty. Our normally quiet household has been turned upside down with cat-fights at all times of the day and night. But Oscar seems to have determined her two-legged housemates are ok, as she jumps on my bed and rubs against me before jumping back down. Waiting for me in the hallway, she rolls on her back for me to scratch her tummy lately. She has the softest pewter coat with a powdered nose and dark gray rings on her tail.
Knowing we had to be getting close to another heat cycle, I ordered a new crate (we don’t have much in the way of stores or shopping options around here). It arrived today; none too soon as we were treated to a chirpy, cuddly gray kitty wanting lots of attention this evening – which is just the way she started her last heat cycle. The crate is sitting in the dining room. This one has a door on top as well as the traditional door on the one end, which is open. She didn’t seem to mind the crate today and played with her wine cork toy right around it earlier in the day. My dear husband will be away on business the next two days, so I will contend with the love-hate relationship between the two cats and maybe, with any luck, we will have more success confining our gray adoptee, Oscar, so she can visit the vet for the first time in the next week or so. The snow is melted, the witch hazel has been in bloom for weeks and the daffodils are reaching their bright green tips through the soil, it will be difficult to keep Oscar inside as the weather gets warmer again.
Wish us luck!