I came across this image on Facebook the other day and it stopped me in my tracks.
The Paw Pact is a pledge between Human and Animal that is a lifetime commitment. It is serious business, not to be entered into because of boredom or the desire or need to have a fancy accessory.
According to what I was told by the rescue shelter, my Annie-Cat was surrendered along with her sister by her Human family because they had just had a baby and couldn’t keep the cats. Annie and her sister were not kittens, they were at least 8 years old at the time.
My precious cat suffered so much.
When I met Annie, she and her sister had spent a month being cared for and helped toward adjustment by rescuers. They were trying to get her to a point where she was able to trust enough to gain a new forever home.
It took several days, but between the two of us, cat and human, we started to build the foundation of a relationship that has changed me on many levels.
A Tough Sale
My first sight of this amazing cat was a photograph on a web site. She was sitting on a table in front of a window and the expression on her face was plainly, “C’mon, I dare you to come and see me.”
During my first visit, Annie hissed and growled and barricaded herself in her kitty-cube clearly afraid. I don’t believe she was afraid of someone physically abusing her, I think she was afraid of being emotionally hurt.
In fact, she never set paw outside her cube during my first visit. She would allow me to stroke her soft fur and I let her sniff my fingers but anything else was a strong NO. At the end of that visit, I asked her if she would like me to return in a couple of days. Grumble.
The second day I visited, as I pulled into the parking space in front of the building, I looked up and who did I see sitting in the window? By the time I was in the building, Annie was back in her cube. She still growled and grumbled but there was a change in her behavior. At the end of that visit, I asked her if she was okay with the idea that her helpers pack up her belongings so I could take her home with me. I told her I would return on Saturday and we would go home.
Saturday was a damp, dreary day in May. It was also the day before Mother’s Day. A couple of days earlier, after I had announced I would be adopting a new cat, friends gave me an impromptu Kitty Shower complete with toys for the new addition. I had a new bag of food, litter and a brand new kitty food dish. All I needed was the cat.
Guess Who was in the window once again when I pulled into the parking spot. Guess Who was back in her kitty cube when I entered her room. After a while, we coaxed Annie out of her cube (something she wasn’t real sure about) and her helpers packed her cube and a couple of special toys that had come to the shelter with her. It was the first time I had seen her outside the cube.
With a lot of complaints, we managed to get Annie into my carrier and all her stuff into the car. I’m pretty sure that everyone in the county heard about the trip from the shelter to my home – less than a mile away.
Once home, she investigated the entire house, found her food, water and litter and proceeded to make herself at home. One other big change occurred that day. The cat who hissed and growled when you blinked in her direction had a major attitude adjustment. It was late and we were both tired. I looked at Annie and said, “Are you tired? I’m going to bed, want to come with me?” It was the last time she hissed at me.
The first month was interesting. I learned that this was no average cat. Annie was smart, perceptive and curious. She wasn’t afraid to push the envelope, either.
One night, after I went to bed, I heard a sound from the other end of the house and got up to investigate. What I had heard sounded like something had dropped or fallen. Annie was sitting in the doorway to the library, watching me. I discovered that one of the DVDs in the rack had been pulled off the shelf. I put it back, noticing that she had not stopped watching me. Would I get angry? Would I yell at her?
“You okay?” I asked as I put the DVD back. “No damage here, but I’ll bet you were a bit surprised.” She looked at me. I said goodnight and went back to bed.
A few days later I went to bed and realized that the cat, who had a habit of coming with me, was nowhere to be seen. I fidgeted a bit and then got up to find her curled up in my chair in the library.
“There you are!” I said as she looked up. “I missed you.” The expression on her face was priceless – I wish I had a camera. The idea that I had come to find her because I missed her was such a stunner she wasn’t sure what to do.
Annie hates the rain. I live in a house with a metal roof. The year she came to live with me it rained. A lot.
I came home one particularly rainy day to find the entire roll of toilet paper on the floor and the cat sitting outside the bathroom door with a sheepish expression on her face. “I didn’t think you would notice.” she seemed to be saying. I gave her a hug, replaced the toilet paper and moved the stand out of her reach.
It was over a year before I got an actual ‘meow’ out of her. One friend was convinced Annie didn’t like her until I explained that, for the most part, Annie’s vocabulary consisted of growls and grumbles.
Another friend was astounded to realize I wasn’t kidding when I said that Annie and I actually do talk to each other. And, yes, I know what you are thinking, but we do. I speak English and she speaks Feline and we manage to communicate. A bit. Enough.
Annie is a cat of great warmth, humor and affection. She is also very sensitive. Playful, she can tear around the house like her tail is on fire and play with toys for long periods of time. I think about the defensive cat in the photograph and my heart aches. She was so hurt, frightened and alone.
One thing (of many) surprised me about Annie. She had been declawed by her previous owners. Whoever did the job, didn’t to a great job. When I met Annie, she would hide her paws. Literally.
Now, I do have to take a step back and say, in all honesty, that Annie is no beauty queen. She is, to put it bluntly, a mixed breed average looking, short legged feline with fur that could match cardboard without trying.
When I looked at her, I paid attention to the different colors in her fur and the way her eyes changed. I made a point of looking for the ‘pretty’ in a cat who, well, would never win Best of Breed. And knew it.
I started telling her what I saw that was pretty and how soft her fur was and after a while she started to relax a bit. Then I started noticing how she hid her paws. It took a bit, but slowly and surely she let me stroke her paws and uncurl her toes. I told her how pretty her paws were.
At first, she looked at me with that “Who do you think you are fooling?” expression. But slowly and surely she came to realize that I wasn’t lying to her, I really did think she had pretty fur and her paws were pretty, too.
The Inter Species Love Affair
We humans tend to think of a ‘person’ as a Human Being. I tend of think of a ‘person’ as an individual of no specific species.
Annie and I are pretty close. We love to curl up together and listen to a good book or a radio show. She likes to place Catch The Tail with me – The game is pretty much me capturing her tail in my fingers as she wags it out of reach as she curls up next to me.
If she is particularly In A Mood, she will deliberately walk on me as she moves from one side of the bed to the other.
We are Ladies of a Certain Age and we know it.
We have been together for seven years now. I cringe when I do the math, because I would prefer the number reflecting her age be smaller.
She has learned the value of letting me know what she wants, whether it be a treat or a cuddle. I have learned the value of paying attention and listening.
I’ve had cats for many years, but Annie is the first cat I’ve lived with who was more than just the cat in the house. She is really part of the family.
This confuses people. They don’t get why I am concerned about her.
A few years ago as I was preparing for a trip to the hospital, I was less concerned about my surgery than how Annie would cope. I didn’t dare board her – she would think I was abandoning her. I couldn’t leave her on her own because I would be gone at least a week.
Thanks to dear friends, I found a person who came to check on Annie every day I was away. She even called me every night and put the phone on speaker so I could talk with the cat.
The cat was ecstatic to hear my voice and we would chat for a few minutes. When I came home, I had a cat who was not nearly as stressed as she could have been – and neither was I.
At the end of the day, I believe we should treat animals the way we treat humans. While I understand that there are situations where an animal must be turned in to get a new home, I also understand the trauma they suffer.
I’ve seen the impact of a loving home on a cat who thought she had been tossed away.
Yeah, I’m head over heals in love with my cat. And I’m pretty sure my cat is over the moon about me, too. I hope everyone will be lucky enough to have a similar relationship with their non-human companion. It can be quite a blessing. 🙂