In some ways it is hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since the kittens found their way into our home and our hearts. In other ways it seems like they have been here forever.
But just a year ago we were actually saying goodbye to our dear sweet Jinx who had been my constant companion for 20 years. She was an oddball but I loved her from the day my sister Shannon said, ‘What about this one?” at the Humane Society. Jinx was just a little boo and a bit of a fraidy cat but she had lots of heart, an amazing vocabulary and loved to hang out and get cuddles.
Not long after Jinx passed away, Shannon’s cat Gobo became ill suddenly and we had to say goodbye to him too. He was the gentlest, sweetest cat I’ve ever known. Nothing seemed to stress this little man out and he was always open to love and affection. I smile to remember the way he would groom the side of my head, licking me right on the temple with diligence and care.
I suppose the loss of Jinx and of Gobo left my heart wide open.
So when I came across these three abandoned kittens, they walked right in. (You can read all about that adventure here) So how are these wild ones doing? How, after all this love and attention are they settling in? Who are they becoming?
Oh, sweet Scout! He has grown into a beautiful boy with a strong aristocratic face and silky soft fur that’s just a little long and raggedy over his belly. He was the first to purr and the only one who lets us pet his tummy. He loves to sit with me in the mornings when I write. In fact, sometimes he’ll whoosh by me, running up the stairs to get to the chair first. He’ll drop and roll and offer up his belly, looking up at me with love and bliss.
We’re gently working on picking Scout up and have made great progress. It started with very small steps. I’d pick him up when he walked by, kiss him on the back of the neck and put him right back down. He’d look startled but after a while he didn’t run away. Then I started picking him up off my chair so that I could put him on my lap. The reward seemed to outweigh the indignity and so he got used to that too. This week I’ve managed to pick him up a few times, holding him close to my heart and giving him reassurance and cuddles. He’s last quite a while. Still, being the sensitive soul that he is he seems to have a sixth sense about when you’re going to pick him up and more often than not, he bolts!
It’s hard to explain but Shibumi is the heart of the pride. She’s got more personality than seems possible to contain in her little body! She’s a very active cat and several times a day she’ll drop one of her favourite balls at our feet – an invitation to play fetch. She’ll play by herself too, dropping the ball from the top of the stairs, racing down to catch it and then running back up to start the game again. She’s a fierce hunter, so much so that it’s almost impossible to play with some toys, like the ones with balls or feathers at the end of a string. She catches the toy in .0001 seconds flat, clenches it in her jaw and growls before the other two even realize we’ve brought a toy out. Game over. #shibumiwins.
That signature Shibumi fierceness translates into a confidence that sets the tone for everyone. She’s the cat who will come over when you kneel down to say hi. She’s the cat who will rub up against your legs, purring. And she’s the only cat who is comfortable being picked up. In fact, Justin has a special way with her. He holds her perched along his arm like she is a jaguar and he is a tree with arms for branches. In those moments she is clearly queen of all she surveys. When Shibumi is happy, everyone is happy.
And then there is Escher, who I, for some strange reason, like to call Escherpants. He’s a beauty with those two-toned eyes and that silvery fur. He’s the one who hangs back, who watches carefully to see if everything is okay. It’s been the longest road with this nervous boy. He has an awkwardness to him, a body language that is different than any cat I have known before. One universal cat sign though that I am delighted to see him exhibit is that confident walk with happy tail in the air, sometimes even curling into that quizzical q. Whenever I see that, I smile.
With Escher we are still working on building his comfort with being touched and we’ve come a very long way. If it’s just him and me in the room and things are quiet, he’s more open to receiving this kind of attention. He’ll let me sit with him and pet him, especially around the neck and ears and face, and he’ll purr with contentment. Sometimes he’ll be so excited about pets that he’ll do a little prance and show me his butt and let me pet him once before he walks away. He loves to sleep on any of my clothes. He curls up in my spot on the bed. Last night just as I was falling asleep I opened my eyes and there he was just looking at me, purring. After a few gentle pets, he lay down and fell asleep.
My sense about Escher is tha the is open to love but that he can find physical affection overstimulating. The sensations can all become too much for him but still, particularly in the quite moments, it seems clear that he is happy to be here.