It was two years ago this September 9th that we adopted a homeless and rather ordinary looking black and brown three year old tabby. After two years of living with us, Arthur is settling in well. For a cat, he is living the good life. He has a home of his own. We provide him with shelter, food, water and plenty of attention. Arthur even has his own cat door to our screened in deck. There he can while away a day sleeping on a table or watching the birds, squirrels and bunnies that traverse across our back yard.
Whatever trauma was inflicted on him as a young cat still lingers. While he loves his adopted humans very much, he is still not comfortable being picked up or cuddled. He remains profoundly skittish and paranoid. When I can get him on my lap, just a slight shift in position is enough to make him bolt off my lap. He still requires an escape route before going into any room. Having too many people at close range makes him nervous.
At the same time, he dotes on attention and petting. He is an easy cat to please. Scratch him on gently on his head, or under his chin, or pull lightly on his tail and he purrs contentedly and looks at you with adoring eyes. He loves being brushed so much that if he were not so ordinary looking he might win a pet competition. With continual coaxing, I can get him to jump on my lap. Occasionally, he is in such need of attention that he will jump on my lap on his own initiative. He is discovering that being on my lap can be enormous fun. Yet, he has to weigh his fun against his intense feelings of paranoia.
For a while he let us trim his nails but he must have figured out that it reduced his ability to defend himself, so now that is out of the question. This makes bearing a cat on my lap challenging. Even when I wear heavy jeans, I often feel the sharp prick of a claw on my leg. When I wear shorts, I can see the scars I bear for the honor of being loved by a cat.
Arthur has every comfort a cat could want but does not know what luxury means. We bought him a nice clean kitty bed that he has never slept in. We have a cat condo used by our previous feline residents, but he has never ventured into it. His favorite place to sleep is in the basement on a couch, where he has ample warning of people coming and going.
In the morning, I typically find him in our TV room looking out through our blinds at the street. Occasionally he will greet me at the bedroom door in the morning, but since our daughter is a night owl, he tends to need his morning rest. Mostly in the morning, he is looking lethargically out the window. He may well be in a hypnotized state.
His cat door is actually inset into a window in our kitchen. It is hard to get in or outside of without something to rest on, so we have turned a kitchen chair into a cat stool. On the other side of the window is a table we use sporadically when we feel the desire to eat outside he uses as a platform. He makes a dozen trips a day or more outside. The sound of the cat door opening and shutting has become very familiar.
Arthur is a simple cat. He is neither particularly stupid nor brilliant. We have purchased various cat toys for his amusement. For the most part, they are ignored. It is likely that his kittenhood was too traumatic to have learned how to play. All he wants is positive attention at the times of his choosing. He seems to lack most common feline curiosity, although to my surprise I recently saw him looking at me from the other side of the bathroom door. Previous felines in our household delighted in hiding in closets or under furniture. They also enjoyed getting vertical. Arthur likes to always be in plain site and generally avoids sitting on furniture. In that sense, he is a remarkably respectful cat.
He does have one serious deficiency. Perhaps the litter boxes at the shelter were not changed as often as he would like. Despite having two litter boxes cleaned twice a week, he has been known to periodically urinate on the carpet, much to our consternation. He always picks the same spot. When this happens, out comes our oversized bottle of cat urine odor remover, although it never seems to quite do the trick. Worse were the occasions when he would pee down our air ducts. Then his odor would stink up the whole house. There were times that the smell was overwhelming. We have had our ducts professionally cleaned, covered one register completely and put a special vent over the other. His favorite spot on the rug for peeing is now covered with a rubber bath mat. Soon we expect to replace the carpet with a wood floor, which will make future episodes like this easier to deal with. (Yes, he has been to the vet on this issue. One incident showed he had a bladder infection. All other times he has been clean.)
He is learning to beg. Generally we avoid giving him table scraps, but I do keep a container of kitty treats on the kitchen table, and give him a few when he shows up. Fortunately, none of it seems to be going to his hips. Arthur has always been a big boned cat, but never a fat cat.
His least favorite thing is going to the veterinarian. This is to be expected, but with his advanced avoidance skills, it can range from difficult to impossible to get him into a cage. Unfortunately, Arthur has needed to see the vet on various occasions. Most recently, he had to suffer the indignity of having three rotted teeth extracted, which gives him the appearance of Bucky Katt. Now his face looks a bit offset.
His favorite activity is receiving lavish belly rubs from me. I give them to him when I am under the covers in bed shortly before retiring. He can get quite upset if I do not make the time for his belly rub. He knows exposing his tummy could be dangerous, so it must be exquisitely pleasurable to override his innate cautious sense.
I hope for the day when he is completely over his skittishness and I can hold him in my arms and cuddle him like I did with my late, lamented cat Sprite. Perhaps that day will come, but I am increasingly dubious that it will. Arthur is an affectionate kitty, but he has to get affection on his own terms.
Perhaps in another two years, if I post about him again he will be recovered from that early trauma. Perhaps I will be able to cuddle him in my arms someday without risk of being seriously scratched. Stay tuned.