The excitement began not long after new neighbors had moved in next door to us and brought with them two American Bull Dogs and a female Boxer; all were human friendly enough, but were unaltered and the two males were excitable and constantly struggling for the attention of the female as well as looking for and succeeding in, finding ways to escape confinement of their own back yard.
June 20, 2006 began like any other day, but soon took a turn for the worse for one little stray, feral kitten of which there were many in our neighborhood. I heard a commotion outside our front window, one of cat screeches and dog growls and raced to the front door to see one of the male Bull Dogs dive head first behind the azalea bushes on the front of our house. Fearful that I wouldn’t be able to squelch the confrontation with voice commands alone, I raced back inside the house and grabbed the broom from our utility room with no intention of hitting any animal with it; only protecting myself should the need arise.
Once outside I found that the dog had already managed to capture the kitten and was standing in our driveway mauling it. As some dogs will this one refused to give up the kitten despite my screams and flaying arms so I moved in with the broom and gave the dog a smack across the head with the brush end of the broom. It was just enough to surprise the dog and lucky for all of us, he dropped the kitten and turned and ran towards home.
With adrenaline rushing through the kittens veins, once free it scrambled for the azalea bushes to hide with me not far behind, getting down on my knees to try and see such a tiny figure hiding in the tangle of bushes. Once I had spotted the little thing I reached out a hand and was quickly reminded that there is nothing more dangerous than any animal large or small, that has been injured or terrorized as this kitten had been. So I backed off and went inside to get my leather gloves, and a very large towel to throw over the kitten once I was able to reach it and drag it out from under the bushes.
In the meantime, the offending dog had decided to come back and give it one more go. This time however, it only took me stomping my feet on the ground and gruffly telling him to “go home” before he heeded the warning with hesitation, a twist of his head, and an almost perplexed look on his jowly face.
By now the kitten had maneuvered itself tightly up against the steps of our front porch where it was easier for me to reach in under the bushes, scruff it, despite the hisses and snarls, and pull it safely out in the open where I was able to cover it with the towel and get it inside the house to check it for injuries. What this kitten didn’t have in size, it made up for in the ferocity of its struggle to get away from even me. The poor thing was nothing short of traumatized on top of obviously being feral, and no amount of comforting that I could give was going to allow me to calm the little thing enough to even check it for surface wounds. So off to the vet we headed.
Inside the cat carrier, on the way to the vet, the effects of the mauling the little thing had endured began to set in and by the time we got to the vets office it was in shock. As always, our vets’ hands worked miracles and soon he deemed the kitten strong enough to return home with me knowing full well that I’d keep “her” confined and under 24/7 care until she had recovered and was strong enough to become part of our family.
Interestingly enough though, she only became a part of the “furry family” and even after 6 years she still calls the cat room her primary residence, wanting little to do with any activity in the remainder of the house, and often sadly for me, she has refused my attention or advances unless I have a treat in my hand.
Before you ask how it is that we could come to love and care for a truly “feral cat” in our home, let me explain that despite her wild side, she really has acclimated to all other aspects of being a domestic house cat. She just wants nothing to do with humans. When we find it necessary to handle her for health purposes, we have been able to find ways to confine her and once she is in our arms wrapped in a towel, we are able to give her the care she needs with minimal fuss or trauma. But once released, all bets of going near her again for a while are off.
We admire her for her strength, and ability to survive such a horrible experience as a kitten, and try to understand and respect the nature of the feral adult cat that she is that sometimes just can’t be tamed to the human touch. After all, it’s our make-up as humans to expect certain behaviors from the animals we call “pets”. But if you love cats like I do, you come to learn so much more about them, when you allow yourself to learn “from” them.
In the last couple months Little Alice has been stepping way outside her normal comfort zone both at night and during the day time. Coaxing her toward me with a treat one night, I was even able to pick her up for the first time and snuggle her without a towel. It was such an honor and a joy to hold her little petit body next to mine. She even visited the back of the sofa today for a short period of time, gazing at me with those adorable, large dark eyes of hers that sometimes seem oversized for her body. Maybe after all these years she has finally decided that it isn’t so scary to trust a human. Secretly, I continue to hold my emotions in check, and exalt deep inside each time she makes an effort to reach out to us. For those of us who love and appreciate cats, earning their trust is a reward like no other. For those of us who love and appreciate all animals, earning their trust is a moment that can live in your heart and mind for a life time.
©912 Digital Art, Photography and Writing by Terri Chandler, Batesville, Ms. United States Southern Artist