When he first arrived, he was pretty alarmed whenever anyone would come in his cage, and would do the usual hissing and swatting to deter visitors. He would bite and scratch if you tried to touch him. And interestingly, if you offered him a treat, he would reach up and whack it out of your hand quite aggressively before he would eat it.
But RAPS volunteers are not easily deterred. I found him mesmerizing from the start and was determined to get to know him better. I spent a lot of time in his cage, and we ended up playing “chicken” a lot of the time: I would try to sneak my hand towards him soooooo slowly that he would not notice; he would try to stay awake and alert long enough to catch me at it and chomp my hand. I like to think I got good at this. I did even manage to get my hand just under his tummy one day, while he rolled his eyes and went back to sleep. But I got my share of bites and scratches too.
When he was let out of his cage, he was much harder to get at. He found himself a spot in the room behind the double-wide, on the platform at the top of the stairs, under the heat lamp. That suited me because there’s a mattress up there and it’s pretty warm and cozy. I like to kitty-comfort lying down. So I spent a lot of time up there with him too, tossing him treats and trying to get him to let me pet him. I discovered he’s very food-motivated and I would chat with him and toss him treats, which he loved. Through painstaking effort, I used the treats to lure him closer, and eventually got him to take food out of my hand. I never did manage to pet him though – he was pretty determined about that.
When the spring came and the weather got nicer, the back door to that room was left open one day and he found his way outside into the courtyard. He seemed pleased and surprised as he explored this new area in his own alert and cautious way. And he settled himself on the outer edge of the ring of cats out there, prowling the perimeter in the hopes of getting some stray treats.
Since then, he seems to be gradually relaxing and trusting more, gently teasing the hopes of those of us who want to be best buds with him. There was the day that Brigid was feeding him chicken and said to me – look, he doesn’t have to shake his food to kill it before he eats it any more. Another day, I managed to rub his chin and he didn’t even seem to really mind although he looked pretty confused. And last week, he seemed to have let his guard down and blended into the middle of the group of other cats, his body language relaxed and almost nonchalant. He still looks completely indignant and surprised when I try to stroke his head, but he doesn’t try to take my hand off any more.
He’s such a stunner that I’m hoping he’ll tame up enough that we can give him the full tummy rub one day. Stay tuned.
Blog by Moira Langley
Photos by Brigid Coult, Phaedra Hardman, Moira Langley, Michele Wright