Given that this long-term project is to document and discuss our relationship(s) to and with our cats, I thought I’d take a page to talk about Pumpkin and me. This female ginger tabby and I have been together now since April 20. She turned five, five days after I adopted her. Pumpkin, whom I adopted in late April, is warming to me. It’s been a long and gradual process, not at all like a kitten or young cat who instantly bonds, this cat, who had had three other homes before me, and was semi-feral, has had to get used to me, and me to her.
After a marital separation last fall, I moved to a small suite in Vancouver’s densely populated West End, which is the neighbourhood between downtown and Stanley Park.
Winter passed alone, and in the spring I began searching the SPCA and VOKRA websites…
Which led me to…this image, of a cat they’d named Missy.
How could I resist?
The foster couple visit my apartment to see Miss Kitty (aka Pumpkin)
The foster couple lived only a few streets away from me. I visited them and sat on their floor. Missy seemed quite comfortable with them, and investigated me. I decided she was the one: why look for the “perfect” cat, when this one needed a home and I could carry her home in a matter of minutes? I met with the VOKRA rep who handles adoptions, signed various forms, and that night picked up Missy (a name I gradually changed to Miss Kitty Pumpkin).
She was introduced to the bachelor suite in only two stages: first, locked into the bathroom with water, food, litter box for two days and nights, to get used to the sounds and smells of the place. Then, after I’d seen that she’d been relaxed enough on the second (or was it the third?) day to deposit stools in the litter box, I let her roam. If it had been a one-bedroom suite I would have done it in three stages, but as it is, there’s only the one big room which serves as office, living and sleeping quarters, and the kitchen, in addition to the bathroom.
We didn’t get along. I had made an assumption, based on my two brief visits to her with the fostering couple in their apartment, that she would warm to me and we’d be all cuddly together. Not quite. She hid, she bit and scratched, she wouldn’t let me hold her, she growled at me, it was awful, and yet I knew that over time she and I would bond. Or so I hoped.
By mid-summer, three or so months after bringing her home, she was comfortable enough that she’d play on the bed, and allow me to groom her without trying to eviscerate me. But she hadn’t allowed me to clip her nails and they were like scimitars. So I called in a veterinary assistant who advertised house-calls for such things as injections and nail clipping. I warned her that Pumpkin didn’t take to having her paws held. She said not to worry, she’d handled many difficult cats. Before she arrived, I brought out a box of bandages, actually opened one and had it ready on the kitchen counter.
The veterinary assistant who had handled many difficult cats left five minutes later with two deep fang incisions on the back of her hand and scratches up her arm. Pumpkin’s nails were still long and sharp.
So a few weeks later I stuffed her into the cat carrier–itself not an easy job but I’d had it out for some while so she’d at least gotten used to seeing and sniffing it. Took her to a local veterinary office. Five minutes later–they brought her back out front. I said, “So, no luck?” But she’d been “no problem at all,” the assistant said, handing her back to me in the carrier. “Sometimes they’re so freaked by the new environment they just go limp with fear,” she explained. Not that that was the way I wanted to have her nails clipped every six to eight weeks, but for twenty dollars, I was happy and Pumpkin, actually, was happy when she got home and wasn’t clicking on the hardwood floor and getting her nails caught in the furniture (except when she wanted to scratch my new couch).
So that’s basically where we’re at now. She’s warmed to me (and I to her); she has jumped up on the bed in the morning and kneaded my chest when I’m on my back, or curled into my legs when I’m lying on my side. She still scratches me from time to time: a bit of playful rough-housing will suddenly become serious, or a grooming will go on too long. I thought I was attuned to feline signals, but Pumpkin, perhaps because of her background being left alone to fend for herself, hasn’t learned how to signal displeasure before she attacks: she switches from fun to ferocious instantly. But the nail slashed cuts on my hands and arms are fewer now, so Miss Kitty Pumpkin is getting me trained in Pumpkin etiquette.