image courtesy of g.originals
My wife and I have a tendency to find stray cats.
Since our last cat passed away, we have been noticing a little cat scooting about our backyard late at night. Over time, we realized he was heading under the large deck in our backyard and assumed he must be living under there. He was scared and jumped at any noise and headed right for his little lair of darkness. Like we do every time we see a stray, we decided to name him ("Spaghetti Cat" was our choice) and started bringing out bits of food to him. We started with some scraps from dinners and such, as we didn't have any cat food laying around. We would deposit these treats near the entrance to his hiding spot and we would see him sneak out, grab the food, and return to his safety under the deck. As the days passed and we continued out back and forth with Spaghetti Cat, he began to hang around a little longer each time. He was still frightened, but you could tell he was beginning to recognize us as the "bringers of food."
Taking the next steps.
After this went on for awhile, we decided to buy some cat food and break out our old cat's bowls. A little water and some crunchies slowly became a routine. We would talk to S.C. (also know as Spaghetti, Sketti, and Bud) as he munched and try to keep him calm and soothed. Sometimes he's get spooked and return to his safe place, but over time, he settled into a routine. Eating when we came home and in the morning. He started waiting for his food and meowing when we came home. He was hungry and wanted what he had come to expect. As he became more and more comfortable, we moved the bowls a little closer. Closer meant having to be near us, which at first caused some problems. Some hissing, some growling, some quick dashes back under the deck. Change is never fun for anyone, but we worked through it. We kept soothing him with our voices and trying to be his "friend." Eventually his bowls made it to the side door. His curiosity over the door increased and he started to look inside.
Then came the cold, hail, and rain.
My wife was concerned about Spaghetti Cat as we had a bit of cold weather approaching, so she got out our cat carrier and put a nice towel inside it, hoping the cat would use it and stay warm over the next few days. He resisted as he does with everything, but eventually one morning as I went to feed him, I saw him poke his head out of his new home as he cried for food. One more step. He was still nervous, but he began to stay close and watch, instead of immediately running in fear. The comfort level had increased.
Lately, we've left the door open a few times and he's even stepped foot in the house, testing it out, sniffing around. He has yet to move in to his new home, but he's contemplating it. As for the two of us, we are patiently encouraging him, but not forcing him (anyone who owns a cat knows you can't "force" a cat to do much). We want him to make the decision and move in when he's ready. I know he will eventually, but he's just not ready for it yet. When he does, my wife and I will be there for him to help him settle in and get even more comfortable. Someday, the three of us will look back at those long days and laugh (well, I hope he won't laugh - that would scare me) and remember how long we waited and how scared he was. He will be happy that we didn't give up on him though, because he'll now live in the perfect home filled with love and crunchies. I can hear him purring already.
Usually this is where I would make my comparisons to make my point, but I think the point is clear and you'll be able to see exactly what I'm trying to say. I'd also like to point out that the photo above is not our new friend, as he doesn't seem to trust the camera yet. We'll work on that separately.