Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Moon Shadow

My cat is sitting next to me, snuggling with the remote control and purring away. Just a moment ago I leaned over to pet her and she swatted a claw-less paw at me. I said, "Hey, stop that!" She froze, then saw my still extended hand still hovering over her head and rubbed her little cheek against it as if to say, "I was only kidding. Please pet me."

The purring is what gets me. It's taken little miss Moon Shadow Stugalas a long time for her little kitty motor to start running at what I would consider a normal speed. After I found her on the street and brought her home with me nearly two years ago, she rarely purred. I've heard that purring it something only domesticated (as opposed to feral) cats do because it elicits the right response from their owners. Basically, it's their adorable and soothing way of manipulating us into petting them. I'm not sure if it's true or not, but if it is, my little Shadow eventually learned this tactic and started using it to her advantage. Since she rarely purred before, I'm mighty impressed with her.

Besides purring, she used to rarely let us hold her. While she was obsessed with following us around the apartment (hence the name Shadow...the Moon was added later) because she didn't want to ever be alone, she was not the most cuddly cat. In fact, she was not cuddly at all. About 10 seconds after we'd pick her up, she'd be struggling to get down. We finally started dealing with this in a way she could adjust to. Rather than force her to stay in our arms (tough love), we would set her down gently and give her a little stroke once she reached the ground. Eventually she was letting us hold her for longer and longer periods of time. It still kind of amazes me when I pick her up and she settles against my chest or shoulder contentedly purring away, and doesn't make any move to get down. Eventually I'm actually the one to willingly put her down. That's crazy.

I found the little devil on an October morning in 2008 when I went to move my car. She came scampering up behind me on the sidewalk, mewing adorably, and what was I supposed to do? She rubbed against my legs and followed me for about 20 feet. It was unbearable. I called my boyfriend and explained the situation.

"Uhh, hi sweetie. I found this really cute little kitten on the street and she's really sweet and skinny and she's following me and I'm going to bring her home with me and--"

"Put it back."

Needless to say, I showed up at the apartment 5 minutes later with the cat in my arms. I blended some lunchmeat with some cereal to make a wet food of sorts (which she ate ravenously), put some potting soil in a wash basin for a litter box, and ignored Nick's glares as I promised to take her to the shelter that night. Instead I went to Petsmart and bought toys after work, as well as flea shampoo. Then I went to Duane Reade and got litter and food. I came home to a pile of puke on the carpet and a freshly used litter box. I scrubbed her down in the tub as she stood there still and terrified, looking like a pathetic, emaciated otter. I picked the encrusted flea dirt from her tummy and rubbed her paws until they were finally white instead of beige and could feel every delicate bone in her tiny little body. I did the same thing the next two nights, and she only ever made one pathetic attempt to get out of the tub.

Two weeks later we decided to keep her officially. In that time we pronounced her the most docile and loyal creature we'd ever met. We took her to the shelter and had to leave her for three days so we could get free shots, a free vet visit, a microchip, and a minimal adoption fee. It was horrible. I literally had to fight to get her back since they deemed her "unadoptable" because she had shown "signs of aggression." I was devastated, but I cried and hung around long enough that they realized I was serious, then agreed to reevaluate her in the morning and go through with the adoption. I took her home the next night. I took her to the vet, who disspelled my belief that she was only about 6 months old. She was actually a year and a half, but was stunted in her growth. I was happy to have a tiny kitty and proceeded to furnish our home with all the silly crap that you buy when you get a new pet. It was like she was finally ome for good, though she'd been with us for about three weeks. And then her true colors came out and her real identity was born.

First, her name changed. She was soon renamed Moon Shadow due to my parents' belief that Shadow was simply not creative enough for a black cat. And because she had gotten her name due to her penchant for following us (underfoot always, meaning we tripped on her and stepped on her many times), it only seemed right to take my mother's suggestion of naming her for the Cat Steven's song... "I'm being followed by a moon shadow... Moon shadow, moon shadow." Thanks, Mom. Now I look like a ridiculous hippie every time I tell people my cat's name.

After weeks of thinking she was so incredibly docile, she suddenly became the rambunctious and playful, albeit somewhat frustrating, girl we came to love. Running through the apartment at 4 in the morning, attacking us as we walked by her, biting with no warning, staring at us creepily, rolling around on the rug, scratching the rug, learning to ignore us when we yelled at her for scratching the rug, then finally, scratching the rug just to spite us when we weren't paying attention to her. She used to literally scratch it and stare at us as we clapped our hands and yelled, knowing we had no other defense. I never did break out the spray bottle...I guess I just spoiled her. My little baby could be a tyrant at times, running along the back of the couch and swatting our hair, biting our ears, jumping on our arms with teeth bared. She never really wanted to hurt us, we realized, she was just trying to play. And she ALWAYS wanted to play. She just didn't quite know her limits.

Shadow has grown up a lot in two years. She is now much calmer, much more willing to just sit next to you and enjoy being stroked. We can hold her, listen to her purr, laugh at her antics when we break out the feather toy, smile when she gazes longingly at the mourning doves on the fire escape, chase her around the apartment when she gets into a hyper mood, and not get freaked out when she stares at us with her huge green eyes from far away, because we know she'll lose interest soon enough and go sleep on "her" chair. It was strange to realize one day thatshe had changed so much -- although she had been a fairly normal cat before, just a little hyper, she had truly become domesticated. It made me realize just how wild she had been from living the first year and a half of her life on the streets. I'm happy to say that will never happen again.

Over the course of writing this post, she has run around for a moment, eaten some food (in the kitchen), drank some water (in the living room), scratched the rug, rolled aroundon the floor, and now she is back next to me, stretched out and purring while her little tail twitches. And she looks so content. Someday she'll have little brother and sister kitties (and doggies!) to entertain her. But for now, she is an only child, a tiny little bundle of black fur and white paws that I am so happy to have. I think she's pretty happy to be here, too. I think she knows followed the right person down the street on that day in October...

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You forgot to mention the part about the mouse. Remember, the one that was living behind the oven. The one that she ate. In my eyes, that's when she truly earned her stripes as a member of our household.