Kitten sleeps beside me on the sofa. It took four years to get to this point. She joined our family soon after my first wife passed away. My son came to me one day.
“Dad, can we get a cat?” “Justin, you know we aren’t allowed to have pets.” “Dad!” he pleaded. “The landlord won’t know.”
I knew how he felt. He didn’t want to come home from school to a silent house. His mother died. The house was empty. It frightened him. “OK, Justin. We’ll get a cat.” I gave in. “But the rules are: the cat has to be a female, two to three years old, spayed, and house trained.”
We went to the SPCA and found a beautiful grey and white tabby. They told us she was about two years old and lived with a little old lady who passed away. Her son attempted to take her in, but discovered his son was allergic to cats. Kitten ended up in the pound.
“Mr. Smith, her name is Kitten. From what we’ve been told, she doesn’t like men. “She’s a pretty little thing!” I replied. “I think we can win her over and give her a home.” I assured the lady. “We’ll take her.” She smiled. “Great, just remember; keep her in a room by herself. Give her a litter box and food and let her adjust.” “We have a spare room. She’ll be OK.” I assured her.
I carried her in the box to her new room. After filling her new litter box, food, and water dishes, I opened the carrier. She spit at me and wouldn’t come out. I had my computer in that room. I sat at my computer and did my work. Kitten ventured out. When I turned, she rushed behind my desk. I reached to her. “Hi, Kitten. Welcome to your new home.” Her head darted forward and nipped my finger. Blood flowed freely from the puncture wounds. “OK, Kitten!” I yelled. “Have it your way.” I left the room and closed the door behind me.
Later, I sat at my computer desk. Kitten hid in the closet. Three days later, I checked on her before going to work. She came out of the closet and brushed against my legs. She even let me pet her. I thought, “Yes! I’m making progress.”
That afternoon, my son called me at work. “Dad, you won’t believe this. Kitten is all over me. She’s in my room and on my bed. She even let me pet her.” That is where she lived for two years. She latched onto my son and never left his room except to eat or use the litter box. If I walked by my son’s room, she’d sit by the door and hiss at me.
My soon-to-be wife moved in with us. Kitten sat in the door and hissed whenever we walked by. Her behavior continued for more than a year. Once-in-a-while Kitten came down the stairs, but only when my son was there. She’d be all over him, but if Ginny or I moved, she’d hiss and run back up the stairs.
A few months went by. Ginny was alone with Kitten during the day. Kitten ventured down the stairs and into the living room. She sat on the floor and stared at Ginny. If Ginny moved, Kitten hid, but would always return to stare at her.
Ginny’s daughter and three grandsons moved in with us. Kitten was fascinated. She’d come half way down the stairs and watch them. If I walked by the steps, she’d hiss, reach through the railing, and swat me with her de-clawed paw.
A year of this behavior went on. Ginny’s daughter and children moved out. It was just the three of us again—Kitten ruled the house. Ginny was alone with Kitten most of the day again. Kitten resumed her former behavior of sitting and staring at Ginny. A few months later, Kitten jumped up and allowed Ginny to pet her. If I walked into the room, Kitten hid. I was still the evil person with the healed puncture wounds in his fingers.
I was patient.
It wasn’t long before Kitten started to approach me when I came home from work. She’d wait for me to sit on the sofa with my laptop. She’d rub against my leg, and let me pet her. The pets lasted as long as she’d allow, which wasn’t very long. She’d turn her head and threaten me. I’d pull back, and she’d lay at my feet.
A year later, Ginny left to be with her daughter for a month. My son was working. My time was ripe to reel Kitten’s heart in. I’d come home from work and sit on the sofa. Kitten, who’d been alone all day, would come to me. She’d rub against my leg, meow, and try her best to get my attention. I gave her tough love and ignored her.
Two days later, she was on the sofa beside me. My hand rubbed her neck and I heard her purr. It was the first time I ever heard her little motor run. I looked at her contented face and realized, you can’t make anyone or anything love you. Love and trust has to be earned.