Dinky has now lived in our home for just over a year, since I found her last August, in a cat box with her 5 newborns, left outside a closed animal charity shop. We love her and she is a very welcome member of our family, but she remains a mystery to me anyway, and while I know it is never going to be possible, I would love to know her history.
When I found her, because she seemed in good condition, I assumed she was somebody’s un-castrated pet, who was no longer wanted after she gave birth to 5 little problems, and I put her nervousness down to the trauma of abandonment, but I expected that after a few days she would again be a tame, friendly cat. 1 year later this still has not happened. After the first few days she showed no aggression, even when taken to the vet, and seemed to trust that we would not hurt her or her babies. When they were first in a large cage, and later just in our office, we could stroke her but she never really relaxed into this and always seemed to be waiting for us to stop. She did however come forward every time we brought her tasty fresh meat and fish, and wet food to supplement all the dry food she was eating while feeding her kids. She would rush to the door and wrap herself around our legs, which made us think we were becoming friends.
Now I think she was actually behaving just like a semi-feral cat who realises that they need help. I have read about this behaviour and have experienced it myself before with a lovely male cat from one of the rescues I helped in Spain. Nesto arrived as a hissing feral kitten and it was almost 3 years before I could finally catch him, helped by his love of liver paste. At this time he had become very thin from parasites and his life was in danger. Once I got him into a foster room, because he was afraid and sensed he needed help, I became his person and for a short time I could actually cuddle him, and have videos to prove this. Slowly as he regained his strength he did not come forward any more to be stroked and I thought I had in some way frightened him. We moved him to a new foster apartment where he had more space and he repeated the same pattern of behaviour, becoming very loving for a time with his new humans. Finally he moved to the home of the couple who have adopted him, but now he has space and cat friends, and after almost 3 years, he still does not really want to be touched.
During my time with Nesto I read about the experiences of another rescue with feral cats and then understood better what Nesto was doing, and that I had not done anything wrong. Feral cats can become very friendly during a time when they are weak and in need but this does not always last. They make overtures to the carers who are providing the help they need, but once this need passes, they often return to their previous behaviour. I think that this for now is what Dinky has done. Once she had the freedom of our whole house, she did not have to put up with us touching her, but could take avoidance tactics, like shooting under furniture when she saw us coming, and as there were always big bowls of cat food around the house, she no longer needed to ask us for food.
I no longer believe Dinky was someone’s pet and I was always suspicious that I found ‘luring’ pieces of boiled ham in the cat box I found her in, and not dry food which would have been more normal if a person was abandoning their own cat. I think she was more likely a stray, well fed in someone’s garden, who may even have been made pregnant by their own cat. I will never know and Chris tells me I think too much, but I find her fascinating.
Our new tactic for months now has been mostly not to try and touch her. This has meant that she is more comfortable and we can be at times as close as a metre without disturbing her. Now she sits visibly in chairs and windows and comes into the kitchen every morning to check out the treats with the rest of the cats. I love this because we see her more and know that she has gained weight and is healthy. She is very comfortable and sociable with all ours cats, runs and plays in our cat safe garden, and still has a very strong bond with her kids. Recently Chris saw her disciplining one of the boys for playing too hard with his sister. All of this makes me smile and I am happy that she is happy.
We love her for what she is and I am so glad that we have adopted her and that she is not stuck in a rescue with nobody wanting this untouchable cat. I think she is not afraid of us but that she just does not like to be touched. Of course, I hope one day that she will become more loving, but if she never changes, then that is fine. I read a lovely article recently about the rewarding experience of giving a home to a semi-feral cat and that it IS enough just to know they are happy and healthy. I agree with this totally. Dinky has been and still is a brilliant mother to the 5 donuts, and has given us 5 loving little characters that we can stroke, while she herself is her own character and is beautiful and special just the way she is.