Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hello. My Name Is...

Simon.

Which was the name I gave him the moment I met him. And I tried to pick him up -- this regal, orange tabby cat with light green eyes and, it turns out, a flair for mischief. And when I tried to pick him up, he tried to bite and scratch me at the same time.

"Too soon..." the volunteer said, reaching to take him away. 

But of all the cats that had tried to, or succeeded in, biting me that day at the ASPCA in Manhattan, this was the only one whose bite didn't bother me. He was still purring. Purring when I put him down and he kept his distance, but still leaned his head toward me so that I could scratch. One. Two. Ouch! There come the teeth.

And his teeth don't bite. They just touch my skin. Even now when he's acclimated enough to want to jump onto the bed when I'm going to sleep (he still leaves) and when he springs up when I wake and he wants me to scratch his head (yet not moving my body... once I do he bolts.) He reminds me we're new. He throws down the boundaries with the human in the only way he can. Nibble nibble.

He has peed on my couch twice and my bed once. (Thank God for water-proof mattress covers.) His poo is the stinkiest as he has some kind of... issue. And he does still bite me after a handful of pets, and nearly took my eyes out when I went to trim his front claws. Lordy.

But I had forgotten how an animal unwinds around his human. I remembered the best parts of Harold taking to me. Not the way he would sit behind me and stare at the wall. Not the scars on my arms and chest from trying to clip his nails so that he would stop ruining my sofa, my rug, my legs. Because once you're in love with your pet, you take what it gives you and you shrug and hope its not afraid. At least I think that's how you feel if you take in shelter animals.

The shelters are overflowing. And all these little critters want is a safe place to sleep. A clean place. A few hugs and to forget that it's possible to be hungry. Everything that we take in deserves that. Animals in the wild starve. Suffer. But some animals we humans have chosen to take in and make our own. To use our skills to make them depend on us. To love us. To be our family.

But they are still animals and take their time trusting. Simon (who Alyce and I dubbed Pee-Cat for his talent for peeing in inappropriate places...) ventures closer to me every day. I reprimand him when he does something "bad" but I still am affectionate. I try to make him feel safe, but to know that "behind the television" or "on the windowsill past the pots near the screen" are not good places to be.

So, a new little man lives in my house. We are learning each others edges. We're approaching two weeks together. It's like an entire high school relationship. And I find myself sometimes angry and wanting to give him back. And at other times just melt in his wee presence. And I know that with time, we'll be buddies.

I can't replace Harold, my beloved departed cat, and that relationship. So I am trying not to hold it against Simon... not being Harold. Not being like Harold. And I'm learning to accept him for who he is, and to enjoy that. I am having to let go of my expectations and just see who he is. And do my best to make him as happy and as comfortable as he can be. I took him in. His safety, his life... is my responsibility now. I choose him. I owe him.

Welcome Home, new kid.