Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Every day, our feral kitten Wendy becomes a bit braver. She's been with us for 10 weeks, and she has been a perfect, if elusive, lady the entire time. She is polite no matter how frightened or unhappy she is — and because of her ringworm and other illnesses, she's had to endure many weeks of nasty medicines and car trips to the groomer, where she is covered with a gallon of liquid that reeks of rotten eggs and turns her yellow.

Imagine how you'd react if you were soaked with a gallon of bright yellow liquid that stank to high heaven every Friday. Wendelina Pantherina, the feral rescue, seems to have had the upbringing of a pedigreed princess.

Which I find interesting. Here is a photo of her mother, which the nice woman at her shelter took for me:

A very nice-looking alley cat, certainly. But an aristocat? It's hard to say. But I can tell that Wendy will be a big cat, like her mom. And she is a beautiful kitten, with her deep amber eyes, sweet expression, and that bustle of a tail. I'm glad her mom taught her good manners to match her elegant looks.

We noticed that Wendy was warming up to us, verrrry slowly, about a month ago. She was always happy to see us and be cuddled when she was living in her crate, when she first arrived. But when we let her have the run of the apartment, she began to run from us and hide. For the first few weeks, we almost never saw her. If we had to catch her, to give her medication or some socializing attention, it took both of us awhile to corner her. When we did, she surrendered without hissing, growling, scratching, or biting. As the weeks went by, she began making herself at home on the bed instead of underneath it. And she became easier to catch, in the most minute increments. She also spent a lot of time playing and wrestling with Possum, so we saw a lot more of her, with him.

When we would catch her to cuddle, she'd melt into a loudly purring "sausage" as my husband refers to her, lying contentedly in our arms. But 10 seconds after she'd get down, she'd run from us in pseudo-fear. If she was lying on the bed, napping with the other three cats, she'd be the only one to dash under the bed as we'd enter the room. Eventually she stopped doing that. Then she'd watch us pet the other cats and only dash off if we reached over toward her. Now she occasionally lets us pet her, briefly, before leaving the bed. She watches us stroke and talk to the other cats as they purr — and it's finally sinking in for her that she's safe with us, just like them.

Today she wandered out of my husband's arms and then back onto his lap and into them. She also played with my fingers this morning while I was bed. She's progressed from attacking my toes to getting close enough to bite my thumb under the coverlet (actually it's our old shower curtain, to protect the rest of the bed from the lime-sulfur residue).

Catching her is much easier these days. She makes a token run for it, then crouches under the bed or table and lets us pick her up. She remains in that same crouchy ball shape as we dose her with medicine and put cream on her ears. Then she runs away and comes back in a few seconds to eat her breakfast.

When Possum and I play with a mouse on a string, Wendy will join us on the couch now, and get within a couple of feet of me. The other day, I felt someone paw my backside as I sat here at my laptop, and it was Wendy. She will occasionally swat at my toe if I'm wearing a sock. She's slowly, slowly melting out of her fear and reserve. Will she ever be a lapcat? I'm still hopeful.

Her favorite fluffy ball got stuck on her toe yesterday, and I had to follow her around the living as she limped away from me, to help her remove it. I think she's beginning to realize we weirdo humans are essentially harmless despite the car trips and the cherry-flavored liquid we shoot into her mouth every morning.

I often notice her watching me intently. I talk to her all the time and sing her little songs, which she doesn't seem to mind. I've also started speaking to her in a high-pitched, bogus French accent, because I read in My Life in France that Julia Child's cat responded powerfully to the phrase, "Oui, Oui, j'ecoute!" Wendy is definitely interested when I talk like this, but so far she has not jumped on my and started licking me, as Minette did to Julia. But I am not giving up. Maybe I can find the right phrase that will send Wendy leaping into my lap.

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