Monday, April 11, 2011

The Pick-Up

Some old friends were visiting the other day, and Possum was hospitable toward them. He and Wendy could not be fully socialized as feral kittens because they had ringworm, so it was nice to see Possum feeling comfortable about meeting new people and letting them pet and admire him. Wendy, of course, vanished as soon as she could and wasn't seen until hours after our friends left.

Possum and our friend were getting along so well that our cat-loving friend decided to try to haul him up into his lap. But Possum objected to this, and struggled, squirmed, and begged to be let go. Across the room I was squirming, too, and urging our friend to put Possum down, which he did. Possum looked a bit rattled, but agreed to more petting by our friend, which I felt was very civil of him.

This experience made me realize that my husband and I seldom pick up or hold the younger cats. I first thought that our reluctance probably dated to the time when they were infectious and we weren't supposed to handle them. But, of course, we did handle them all the time. We had to carry them to the kitchen for their various medicines and put them in their carriers for weekly trips to the groomer and our vet. Possum had to lie on his back in my lap so I could put saline drops in his nose. Wendy needed all sorts of pills and topical creams as a kitten. They both must have quickly learned that holding and carrying seldom led to a good time. It's natural that they don't care for it now.

When Wendy needs her claws trimmed, we have to slowly stalk her around the room until she surrenders and curls up in a cringing little ball. We can then pick up this fluffy ball and rotate it to find its paws. It doesn't struggle or complain but it is a deeply unhappy fluffy ball.

Possum weighs too much to be carried easily but he will allow me to do it, up to a point. He's 15 pounds and solid, like a big ham. He doesn't drape gracefully across our arms as the Persians do. Being of show-cat extraction, they never minded being picked up or carried unless they thought they were going to the vet. We carry Snicky to her food dish, and bring Snalbert to the kitchen for his daily hydration procedure, which he usually purrs through. But the younger cats don't like being confined in any way.

As I think about it, if I were a cat, I wouldn't like being carried or held, either. It would be hard enough to be living in close quarters with people who were the size equivalent of King Kong compared to furry little me. Cats like to stand on their own four feet, able to flee whenever they feel the need. I think they're right. So I always welcome Possum when he decides to curl up on me or with me, but I never make him do it. And it's like a small miracle whenever Wendy comes near us and lets us pet her for a bit.

I suppose I should go the training route, to get the youngsters accustomed to being picked up gently and politely, by doing it often and rewarding them with treats. There will likely come a day when they need regular holding for medication — many years from now, I hope. But I think that, for the moment, it's all right to let them be. Being held and carried will probably never be much fun for these two feral cats, no matter how much they trust their humans.

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