Dinner gets cold on our plates these days because Wendy has been insisting on a long petting session with my husband as soon as we sit down. She jumps on the radiator next to our table, flops herself down, and stares imperiously until he pays attention. She squeaks, purrs, and rolls around with pleasure, and gets upset whenever he stops to eat.
Of course, as soon we get up to clear the table, she dashes away and avoids us like we're predators. Until my husband sits in his armchair to do some work. Then she jumps up and demands more petting. Should he shift slightly in his chair, off she'll go at a run.
When we ask her why she's so jumpy and weird, she sometimes does provide an explanation, with a lot of plaintive mewing and squeaking in a language we can't understand. I'm not sure she understands. Our vet's latest Theory of Wendy is that some feline behavior is purely genetic, and can't be changed — such as the eternal skittishness of some feral cats. So, while Wendy has learned that she enjoys attention and petting, she still has an instinct telling her to run from danger.
Wendy looking rather baffled, and who wouldn't be?
It's got to be a confusing problem for her. I see her watching the other cats as they cozy up to us and let us touch them as we please. She looks on intently, like a fluffy anthropologist observing an alien culture. She would never follow their behavior or allow us to pet her as we're petting another cat. She can't make the leap to trusting us no matter how many safe, pleasant encounters she's seen and experienced.