Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Feline Anti-Literacy Brigade, Part 3

I was going to write a post today about why I like writing for children—my inspirations and all that stuff—but then Gigi walked into the room, said "Mrrrow!," rubbed against my hand, and allowed me to pick her up and cut her claws. This is a rare honor, indeed, and is her way of telling me that it's her turn to be featured in this blog. And actually, I may write a version of Gigi's story for kids some day, so maybe it's not such a distraction after all. It's a rough draft, that's it!

This was Gigi when we first met her, five years ago. After we returned from London to our house in Michigan, we discovered that during the year it lay vacant, feral cats had discovered the deck was a nice, quiet, protected place to have kittens. The first litter we discovered managed to escape before we could trap them, but a few months later we did capture another mother and her older kitten (too wild, unfortunately, to be tamed). The next summer we saw yet another litter of three, and managed to trap them all. Not really knowing what I was in for, but determined to help the baby kitties, I stuck them in the bathroom and tried to tame them down. They freaked out whenever I came in, but they were small enough that I could catch them and handle them. I hoped I could get them used to human contact by feeding them and petting them.

As you can see from the photo, the Gray Growler (as she was first known) did not like that idea at all. She cowered with her siblings (a blond brother and a tortie sister) and growled and hissed every time I came near. She also made the other kitties growl and hiss, despite the tasty food my wondrous Opposable-Cat-Food-Can-Opening-Thumbs produced. You really don't want to know what she did to the tub to show her displeasure. (The tub, thankfully, has since been replaced.)

I was calling shelters and rescues all over the place, seeing if they could tame the kittens. They were all full up, but gave me lots of useful advice. The first was to separate the three kittens, as that way they would get lonely and tame down more quickly. After redecorating a couple of bedrooms with tarps and cages, we had each kitten in its own room. And lo! Blondie and Trixie (the tortie) were soon trotting up to me when I entered the room, eager for food and petting. After a few weeks they were ready for adoption, and found new homes within a week.

The Gray Growler, however, ran away from me when I entered her room. She would sit on my lap and eat from a dish on my knees, but she growled the whole time. (This produces a very amusing nyow nyow nyow sound.) And unlike her siblings, while I could pet her, I couldn't get her to purr. Finally my friend Barb (another feline devotee) suggested I purr at her first. So I tried it. I sat her on my lap, let her growl through dinner, and then petted her, making little purring noises with my throat. I felt silly, but after a couple of minutes I was rewarded with a return purr.

Over the next couple months our Gray Growler turned into a Gray Geiger (she has a very LOUD purr), and thus into GG aka Gigi. My other half graciously allowed that we could keep her, seeing as she was still way too skittish to easily find another home. We introduced her to Callie and Clio, she explored the whole house, and she discovered that it is fun to sit on research packets and prevent me from working!

So that is Gigi's story. I know you're not supposed to have favorites among your kids, but with cats it's probably okay. While all my kitties have their lovable sides, I have to admit Gigi is my favorite. She is so skittish that I feel really special when she decides to sit on the back of my chair or allow me to pick her up. Plus, she is the only one of my felines who actually sleeps on my bed—almost always awakening me upon arrival with her loud purring—and every night we play "milk ring hockey" on the staircase. Plus, she has a really great story.

[getting on soapbox] As much as I love my Gigi, stories like hers wouldn't be so common if people would spay and neuter their pets. Nowadays there are even Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs to deal with feral cat populations and prevent more litters of unwanted kittens from inundating shelters. So please take care of your animal friends by sterilizing them! [/soapbox]

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