Chirp was one of the few cats that never needed to be tamed. He hung around our door for a few days, and though he wouldn't let anyone pet him, he neither hissed nor ran far. He always had a good disposition, and the first time I held the door open he walked briskly into our entranceway like he owned the place. It helped that there was snow on the ground at the time, but I think he knew he'd get a good deal here. He sleeps wherever he wants, pushes aside food if he doesn't like it and paws at the wall in the same gesture he uses to cover his business in the litter pan, definite sign language that he thinks a certain flavor is crap. He forgets that a few years ago he might have starved and frozen to death. He's also a master at getting attention when he wants food. Sometimes he'll jump on top of the refrigerator. Other times he'll walk across my keyaz.,yh=-[87*
Sorry, as I was saying, other times my cat will walk across my keyboard while I'm trying to type. Last week he picked up a new trick. I awoke in the middle of the night, with no idea what time it was, to hear coins falling in the dark. I staggered forward, stumbled across the room, and fumbled for a light switch. Chirp was standing on the monitor of my old computer, with his two front paws up on the top shelf of my desk. He turned and whispered his trademark subdued meow, then finished his jump, knocking over my keys and more change. Thankfully he's only done this twice, and I've learned to close my door.
Chirp walked in and took over, but not every cat had his demeanor. Sonny hisses if we got within five feet of him, and on Wednesday he was sitting under our cars to seek shelter from the rain, causing concern since we’d have to check before driving anywhere. My mom used an old plastic recycling bin to make him a little house with food and some blankets by our door, but he wouldn't go in. He'd take a large bite of food, drop it on our walkway, and eat off the wet concrete. He suspected a trap.
Thursday was dry, but much cooler. It finally started to feel like October, like Autumn. Sonny was on our step once more when I got home from work. As I approached, he stood and slunk to the side, low to the ground, looking over his shoulder as he darted around our hedge. I walked to the door, my keys extended, and looked to my left. The cat hadn't gone far, and was now watching me. I crouched to the ground and held out my hand a few feet from him. There's a scene in the movie Hitch in which Will Smith's character explains his kissing philosophy to Kevin James'. He advises him never to lean in 100%, only 90%, and allow the girl to advance 10% to make contact. Are girls like frightened animals? Would my life be so much better if I applied the same principles in the way I approach girls? Approaching girls would be a start, but I digress. Besides, trust issues aren’t gender specific any more than they’re limited to any one species.
Sonny didn't walk forward to my extended hand, but for once he didn't hiss either. He just stared, and when I shrugged, said “all right” and walked into my house, he took a few steps forward. I looked out the window to see him inspecting a dish to see if I'd left any food.
When entering our house from the driveway side, a person has two options. Walk forward and down the steps to our basement, or turn right and walk up two steps to the door leading in to our kitchen. I noticed my mom had a dish of food on the top step by our kitchen door, and decided to try an experiment. I opened our door and propped open the screen door. The cat was nowhere in sight, then suddenly appeared from behind my dad's car, darting across the driveway and stopping when he saw me. I ignored him and pretended to go downstairs, stopping a few steps from the bottom when my head was below the line of sight from the floor of our landing.
I turned and watched, my eyes level to the floor as I lay across the steps. After a moment, a pair of ears appeared, followed by two wide eyes. They met mine, assessed I was no threat, then turned to the right. A moment later, I heard him devour the food in my mom's dish. I carefully reached out to the door, but he darted back outside. Later on, my mom kept the back door open once more, careful to keep the upstairs door closed so our cats didn't run out to “greet” their potential new roommate. Sonny did come inside again and stayed for a bit, before disappearing in to the night once more.
It takes time to build a relationship, to prove you mean no harm. A cat can't feel trapped, and has to know it can come and go on its own terms. Eventually, the decision whether life will be better inside or outside will have to be Sonny's. Some strays never made the transition, preferring the freedom of the neighborhood and the options of different doorsteps. Others walked in, found a soft bed, and never looked back. Time will tell which life this new cat will embrace.