(An excerpt from “Small Measures of Peace” in HnH)
The kittens grew quickly, and became a common fixture on our backyard walls and in the patio. They had distinct behaviors: Black Panther was a male loner, staying away from the pack, Brave Heart was active and frolicked, and Recluse was a scaredy cat who stayed close to her mother.
A complication in territorial ownership arose when another feral cat, a Russian Blue with her own small litter, also came into our yard. Lucy, a Ragdoll, sometimes engaged in hissing matches with the new mother named Trixie by the kids, but let her use the front yard as her domain and a place to raise her kids, while she and Black Panther, Brave Heart, and Recluse stayed in our backyard. In time, Lucy’s kids grew to require territories of their own.
Black Panther was the first to leave. Brave Heart stayed on for some months more, and left thereafter, while Recluse remained with her mother in the backyard. Meanwhile, Trixie’s kids also grew, and having journeyed through the CNR program, dispersed, until only Trixie, Lucy, and Recluse remained.
My kids observed these aspects of feline nature with keen interest, and prayed that all their now adopted pets didn’t leave. Recluse was eventually convinced––by her mother’s not-so-subtle physical inducements––to leave to find her own territory. Though both Lucy and Trixie, the two cat mothers who successfully raised their kids in our home, stayed, in time, Trixie, who appeared to weaken, also disappeared, which the kids and I grieved over for a while. But Lucy remained with us, and showed signs of a desire to venture into the house. She appeared to want to be a house pet, to stay indoors when it suited her, and leave to roam the neighborhood when she so chose.
And so, Lucy, her parental duties in life complete, moved in with us. After a few scratches she inflicted on us at first, she learned on her own to keep her claws retracted when swiping at us, if we ventured too close, and eventually learned not to swipe at us at all. She soon selected a few favorite lounging locations, explored the beds and little enclosures my daughter arranged for her, and chose the kids’ bunk bed’s upper bed as her own.
She also learned to do her excretion outside, and to ask us to open doors for her, and climb our apple tree in the backyard to get onto our balcony. I fixed a cat door section to the balcony’s sliding glass door, and she learned, with much coaching and coaxing in this instance, to push through the magnetic flap to get in or out.
But most of all, she learned to be a companion to my daughter, who often declared, at times of stress or anguish, that Lucy was her only friend in the world. In her evident affection for us, and in caring for her too, Lucy greatly comforted my children. As is the Ragdoll’s nature, she followed us on walks in the neighborhood, and would run after my son when he’d run back to his mother’s after dinner with me. But she always did come back home, as did my children, if only to see her.
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