Yes, it’s a cat post. I’ll do my best to keep them to less than one a week.
Kokoro (“heart” in Japanese) is a rescue kitty, like all of our cats. We met her at the Martinez Animal Shelter in 2007. We knew she was going to be a bit of a project: the lack of a picture on her listing on the shelter’s website was a hint that she might be shy. As we found out later, her original human turned her over to the shelter because she was moving and thought “Shiloh” was too shy to adjust. We believe that every home with cats requires a Siamese, and we didn’t have one, so we decided to go meet her anyway.
We arrived at the shelter and went looking for her. No sign. We found a different Siamese, but didn’t feel any real connection to her. The people at the desk assured us that “Shiloh” was in the visiting rooms, so we kept looking. We finally found her, curled into a little ball in the most isolated, darkest corner of the room, under a cot. No way was she going to come out and meet us, and the best that the shelter staff could do was to chase her from one hiding place to another. Even without actually greeting her, though, we felt a certain resonance. It was also clear that she was not happy at the shelter, so we agreed to bring her home and give her a chance in a much less crowded, much quieter environment. That led to a scene straight out of a silent comedy as the staff member on “chip duty” chased her around the visiting room. It took about 15 minutes, but he finally grabbed her, gave her a microchip, and stuffed her, fighting all the way, into a carrier. Needless to say, she complained all the way home.
Once home, we released her into the bathroom, one of the few rooms that can be secured against intrusion by other felines. She promptly vanished into the cat condo under the sink and wasn’t seen for weeks. I exaggerate only slightly. We – especially Maggie (my wife, who will no doubt be more formally introduced here eventually) – spent hours sitting quietly in the bathroom to allow her to become accustomed to us. She would sometimes stretch her head out to grab a treat, but mostly stayed hidden away. Maggie declared victory when Kokoro didn’t wait for Maggie to set a treat down, but took it directly from her hand.
At that point, we decided to give her more territory and opened the bathroom door, giving her access to the bedroom and closet. Kokoro immediately found several dens in the closet. Again, weeks went by without more than a fleeting glimpse of her. She would allow us to reach into her hiding places and pat her, but stayed hidden, sneaking out of the closet to eat and use the litter box only in the middle of the night when we were asleep. Finally though, she began to creep out while we were awake; she would settle just outside the closet, watching us as we read in bed, and disappear back to safety every time we moved. And then one evening, months after we brought her home, she apparently made up her mind: she jumped up on the foot of the bed, walked up the entire length of my body, settled down on my chest, started to chew on my beard, and began to purr.
Her confidence has grown since then. She’s still shy about strangers, but it takes less and less time for her to accept new people. And once she accepts someone, she shows no hesitation about walking over to them, standing on her hind legs, and batting at them to get their attention and demand to be patted.
She is clearly the alpha of our herd, and anyone who steps out of line will get his ears slapped or flanks nipped. On the flip side, I believe her to be the most intelligent cat I’ve ever met. She listens when we speak and obeys instructions (“Don’t jump up there”, “Stop teasing your brothers”, “Take care of the house while we’re out”) so readily that I’m halfway convinced she understands English. I would only be mildly surprised if she started setting the alarm for us when we leave her in charge.
Today, Kokoro is my “Fuzzy Princess”, and I’m very glad we gave that shy little ghost all the time she needed to settle into our laps and hearts.