Found & Lost & Found

Living with a cat is rarely boring. I’ve known this for a long time, but Heidi has reminded me of the fact in numerous ways in the time I’ve had her. Since the two-year-anniversary of her adoption was last month, I’ve been thinking about those early days lately. It was a time during which I was almost certain I would lose my hair or my sanity or both. I didn’t, but it was a hard road that led to the relationship we now have.

First of all, I was given Heidi by a friend of mine who knew I wanted a cat and took the initiative to help me to find one. I wasn’t picky about the details, so she ended up settling on one from Craigslist who was in a family that already had too many other animals and needed to find someone with the time and energy to devote to her. I’m passingly familiar with Craigslist’s reputation in general, so I was bit a hesitant but relented when I realized the amount of paperwork that many shelters require of potential owners. Consequently I found myself with a new cat, and the adventure soon began.

From the beginning Heidi was a handful. She was thankfully housebroken, but that was basically the extent of her socialization. She was extremely confrontational, rarely made eye-contact, tried to attack me, had little patience for my dog Bella, howled in the middle of the night, refused to eat virtually anything, and was generally a pain in the ass. Nonetheless, I realized that a great deal of her attitude was simply the result of being taken from her home–however overcrowded and neglectful it may have been–and being brought to a new place about which she knew nothing and where she had no reason to trust anyone. I understood the difficulty for her, and I gave her time to acclimate accordingly.

The biggest problem turned out to be her nocturnal proclivities. She was extremely active at night and would frequently jump very loudly from one place to another directly outside my bedroom. She would also howl with the most infernal regularity. As much as I didn’t want to resort to it, I eventually got her a kennel and started to use it at night to keep her out of my hair so I could get some sleep, which I desperately needed.

The kennel, however, presented issues of its own, which I soon discovered. Heidi is extremely energetic, and when I would put her in the kennel at night, she would struggle valiantly to resist my efforts. It was really frustrating for me and obviously traumatizing to her, since she had no way of knowing if I would forget about her and leave her there permanently. Of course I never did and never would, but she had no way of knowing that.

So we continued the nightly charade. I would attempt to round her up using whatever means I could, and she would jump from one surface to another attempting to evade capture with the agility of a trained athlete. By the end I would generally find myself frustrated, exhausted and guilty. At the same time she would be disgruntled and ready to take advantage of any opportunity for payback. Tension was rising, and a breaking point was inevitable.

Finally it happened. I’d been making sure to keep Heidi inside, since I was afraid she’d run away and get hurt, and I’d been successful in preventing her departure until this point. Then the day came when I opened the front door, didn’t pay attention to where she was at the time, and promptly saw her bolt into the wild blue yonder with all the speed that a homesick cat can muster. I was sad to see her go, but strangely I was also relieved–relieved that I wouldn’t have to deal with her contentiousness, relieved that I wouldn’t have to clean up her litter box, and relieved that I could get a decent night’s sleep for the first time in weeks.

But I was still worried. The first day passed, and my worry was at a manageable level. I figured that she was scouting the terrain and acquainting herself with the neighborhood animals. By the morning of the second day, my worry was at a moderate level. I was beginning to think of how easily she could be run over and how awful I would feel if that happened. By the morning of the third day, I was basically grief-stricken and had resigned myself to the inevitable. I assumed that I had seen the last of her and that our story had come to end almost before it had begun.

And then, on the night of the third day after she’d left, I heard a plaintive meow coming from my backyard. I was at the back door and started searching for her with the intensity of a blue-tick hound. I called her tentatively, and with hardly any hesitation she sauntered up to me from the shadows and rubbed against me as if nothing at all had happened. In that moment, I was more grateful than words could say.

As a result I stopped shoving her in the kennel at night. Instead I kept her in the laundry room and gave her free reign of all its considerable shelving. I also started making a habit of letting her go outdoors whenever she wanted, since I realized that the danger to her was lessened if she had the experience and confidence to handle herself in the outdoors on a daily basis. If I had attempted to force her to stay indoors, she would’ve resented me, escaped at the first available opportunity, and eventually done something stupid because she didn’t have the experience to know to avoid it. And that would’ve defeated the purpose of everything I’d done.

And so a new peace was established between us which has lasted to this day. She comes and goes as she pleases, and I rest easy knowing that she can handle herself with skill and composure in a variety of situations. She sleeps anywhere in the house she wants except my bedroom, and I get a good night’s sleep without having to hear her howling to the moon. I can genuinely say that we’re the best of friends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Though what she gets out of snuggling amongst my underwear is anyone’s guess.

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27 thoughts on “Found & Lost & Found

  1. 1nmbirder November 12, 2016 / 4:57 am

    Great post. I’m glad you guys came to an understanding. Animal friendships can be some of the most rewarding in life.

  2. Firewaves21 November 12, 2016 / 7:12 am

    She looks like a handful. 🙂 Love

    • Mark Miles November 20, 2016 / 4:45 am

      That’s for sure! Thank you.

  3. rivertoprambles November 12, 2016 / 11:45 am

    Well-written, Mark. As one who has learned to be owned by several cats, I understand completely.

    • Mark Miles November 20, 2016 / 4:45 am

      Thank you. There’s never a dull moment with the felines. 👍

  4. cathysrealcountrygardencom November 12, 2016 / 12:54 pm

    My tom cat Winston sleeps in my husbands sock drawer when he is cold. I guess it smells good to him! Heidi looks great!

  5. Mel & Suan November 12, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    Cats are so unlike dogs. They seem to have a mind of their own!

    • Mark Miles November 20, 2016 / 4:46 am

      Very true. Bella is unbelievably responsive to anything I do, whereas Heidi generally couldn’t care less.

  6. lisa@notesfromafrica November 13, 2016 / 6:18 am

    In my experience, cats that are the most challenging to raise often turn out to be great companions once you’ve got used to each other.

    In South Africa we generally allow our cats to roam outdoors as much as they want to. It is nerve wracking though when you allow your kitten outside for the first time! For a long time we had to keep our cat indoors at night because she would take on the much bigger tomcats in the area and get beaten up.

    • Mark Miles November 20, 2016 / 4:49 am

      Yeah, I was very nervous about letting Heidi outside at first. There’s not too much traffic where I live, but there’s enough to give me pause for thought. Glad you can let your cat outside though, even if there are bigger tomcats in your area.

  7. Lisa Graaf November 13, 2016 / 8:57 pm

    This was a very exciting story. Thank you for telling it. I hope that you and Heidi will have still many years together.

    • Mark Miles November 20, 2016 / 4:49 am

      Thank you very much. I really appreciate that.

  8. tnwaphotography November 19, 2016 / 5:35 am

    Such a cute story. Cats are so different and listen to their own drummer, as you now know. 🙂

  9. Savithri SENANAYAKE November 19, 2016 / 8:42 am

    😻😻😻

    She is lovely! Heid
    SAVIi

    • Mark Miles November 20, 2016 / 4:53 am

      Thank you, my friend! 😁💗🐈

  10. The Laughing Duck November 19, 2016 / 9:23 pm

    Cutest darn thing ever.

    I always hear stories of rascal kittens, yet somehow I adopted the only two that behave like lounging dogs from my shelter. Who has more of an emotional crutch when we cuddle though is up for debate.

    • Mark Miles November 20, 2016 / 5:12 am

      Haha, yeah, Heidi is presently lounging in my lap as living proof of what you just said. She’s provides wonderful emotional support, even if she is frequently in her own little world.

  11. Keng December 28, 2016 / 5:28 am

    Happy in the end. Great to read Heidi’s and your story. Thanks for sharing. Similar to Heidi, our cat Tiger liked to come in and out as he pleased. Fortunately for us, we figured that out as soon as we adopted him. So we installed a cat-door for him. Being able to come and go as he wanted made him one happy and content kitty. He occasionally got into a fight and had to go to a vet, but we wouldn’t change the arrangement.

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