There’s been a long gap in my posting, and I think it’s because I’ve been trying to sort out my feelings about our (relatively) new cat, Penelope. They went from “Can we bring her back to the shelter?” to “Maybe we can work with her,” and, finally, to acceptance and what I’ll tell you about her here.
Misgivings about our choice of adoptee began when we realized Penelope never slept. At least not that we noticed. Going from a cat who slept about 23 hours a day to one who always wants to play or eat was a shock to our daily (and nightly) lives. If we didn’t pay attention to her, she was relentless in her mewing and mrowwing (I call it kvetching).
Penelope didn’t spend the night on our bed, or even in our bedroom. She left the room when the lights went out but came back up for some attention at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. This was disturbing for two reasons: 1) I loved cuddling with Maude at night and missed that affection, and 2) 3:00 is not a good time to get up in the morning—especially when you don’t get to sleep until 11. We tried keeping quiet and ignoring her, hoping she would get discouraged and leave. But for Penelope, getting discouraged translates to, “They aren’t paying attention to me so I think I’ll scratch the furniture.” Our silence broke with a sharp, “No!”
During the day, heaven help you if you didn’t have lots of time to play Follow the Laser Pointer (her favorite) or Run After the Mousie. (One of us throws a small catnip-filled mouse across the room, and Penelope runs after it, then patiently waits for us to retrieve it and throw it again. All I can say is that it adds steps to my Fitbit.) We bought toys that can keep her busy when we’re busy—one that automatically emits laser beams in a choice of speeds and another that moves a ball around under a cover, encouraging cats to try to capture it. These novelties interest her for about 5 minutes, tops. She wants us.
We’ve now had her for nearly three months, and there’s been some improvement. In fact, she improves, little by little, every day. Last night, I swear she spent the whole night on our bed, burrowed under a blanket. When she did wake up, I evidently slept through it because when I asked my husband at about 6:00 if he fed her, he said he had. So she must have fussed at about 5:30. Overall, a more reasonable time that we hope we can extend to 6:30 or 7:00.
She doesn’t back away as much when we try to pet her. But affection has to be on her terms. She’ll plop down on the bed, just far enough away from our hands that we have to stretch to rub her back or head. She seems to love the touch, but she’s not trusting enough to seek it more often. We think it’s her possibly traumatic life on the street that made her skittish and in time she’ll realize we’re in her life to provide food (often), water, a clean litter box, and stimulating activities.
These days I’ve actually seen her napping! But her hearing is so sharp she’ll wake up if there’s any disruptive sound, like an ice cube dropping into the bin in the refrigerator. I suspect she sleeps when nobody’s home, but one of us is home most of the time.
Our next goal is getting Penelope to sit or lie next to us for an extended time or, and this is a stretch, sit on our laps. We’re not giving up, and surely we won’t bring her back to the shelter. Yes, I wish we had selected another cat—one whose behavior we had observed instead of looking into a cage and thinking, “She’s cute and seems docile. We’ll take her.” But we made the choice, and we’re focusing on the positive: Penelope is scrupulous about using the litter box (knock on wood). She has a healthy appetite (understatement). And although she’ll sometimes scratch at furniture when we’re not being attentive enough, she hasn’t destroyed anything yet (double knock on wood).
She also provides entertainment. She loves to climb into our deep bathtub (although I doubt she’d like it so much with water in it). It’s weird but funny when you’re brushing your teeth and you look in the mirror to see a little face with big eyes staring up at you from the tub. She can jump so high when chasing a laser beam, I’m sure she’ll be able to turn the lights on and off soon. She’s aware that a little metal object on a key ring is the source of her laser enjoyment because, when I put it down, she goes directly to the spot where I left it and reaches for it while complaining. My response: “Sure. Just try to work that thing with your paws…”
Penelope is not our ideal cat, but we’ve learned to like her very much (I can’t quite say “love” yet), while she’s (I hope) learning to like or love us. I think—no, I’m sure—we’ll keep her.