See this cute little kitty?
This is Muffin. I’ve been feeding her since she was a starving half-grown kitten that my previous cat, Mooshu, brought home one cold evening, offering her his own bowl to eat from. She was and remains feral, however.
Mooshu disappeared without a trace a couple of years ago at the ripe old age of 14. We still take care of Muffin in his stead. She’s even had kittens on our back deck.
I remade an old rabbit hutch, then, into a kitty house complete with bed, carpet, litter box, and toys, and moved her kittens into it. When she followed, I shut the door and kept her in there until the kittens were weaned and I’d found homes for them all. Then we got her into a carrier and took her to be spayed, keeping her pinned up again until she was healed.
She did not develop Stockholm Syndrome. She didn’t complain about any of that and was very calm about being pinned up, seemed to feel safe there, but she remained feral.
Over the years, she’s gradually warmed up to us to the extent of letting us pet her, but only when she she was eating.
Last night was different. It was freezing outside… not for the first time but still… There she was pressed up against the glass door looking longingly in at our two indoor kitties, Phoebe and Cole, who happen to like her and played with her when they went out during the summer.
When I opened the door, she didn’t run away for once even though I had no food in my hands. She head-butted my hand and let me pet her even though she wasn’t eating. This was a FIRST. When I leaned back into the house to scoop up some food for her from the canister, she came halfway through the door to follow me.
Surprised, I tested her by filling her dish but placing it inside on the door mat instead of outside and sure enough, she came in to eat it, still letting me pet her. The cold air through the open door was too much and I felt so bad for her that she’d have to go back out into it that I quietly began to close the door.
She was outside in an instant.
As I knelt there, hand hesitating on pulling the door shut, she suddenly came back in, calmly went back to eating and letting me pet her. She was downright affectionate in fact; not just accepting pets, but also rubbing up against my hand and arm in turn.
Shortly though, she walked away to explore a bit and then began letting out plaintive yowls every few steps or so as she took in the strangeness of her situation.
She walked right past Jeb, playing video games in the living room, and yowled loudly at him before walking on.
“What is Muffin doing inside?” he asked.
“Well, it’s cold out,” I answered, “I thought she might like to come in.”
“That’s not what she’s saying,” he commented as she let loose another loud yowl. “Let her out.”
“Let her out NOW!”
I sighed and went through the motions as Muffin came back towards me and the door. Determined to let her make the choice, I opened the door again, just wide enough for her to get through.
She approached, gave half of a last yowl, and then walked away again, this time quietly, apparently with the memory intact of exactly how cold it was out there.
I shut and locked the door, letting Jeb think I’d let her out if that was what he preferred to believe.
Neither of us saw or heard any more Muffin last night, though I looked around for her, wondering where she’d hidden herself.
I hope she wants to stay inside with us. It’s so bitter cold outside and honestly, she’s at least as social as Cole is, albeit even more skittish than he is. But as long as she wants to stay, so long as she doesn’t wreck the place, I’m going to let her stay. I don’t think Jeb will mind too much so long as she behaves herself. Much as he protests about “wild kitties” coming in, I know darn well he’s a softy cat person at heart.
And me? Well I mind just as well as a cat and am even harder to herd. Besides, Muffin really is adorable and I’ve always hoped she might eventually be my house kitty.