Even as we grieved for Miss Sugar, we knew it wouldn’t be long before we welcomed another little beating heart into our home. There’ll never be another Miss Sugar or a Spice. But the place felt empty without a furball to feed and love. Enter Cuddles, a 13-year-old panther-like beauty surrendered to Animal Aide in St. Thomas 7 long months ago.
Unlike Spice and Sugar, Cuddles was scared and skittish. When Spice came home (also from Animal Aide, after 5 months there), he immediately began exploring the whole house like he owned it. He eventually did. Spice had confidence to burn. Miss Sugar (London Humane Society, for a few days) also set out to investigate. Not Cuddles. The only evidence we had of him were cleaned-out food bowls and lumps in the litterbox.
He had been with one devoted owner all his life. She had to give him up when she moved in with her daughter. I only know the broad strokes of the story, but it was devastating for the woman and clearly hard on the cat. He was an unhappy shelter-dweller, though compliant and not hissy or a biter. I met a couple of hissy, bitey cats the day I picked him up. Can’t blame them for reacting to their circumstances in the only way they know.
Cuddles had a couple of strikes against him for adoption. First, his age. Few people want an older cat. Kittens get snapped up while the others wait a long while. Also, he’s black. As Miss Sugar wrote in her blog post about black cats, there’s a pervasive bias against them. Whether it’s superstition or simply a preference, black cats are the hardest to rehome. It’s a prejudice that’s difficult to understand. And he’s on a special food for gastro issues. That’s not a big deal to us. In fact, none of those “strikes” matter at all.
Once Derek let him out of the carrying crate, we didn’t see Cuddles for days. He hid in the back of the litterbox area under the stairs and that’s where we thought he’d stay awhile. It’s roomy with a few boxes and other things to hide behind. It’s close enough to the litterbox to make it handy but far enough that he’s got a buffer zone. And it’s dark. We couldn’t see him but we spoke softly to him (we thought) as we passed by.
On his second morning it alarmed us that he hadn’t touched his food overnight. Was he hurt? He was so frightened of everything. Did he have a heart attack? I cried like a toddler who lost his balloon at the fair. We went over the events of the previous day. When our friend Jeff was here to work on my computer, we briefly had the workroom door open to get a screwdriver. Did the cat make a run for it and hide in there? He would have gotten locked in when we closed the door.
We needed proof of life.
We moved everything out from the walls and searched with flashlights but couldn’t find him. My clever husband sprinkled a thin layer of whole wheat flour on the floor and we left the door open that night. The following morning, relief washed over us like waves at the sight of floury footprints. They proved he was okay. The food bowls were empty again. He hadn’t make a sound. It was a strange feeling knowing there was something living with us that we never heard or saw.
He quickly forgave us for the workroom lockup and went from hiding cat to curious cat in just a few days. It started with brief sightings. Then there was eye contact from the safety of the under-stairs room, where he had returned. It has progressed on his terms.
Friday afternoon, he spent a couple of hours pacing between us for back strokes and forehead bumps. He let Derek brush him. The next morning, he made his way upstairs to the kitchen and living room for more attention. He gets brave but then an unfamiliar noise frightens him and he retreats to his safe zone. It’s two steps forward, a half-step back. But it’s happening more quickly than I anticipated. We are thrilled.
He’s a love bug when he’s feeling secure. I think he’s going to become something I’ve wanted a long time: a lap cat. One day soon, when the time is right, we’ll deliver his food upstairs instead of down, and he will understand he has the run of the place. It’s our responsibility to let him get to that point in his own time. For a majestic cat he has an unexpected voice. High and squeaky. I wonder whether his vocal cords are tight from stress and anxiety. Time will tell. Perhaps a rich baritone sound will come out of him when he finally relaxes.
He likes to curl up by my feet in my recording booth. And we’ve already had our first nap together on the basement couch. A big moment!
We thought about changing his name. I suggested Houdini. Then Genesis, as I spontaneously rewrote the lyrics to Invisible Touch – Invisible Cat! I also liked Storm. My brother suggested Coal. But now we’re thinking he will stay named Cuddles. He responds to it and it suits him. I hope to get better photos of him soon, but right now, our priority is making him feel safe and at home. Our fur-covered beating little heart. Just wait until he figures out he’s in charge.
Cuddles hasn’t yet decided whether he wants to blog or model or run his own company. Perhaps he’ll just enjoy a quiet life with his staff of two. But he does have an Instagram account. You can follow him @CuddlestheSeniorCat.