how desperately, disbelievingly, deliriously joyful a cat is, when taken in from the street. Of course, I mean a cat who has had a former home, not a feral kitty!
I just brought in a small, gray female kitty who had been hiding under my neighbors' shed the past few days, if not longer. I asked if she was theirs first, of course. I had seen her poke her head out a few times, and I saw her licking something out of a tupperware container (so I think/hope they had been providing her food or water of some sort), but she was shy. I spent most of an hour by the fence with some kibble, trying to get her to come to me. She had that face that said she wanted to, but was scared. She has a large scabbed-over area on her flank that makes me think other neighborhood animals - probably cats but possibly humans, unfortunately - got to her a little while ago.
Once she came over for the food, she went crazy wanting attention. Rubbing herself against my hands through the fence and meowing and purring. It was then I checked with the neighbors, and got permission to take her. She followed me nervously out from their yard. That fence and the shed were real shelter and safety. But she came with me, and let me pick her up and bring her inside. I immediately took her upstairs to avoid contact with my kitties.
I brought her a litter box, a can of food, and fresh, clean water. A kitty bed I scooted under the human bed so she could hide and be comfy. A blanket for the floor, so she could lay down in the open if she wanted. I came back downstairs and posted "found" ads online. I went back up a few times to be sure she was ok. The first couple times she was hiding under the bed under the far back corner. She came out after I called her and rubbed my fingers together for a minute or so.
The last time I went up, she was laying out on the blanket. She came right to me and wanted attention. As before, I lied down on the blanket so she could have the attention she wanted without being forced. She rubbed all over me as she had the previous times, but then she looked up at the bed, looked at me, then looked at the bed again. It was like she was saying, "Can we please go up there?"
Of course I got in bed immediately, and she jumped right up. She couldn't settle down for at least 10 minutes. She was going from one side to the other, getting me to pet her with both hands, lying down for a moment only to get right back up...
Finally, she was able to be still and lie down. She relaxed more and more. She curled up against my side. She slept. Really slept. She licked her wounds a bit. She scratched her ears. She stretched out and put her head completely down.
And I nearly wept. It's hard to put yourself in that place - having no one, not being physically safe for who knows how long, having no sure supply of food or water. Being with an animal who realizes that they are *finally* safe and ok is a beautiful thing.
And I realized again all the things I had forgotten since Boo showed up on our patio, more than 5 years ago now. I forgot that cats can have dirty feet. It's an easy thing to forget, when your kitties are inside and safe, and have the leisure time to keep themselves properly clean. I forgot how rare and special it is for a cat to truly zonk out around you. Mine do it all the time. They'll be dead to the world until I touch them and startle them awake. That's how safe and comfortable they are here, even with their petty differences amongst themselves.
And I forgot how astounding and touching it is for an animal you met just a few hours earlier to curl up next to you and fall fast asleep, that frantic purring turning to silence because at last that creature can truly rest and relax. It is humbling, to have an animal trust me that much. And it is a feeling I will do my best not to forget again, and to never take for granted.