Monday, July 27, 2015

COPY CAT 2 -- Blue

Guest post by Jean Lorrah

Blue started out life as a feral kitten, one of three born to a mother cat who risked bringing them to my friend Lois Ruiz' house to eat the food she put out for them. Lois tried to catch the kittens, but they were too frightened and too fast for her, so all she could do was put food out. Eventually two of the kittens were hit by cars, but Mama Cat continued to bring the third for food.

Then one day Lois saw neighborhood kids dragging something down the street--the surviving kitten! They had a wire twisted around her neck and tied to a rope, and would have killed the poor little thing if Lois had not grabbed them, threatened them with a report of animal cruelty, and taken the kitten away from them. So the one remaining kitten, now named Blue, was finally safe, and Mama Cat disappeared back into the wild.

Blue had cuts on her neck, but otherwise was not injured. However, the experience did nothing to increase her trust in human beings. Lois tended to her wounds and turned her loose in her house, where there were four other highly domesticated and friendly cats.

Blue grew up skittish and distrustful, but slowly accepted Lois as her person and would even sometimes come to me and let me pet her if I didn't visit with a dog in tow. If Lois had not died, Blue would have been set for life. Sadly, though, Lois unexpectedly suffered a stroke while in the hospital for a broken pelvis. I already had her dog, Fancy, at my house. Lois' oldest cat, Elmer, died within days of her death; her daughter Kay took the larger cats, and I took poor little Blue.

I put Blue in my bedroom, where she hid under the bed during the day. At that time (two years ago) I was crating my dogs at night anyway, so nothing changed for them except that the bedroom door was closed at night. Dudley and Splotch, though, were baffled at being shut out. But Blue needed attention: during the night she came up on the bed and slept with me.
Blue is a small gray cat, only seven pounds, long and lean when she stretches out. She has gold eyes, and a rather long nose that gives her face a distinct triangular shape. She and I spent the nights together for two years, with the dogs, Fancy and Bianca, joining us when I felt it was no longer necessary to crate them. Blue already knew Fancy, and soon made friends with Bianca. For weeks Blue never left the bedroom, even during the day when the door was open. The main reason for her reticence was Splotch, the only one of my menagerie who did not welcome her. He was not happy at no longer being the youngest cat, and I could not keep him from bullying Blue, who is half his size. So Dudley took it upon himself to teach Blue cat martial arts, which gave her confidence just as such training does for many people. She began venturing out of the bedroom, at least into the spare bedroom or across the hall into the bathroom. As time passed she would stay in the hall, and even occasionally stray into the kitchen. That was how things stood until Dudley died last month. Like all cats, Dudley had particular places he liked to sit or lie. I told you last week about Splotch taking his place on the TV table. Well, Blue chose one of his other favorite places, the bottom shelf of one of the living room bookcases, where he would sit for hours like a knickknack. Within days, I began to see Blue sitting in that spot. Also, Blue began to play. Dudley and Splotch were both playful cats, separately and together, but Blue was solemn, cautious, quiet, sitting under the rocking chair and watching the others play. But now she began chasing sunbeams and imaginary mice! Then one day I was at my desk in the office, concentrating on something on the computer. Slowly I realized that a gray cat was on my lap, having quietly invaded while I was not paying attention, just the way Dudley used to do. Sure enough it was Blue, on her first visit to my office--but not her last. She now follows me in as Dudley did. As I write this she is sitting between the keyboard and the screen, another of Dudley's favorite places, telling me I've been at this too long, and the animals need some attention. One of Dudley's annoying traits (yes, he had some) was to knock things off the table when he wanted my attention. This morning I was putting allergy medicine in Fancy's eyes when Blue jumped up on the table and meowed for attention. I didn't stop what I was doing to pet her, as I usually do to encourage her to assert herself--and, BOP! She very deliberately knocked a box of tissues onto the floor! I'm not sure exactly what is happening, except that Blue is coming into her own in ways that suggest she is using what she learned from Dudley. She now prowls the whole house, and demands more and more cuddling. She still hasn't forgiven Splotch, but this morning I saw something that just might get him into her good graces if he keeps it up. Splotch approached Blue again, and she held her ground and growled at him as usual. And then Splotch began to go through the cat martial arts opening ceremony. Blue stared at him and stopped growling. No, she didn't accept the invitation--but she simply walked away. I hope Splotch has realized that the techniques Dudley taught both younger cats could be the means of bringing them together. Perhaps one day soon Blue will accept Splotch's invitation to engage safely under the rules of cat martial arts, and they will find their way to friendship. Whatever happens, Dudley's legacy lingers in this house in the actions of the two younger cats he raised. As for Blue, it's almost as if what he taught her is now giving her the courage to come out of her shell and have a more meaningful life.

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