Tuesday, April 23, 2013


A year ago today, an obviously unimpressed and scared cat moved in with me. You can read about my adoption of Louis the Maine Coon mix in a previous post. As I type this he is hanging out behind me, as is his habit when I'm on the computer.

(Apparently he knows I'm typing about him; he just trundled over and made a "pet me" noise.)

The last year has seen slow but steady changes in Louis. He's still nervous of strangers, and on the rare occasions when someone rings my obnoxiously-loud doorbell, Louis scuttles to his safe place under the bed. The combination of his fluffy coat and the low-riding gait used in such circumstances always reminds me of an over-sized guinea pig riding a tiny tandem.

Three months ago we moved apartments. Louis didn't enjoy this at all, and the first few days in the new place saw him firmly camped under the bed until I'd turned in. Apparently the cover of darkness made him more confident and I'd hear him investigating and sniffing his new environment. He has now come to appreciate the better location and view, and is particularly fond of watching SouthWest 737s on final approach into McCarran.

When I chose to adopt a traumatized cat, I realized it would take a while for trust and affection to develop. It's an ongoing process, but a rewarding one. Over the last year Louis has incrementally become calmer and more desirous of interaction with me.

Fortunately he seems to approve of my late schedule. I usually wake up mid-afternoon. As I'm making coffee, Lou emerges from under the bed. After a yawn and a stretch he hops onto the bed to be petted and sometimes brushed. Then he waddles off for breakfast.

On days that I'm home he tends to hang out wherever I am, except during his many naps that he prefers to take under the bed. He has an arsenal of toys, but in accordance with YouTube tradition he is obsessed with chasing the Red Dot.

If I leave the apartment to work, he's invariably waiting for me when I get home. As I walk through the front door his usual greeting is to poke his head around the wall of the short corridor to the bedroom, presumably to make sure it's me. He then dictates the proceedings by either running to the bedroom and onto the bed for petting, or towards his food-bowl for dinner.

Around 4 a.m. he gets restless. Time for bed. I usually read for an hour while he curls up next to me purring. He'll stay with me for a while after lights out, but then he has to fulfill his role as a cat and tear around the apartment as fast as he can, stopping only to play with his favorite toy, the Turbo Scratcher.

So wouldn't it be more fun to have adopted a kitten? Or perhaps a "normal" cat without Louis' traumatic past and resulting nervousness?

Well... kittens are fun, sure. I've had the pleasure of adopting several over the years, developing a remarkable bond with them. And, yes, an adult cat with a calmer past would likely sit on my lap within the first week of adoption and not require this long process of earning trust.

But adopting a "special needs" cat like Louis brings special rewards. He needed a quiet environment where he could feel safe, and a human with patience who would let him define the boundaries of the human-cat relationship, free of prejudices about how a cat is "supposed" to behave and interact.

Louis is always going to be a little different. I imagine that he'll do his guinea-pig-on-a-tandem routine whenever a sudden noise or strange voice startles him. But as I look at him now a couple of feet behind me, laying on his back with all four paws pointing at the ceiling, I am convinced that Louis is pretty pleased with the way things have turned out. And so am I.