Jeremy’s birthday (observed) is fast approaching.
He’s very nearly a Halloween Cat — in fact, one of the reasons we rescued him is because, sadly, black cats don’t always survive this holiday.
Our first sighting of Jeremy (né “cat”) occurred one brisk, bright October afternoon as My Fella and I were strolling down North Columbia en route to my apartment. As we approached the building, we spied a very small, very skinny black cat sitting on the walkway.
“Awwww,” we cooed, turning to each other. “So cute!”
In response, the cat coughed a couple of times and vomited on the ground, which was decidedly less cute. Then it dashed off and disappeared into the undergrowth of the nearest vacant lot, leaving a puddle of puke in its wake.
At the time, I didn’t necessarily think I’d see this cat again. I lived on a busy street with a robust frat boy population*. And the South has lot of stray and feral cats — to the point where most of the local shelters designate several consecutive calendar months as “kitten season.”
But this particular cat did not vanish into the forest like a wee scrawny jaguar. Instead, he started hanging around my apartment. Sometimes I’d come home and he’d be sitting on the front steps; sometimes one of us would see him lurking out back. No matter where he was, he’d flee as soon as he saw us looking at him.
We started putting some food out, since clearly this cat was not having much success at either hunting OR begging food from the neighbors. And soon, at a certain hour of the evening, we’d see him crouched by the back stoop, gobbling down whatever we’d put in the bowl — and, sometimes, barfing it right back up.
“Maybe we should catch him, before something bad happens to him.”**
I forget which one of us suggested it, but the suggestion was compelling enough that we obtained a Havahart (humane) trap and baited it with anchovies. My Fella was working on the evening in question, so I sat down on the couch to wait and conduct further research on “feral cat trapping — best practices.”
Cats may avoid the trap entirely, said the Internet. It may take 24-48 hours for the cat to enter the trap, said the Internet. Perhaps even a week or two, said the Internet.
15 MINUTES LATER I HAD A HISSING, SPITTING CAT HURLING ITS SMALL, WIRY BODY AGAINST THE SIDES OF THE TRAP.
I thought, “Now what?” and also, “Stupid Internet.”
Then I called My Fella to say, “Um, we caught the cat.”
I glanced at the little demon growling at me from inside the wire cage.
“Yep,” I replied, locking eyes with the cat, which emitted a menacing hiss.
These sorts of situations are among the reasons why one’s social network should always include a vet tech. We called M., who stopped by on her way to work, grabbed the trap, and returned him the next day — tested, vetted, and vaccinated.
Also, sans testicles.
“It’s a boy,” she announced, handing me a cat carrier. “By the way, we neutered him.” She paused thoughtfully before adding. “He’s not very well socialized.”
That, of course, I already knew.
We stashed the newly acquired cat in the spare room. At first — as per M.’s instructions — we kept him confined to a small, covered cage with food and water bowls and a litter box. Gradually, we set up a litter box outside the cage and let him explore.
And explore he did — by yowling piteously all night, shredding the window blinds, and strategically spraying urine on everything else.
“JEREMY, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!?!” I wailed. “I’ll never get my security deposit back!”
And that’s how Jeremy got his name, which was the first name that popped out of my mouth when I saw the destruction he had wrought upon the spare room.
“We have to do something,” I told My Fella.
“Ok,” he said, and set to work.
Here’s where I should mention that My Fella is the Cat Whisperer. As far as I can tell, his taming of the beast proceeded as follows: he 1.) bought a package of deli meat from the supermarket, b.) took it into the spare room, and c.) emerged a week later, covered in scratches and holding a cat in his arms.
That was 5 years ago and they have been best friends ever since.
It hasn’t always been easy: it took ages for Jeremy to learn to be a proper cat — how to purr (I think he surprised himself the first time he did it), how to play (still not his forte), how to interact with other cats (this, he actually does very well).
He took to belly rubs almost immediately, but everything else took time.
That said, he’s by far the best behaved of all of the kitties –mostly because he doesn’t do much of anything. He basically sleeps on My Fella’s pillow all day, and snuggles up to My Fella all night. And in between, he squawks at us to indicate that he wants petting.
Which we give him.