So this blog post is for you, Annie. Perhaps fitting that I'm blogging about my black kitty on Halloween, yes?
|Annie, who apparently requires an exorcism.|
Anyone who has read the "about me" stuff on this blog, may recall a bit of Annie's history, but for those who haven't read it, I'll sum up briefly. No one really knows where Annie came from, but she was found wandering the streets in the Northside (here in Pittsburgh) and was picked up and taken to the Animal Rescue League. I'm not sure that she was exactly feral, but she may have been just a couple of meals away from it. We had some socialization issues when we first got her... more on that later.
Unfortunately, she was a victim of "black cat syndrome," that is, no one wanted to adopt her. She sat in a cage for several months, before the shelter workers took pity on her and sent her to a foster home to give her a break from the cage. Her foster mom had other cats, and reported that Annie got along very well with the other cats, but wasn't much of a lap cat. (I think this was code for "Annie hasn't seen any reason to trust a human being yet, so is being rather standoffish now that she is here in a home with some.") She was then sent back to the shelter, so that someone like me could wander in, find her, and adopt her. I think all told, she was with the Animal Rescue League for a year.
Her first night in our house, I was extremely worried about what we'd gotten ourselves into. She was sweet and you could tell that she wanted to trust us (probably due to the hard work of her foster mom) but didn't quite. She paced from room to room in the house all night long, and woke us up out of a stone cold sleep when she started trying to rip the screen out so that she could escape. Yikes! We hastily closed all of the windows most of the way, so that she wouldn't slip out.
She hid a lot in the beginning, and it didn't help that Charlotte, who really is quite a bruiser, seemed to take it as her solemn duty to beat the crap out of her every time she saw her. Annie is, and always was "low cat on the totem pole" and would just prefer to slip away and otherwise make herself as agreeable as possible to the other cats so that they wouldn't pick on her.
She and Bit, who was a 4-month old kitten at the time, quickly bonded, and to this day are inseparable. This was a HUGE relief to us, because having a kitten around was exhausting sometimes, and having a playmate for her seemed to keep her out of trouble most of the time. We could count on Annie to play with her but not get too rough. We used to joke that she was "Bit's cat," even.
Unfortunately, even after we first adopted her, Annie sometimes got less attention than the others. It wasn't intentional. A couple of months after we adopted them, we had to rush Charlotte to the emergency vet in the middle of the night, which started us on the odyssey of vet's visits, medicines, and floor pacing that led to Char's diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Charlotte got a lot of attention in those early months, and Bit, well, Bit was a mischievous kitten, so would force us to pay attention to her, one way or another! Quiet Annie tried to stay out of our way, and while we in no way neglected her, it was clear that she wasn't bonding with us either.
Once I realized what was going on, I felt very guilty - I had not intended to ignore her - but she was so low maintenance that the higher maintenance kitties just got more of the attention. I immediately set to rectify the situation. Every time I would see her, no matter how busy or distracted I was, I would pet her, scratch her behind the ears, and talk to her. And she blossomed. Soon she was following me around, squeaking at me while I did house chores. And then she would perch on the arm of the couch while I worked on my laptop, watched t.v., or read a book. In the beginning, she would only let me pet her for about five minutes before running off, but during that five minutes, she was purring and happy.
She's gotten progressively more friendly throughout the two plus years that we've had her with us, and more assertive about getting attention. She is the one who will jump up on the bed while I'm still asleep and make a nest out of my pillow. If I open my eyes while she's perched there, she will immediately begin to purr. If I don't wake up fast enough for her liking, she might lick me. I've had my eyelids, my nose, and the bottom of my foot (blech!) licked. I've also had the tip of my nose nipped.
She also has a bizarre habit of - I don't have any other way to describe this - guarding us when one of us is showering or bathing. She will slip into the bathroom with one of us, and station herself just alongside the tub, facing outward toward the door. And she will not budge until we've turned the water back off or step out of the tub to dry off. I have no idea of what that's all about. Her intention seems clear enough, it's just the reasons behind it that I'm a little murky on. Sometimes I will take awhile in the bath, because I'm a huge fan of reading in the tub. If I take TOO long according to Annie's internal clock, she will rear up on her hind legs to peer over the edge at me before resuming "guard position." I guess she's making sure that I didn't drown?
Annie was my closest companion last fall, after I'd had my gallbladder removed. I took a week off from work to recuperate, and rarely spent any time completely alone. I would almost always have all of the cats sitting on me, most likely because I was a largely immobile heat source. Annie, though, seemed to know that something was wrong, and did not let me out of her sight. Had to go to the bathroom? I'd limp my way in, with a little black escort. I slept in the guest bedroom during that week, because our regular bed was too high - I was hurting too much to do what was needed to climb in and out of it. Unfortunately, Annie had to be shut out of the room. I had set up a nightlight, since I had to get up and down a lot, to prevent me from tripping over a cat and killing myself. Annie was fascinated with the nightlight, and would sit in front of it and bat at it with her paws. I was worried that she was going to hurt herself. Here's a picture that I snapped from the bed one of those nights. It's very Halloweeny, but it's actually Annie sitting in front of that nightlight.
|Annie by nightlight.|
The only other behavior issue that I have with her is that she is fascinated with my houseplants, and will not leave them alone. It's because of her that I can't have the usual array of philedendrons, porthos, and dieffenbachias - they're all poisonous to cats, and I'm convinced that she would eat them anyway. I have some non-toxic ferns and african violets now, and that's about it. But those ferns are her favorite snack! I am constantly having to chase her away from them. My first clue that she's into them is usually when I hear her smacking her lips behind me, where the ferns are.
Annie is an awesome cat, and for such an initially shy little thing, she's the most consistent lap-cat that I have now... Bit loves to snuggle, but only when it's cold outside. Charlotte is so independent that she will only occasionally jump up with me, and refuses, for the most part, to sit on my lap.
|Annie, in her happy place. This is where she would flee, when we first got her, any time she got scared.|