The White Cat - a short story

 

chapter 3

 

The next couple of nights saw steady progress. He would now come within arms reach, although I hadn't tried to touch him, yet.

The biggest surprise was the night I walked out the door to find him waiting so close to the door I couldn't open it without getting him to move. He walked towards me as soon as I was through the door and wound around my ankles like every tame tabby since cats first started living with humans. I was astonished. I was also elated. All that hard work and those long hours had paid off.

When I bent over, he allowed me to stroke his back. He even arched his back in pleasure. That was the first time I heard him purr. There would be many more nights filled with that sound.

I sat on the ground beside his bowl as he ate that night's meal and then coaxed him on my lap with a treat. He settled down as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I thought back to those first few days and compared his behavior then with the way he acted now. The transformation was truly amazing. He even rolled on his back to allow me to stroke his belly. That showed true trust.

He didn't stay in my lap for long that first night. All of a sudden, he shied away from my hand and jumped from my lap. It was almost as if he came to his senses, abruptly. Maybe, he had been sniffing some of the catnip that grew in many of the flowerbeds in the neighborhood. On the other hand, he may have just realized how much out of character were his actions.

After a quick drink from the water bowl, he gave me a last glance and then stalked off with his dignity intact. It was almost as if he were saying, 'that wasn't I, that was some stranger acting like that'. I smiled as I went back inside to spend the rest of the evening watching television.

Whitey was waiting for me when I returned home the next day. He had shown up at least an hour earlier than normal. There was no doubt he was happy to see me. He wound around my ankles, just as he had the night before, purring all the while. I leaned over and stroked him a few times before moving to the door.

That's when I found there was still a limit to his trust. No amount of coaxing could get him to step inside the house. He waited by the door until I came out with a bowl of food.

After he ate, we spent about thirty minutes together that night. He ended up in my lap for much of that time.

Whitey was quickly coming to enjoy the physical contact. I wondered if his mother was a stray cat, also. If that were the case, it was possible that he had never been as close to a person as he was at this moment. Certainly, he must have had some bad experiences with humans to act the way he had when I first saw him. Whatever the case, it was apparent that I was no longer one of the bad guys.

Eventually, when he had apparently had enough of the petting, he jumped from my lap. He stood looking at me for a few moments before wandering towards the back of the yard where a hole in the fence allowed him access to the next yard.

Whitey glanced back a couple of times as he strolled away. I wondered what he was thinking as he looked at me. Surely something, no matter what the scientists say.

Timeout:

It annoys me whenever I read a comment by a scientist stating that animals don't think or they don't have a sense of self. Animals may not think in the same way we humans do, but they certainly can think. Any pet owner can confirm that from observation.

If animals don't think, how is it possible for them to be jealous of each other? Ever have two dogs vying for your attention? Notice how jealous they get when you pay more attention to one than to the other? Well, how can that be if they have no sense of self? It's strictly a matter of, "Hey, what about me?

Just because a dog or cat appears not to recognize itself in a mirror doesn't prove that they have no sense of self. All it proves is that they don't understand mirrors. Now back to the story.

End timeout

My relationship with Whitey seemed to have hit a plateau over the next few days. He would be waiting for me when I came home from work and sometimes he was at the door when I left in the morning. On those occasions, I would go back inside and get him a treat.

No amount of coaxing would get him to come in the house. I even tried propping the screen door open and placing his food a few feet inside the doorway. He just wasn't ready to take that step.

Things went on this way for about a week and then, just as at every other stage of our friendship, Whitey made the change.

One day, when I opened the door to go back inside Whitey darted through ahead of me. When he had moved a few feet from the door, he crouched down and surveyed his new surroundings. The white cat didn't seem very comfortable with the strangeness of what must be an alien environment to him.

I propped the door open so that he would not feel trapped and then went about my business as if he were a regular visitor. I gave him a little more food in a bowl and filled another bowl with water. Just like offering a human visitor tea and crumpets.

He stayed while I cooked my dinner and then, when I went to close the door he darted through the narrowing opening and off into the gathering darkness. This time there were no backwards glances. He was off about his nightly business.

After that first night inside, Whitey would come in the door whenever I opened it. I no longer left the screen door open, but it didn't seem to bother him. Whenever he wanted to go out, he would walk to the door and sit in front of it until I came to open it for him.

Once he was starting to spend more time indoors, I put out a litter box and showed it to him. He was interested, but never used it, preferring the outdoors to take care of his sanitary needs. Spending the entire night inside seemed to be something else he wasn't willing to do. He would stay until I finished my dinner, begging for the leftovers until he was full, and then we would settle in my armchair for a night of reading or watching television. After a while, he would jump from the chair and walk to the door where he waited for me to open it. Off he would go to make his rounds. I wouldn't see him again until the next morning.

Apparently, those nightly rounds were not all fun and games. One morning he bore cuts and scratches from a fight, probably with another cat. I cleaned his wounds with soap and water and daubed on a light coating of antibiotic crème. I knew he would rub most of it off, but thought that some would remain deeper in the cut.

I don't really remember how long this went on before he spent a whole night inside. I do remember that it was raining that night and after one quick look out the door he turned around and settled in to wait it out.

I have no idea where he spent the night, certainly not on the bed with me. He must have found a spot to curl up where he felt safe. At one point during the night, he must have used the litter box, because it was soiled when I awoke.

In the morning, Whitey was at the door waiting to go outside by the time I finished dressing. Off he went to spend the day doing cat things.

When I returned that night, there he was waiting at the door. It was obvious I had succeeded in my quest. We were friends, now. We both showed pleasure in the other's company and constantly showed affection towards each other. There was a level of trust that only comes from familiarity.

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