One year tomorrow, a filthy, matted, mortally ill, violent cat fell asleep in my fox basket. The story of his arrival, his recovery and the decisions I was forced to make can be read here: https://titflasher.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/grumpy/.
Reader, I kept him.
For all sorts of reasons, mostly to do with the facts that (a) the sanctuary didn’t take him in the end, (b) he started to show signs of settling, (c) he was going to cost a lot to keep alive and (d) finally, but most importantly, despite him unleashing his pretty awesome temper on everyone of us, my cats accepted him pretty much from the start, I kept him.
His fur was atrocious, so I went out and bought some clippers. He hated them. I combed him gently. He hated me. He graduated to biting and scratching me, hard, drawing blood if he could.
A good friend offered him sanctuary space in her enclosed garden, where he could live the life he appeared he wanted to live, but be safe. Watching him waddling down the garden when I called him in for dinner, I hesitated.
When the Stalker came in, he would run away, knowing he was going to be cuddled. I expressed concern on more than one occasion when he held and cuddled Grumpy to the point where he was a spitting, growling ball of flying fur – it went against every trick in the book to win a cat’s confidence. But it worked because little by little, the cat relaxed.
I winced every time Grumpy got into a spat with one of mine, hoping like hell his bites didn’t break skin and hating myself a little for keeping him. They never did, his teeth worn down by so many years of hard living didn’t get through fur they way they got through human skin.
The only time I told him off was when he went for Arthur, my sweet, awesome, fragile boy, who just wanted him to know he was accepted.
It was a hard journey. Letting him out for the first time in months, my heart in my mouth … watching as he sniffed around and came back to me when I called him, was an exercise in nerves I never want to go through again.
Gradually, over days and weeks and months, something changed. When I get in at night I greet all the cats and I greeted Grumpy the same way every night, despite getting bitten for my trouble more than once.
One night, instead of biting, he sat up when I came in and lifted his sweet little face for the headrub I give them all on arrival.
One day, when I picked him up to comb him, instead of his head whipping around to sink what is left of his teeth into the back of my hand, he just sat there, grumbling. Tonight, for the first time, I combed his tummy with his consent.
One afternoon, when Arthur walked past him, instead of lashing out, Grumpy sniffed him and they had a nosey-kiss.
Last night, we got in late and I was running about feeding everyone. The Stalker picked Grumpy up and within seconds, the cat was not only totally relaxed, his head held back to get the best of a massage, but he started to make the grunts and mumbles he makes when he is happiest. Right there, in T’s arms.
Whilst I never would have taken on an elderly, FIV positive, feralised cat willingly, I don’t for one minute regret keeping him. He has been one of the most challenging, difficult cats, raising the most challenging difficult questions for me as an animal rescuer who just wanted to do the right thing by him and often thought she was failing.
Happy Gotcha Day Grumpy, you ain’t going nowhere <3.