Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On Being Adopted...Maybe

We had an interesting morning. Actually, it started yesterday afternoon. JP called me out to the kitchen with an emergency. Apparently, Climber (the "blonde" kitty) had gotten stuck under the house again.

At least, that's what she thought. When I went outside, I heard a meow much louder and deeper than either kitten uses. (They're both rather quiet kitties. Truth be told, their purrs are louder than their miaows.) I bent down to check out the situation and noticed that the kitten stuck under house wasn't one of ours.

It was an orange tabby cat, colored like a striped pumpkin. He (I guessed...and later confirmed) wanted some attention, which was perfectly understandable. There still was some snow on the ground and it was pretty cold. I could see why he would hole up under the house.

Now, I wasn't wild about him (or either of our two calicos) taking up residence under the house and getting ideas of where they could bury their, um, "leavings." (The garden can use a bit of compost, but I'd rather not have the smell of something "strange" wafting up through the floorboards, if you know what I mean.)

I have this habit of giving names to creatures. In an attempt to coax this traveling cat out from under the house, I called him "Tramp" and it stuck. JP handed me some canned cat food in a dish and I spent several minutes convincing Tramp that it was his.

Tramp apparently had had some bad experiences with people; he was not at all trusting. He'd poke his head out from under the house and then pull back immediately, apparently convinced we were trying to pull a fast one on him. Sudden noises made him dive back under the house for several minutes.

Eventually, he started eating (wolfing, more like), taking huge bites of food and swallowing them whole. He dropped as much food on the ground as he got into his stomach, poor kit.

As Tramp ate (gobbled), I moved the bowl farther and farther away, trying to get him to come further and further from underneath the house. When he was fully out and far enough away, I blocked up the opening he'd just come out of.

Naturally, he took off like a shot toward the other side of the house. I followed and saw his tail as it disappeared into the opening he'd apparently used to get under the house in the first place.

Fortunately, he was still hungry.

I put the bowl out for him and let him finish it without hassle. While he was eating, I slipped a couple of bricks in front of the original opening, thinking that if I managed to get him out from under the house again, he wouldn't be able to get back.

After two bowls of food (he was clearly ravenous), I was able to coax Tramp out and close up both entrances to the house. He let me pet him and I carefully picked him up, carried him to the back gate, and gently set him on the other side of the fence. (I had hoped he would find shelter in the wood pile next to the house on the other side of the alley.) Before I put him down, Tramp graced me with a gentle (and sadly quiet) purr.

Now, allow me to take a moment to say that I'm probably the biggest ailurophile (cat lover) in the family. Oh, I know the JP and the girls would disagree, but I've always been a cat person and tend to prefer them over many dogs.

(Dog is an exception. Remember, he sees himself as a larger, furry cat who can't purr.)

It's not that I wouldn't happily adopt any stray cat that chooses to stay, it's just that I know how many animals we can healthily manage and we're very close to our limit right now. If we lived on a chunk of land with a barn and a stand of trees off to the side, I wouldn't mind. But, we have a tiny yard in the midst of a residential neighborhood. A busy street is only a couple of houses away and I've bad memories from growing up with an unspayed cat while living next to a busy street.

So, I didn't mind giving Tramp a good meal and a good cuddle, but I really didn't want him hanging out long term like. You know what I mean?

It's not that I don't have a heart (believe me, I do), it's just that I try to stay on top of our obligations as a family.

Still, I felt bad and told JP that if he managed to get under the house a third time, I'd let him stay the night. We'd deal with the next step after that.

About half an hour later, I went outside and guess what I heard coming from under the house? Tramp let me know he'd found his way back into his sheltering spot. I went around to see how he'd done it. He'd simply pushed one of the bricks into the hole that led under the house. At that point, I knew I was licked, so I cleared away the blocks I'd put into place and we let Tramp stay the night under the house, which was probably a good thing for him as it was 30 degrees Fahrenheit at 11:00 pm.

This morning, DD woke me up to tell that Tramp was back. When I got to the kitchen, JP, DD, and the kitties were watching Tramp warily eat breakfast. He was still skittish, but he was inside. He was still gobbling his food, rather than tasting it, and he was still leaving great crumbs of the stuff all over the floor. A fact not lost on Pouncer, who is vying with Dog as the resident mooch.

Once Tramp had eaten a bit, he nuzzled DD and let her give him "loves."

Climber wasn't entirely sure she wanted another cat around the house and hissed a bit from time to time, but Pouncer was more hospitable, going as far as trying to get Tramp to play with her. Tramp, for his part, was only interested in breakfast.

He was still skittish, though, and took off as soon as Dog made an appearance.

I could tell that the question of whether or not Tramp would be staying had changed for both JP and DD. There clearly was no question in their minds. I was a bit more nervous about the whole thing. How would his presence change the dynamic between the kitties and Dog? Would there be fighting? Would there be a challenge for alpha cat? Who would we be rushing to the vet for stitches?

We couldn't stay long, as school was still a consideration. DD's school started late because of the icy road conditions, but we still had to get her to class. Eventually, we left the pet door open, as well as the entrances under the house. As we drove away, I wondered what (if anything) we'd have to clean up when we got back in the evening.

As it turns out, there wasn't much to clean up. It doesn't seem like Tramp came into the house while we were gone. In fact, he doesn't appear to be around any longer.

DD clearly misses him. She came out several times during the evening, wanting to know when we were going to go out to look for him. He hasn't made an appearance.

He's not under the house at the moment and we haven't seen (or heard from) him all evening. DD's sad, but not overly so. JP misses him, after (in her words) "one brief morning fling."

I kind of miss him, too. I hope he's okay. It's 33 degrees Fahrenheit and raining.

I'm going to look for him.

(*half an hour later*)

I went outside and called for Mr. Tramp. I heard a small "mrowr" in reply. We've got him inside right now and he's finished two bowls of food. He's clearly enjoying the attention that JP is giving to him, though he's just as clearly overwhelmed by everything.

Pouncer isn't sure how she wants to treat him yet. She alternates between trying to take his food and trying to get him to play. Climber is clearly out of sorts and hisses from time to time. I think it'll be okay, though. She was not at all pleased to make Dog's acquaintance when I first introduced them. Now they're the best of friends.

Tramp seems less skittish than last night.

Dog, for the moment, is locked in our bedroom.

If he's going to stay, Tramp is going to have to learn with all of us. And tonight is clearly a step up from last night. We'll see if he's around in the morning. If he is, DD will be very, very pleased.


Blogger Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Let's see if he makes an encore appearance tonight!! x...x, JP

7:18 PM  
Anonymous kristy said...

So, is he still around?

Bless you for taking care of the homeless.

12:20 AM  

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