Wednesday, January 05, 2011

six months

Six months ago yesterday, Latté crawled out from under our deck and decided our house was as good as any so he could be convinced to stay and oblige us with his presence. That first week brought with it a lot of lap sitting, a lot of soft talking, and a lot of patient waiting for him to warm up to us. I was thrilled to have found (as if we found him) a lap kitty, and was eager to see how things would continue to unfold.

As is usual, things unfolded quite differently as was expected. Once Latté wasn't starving any longer, he was not as keen to be held or to sit on laps. In fact, he didn't like it AT ALL. I was a little taken aback by this sudden change of character, and set off on my quest to get this suddenly stand-offish cat back in my lap.

A fellow cat lover then let me in on a very important scoop. Apparently, it takes six months for a cat to adjust to a new owner and for their true nature to then finally come out. Sure enough, when they got a new kitty, six months on the dot that kitty relaxed and warmed up to them immensely. Well, whew! This meant there was still hope for the lap-plan.

I have been very familiar with this type of hope. I clearly recall, almost twelve years ago now, sitting in my kitchen with my midwife (who back then did house calls to help with lactation issues) and a bright red, squalling infant, saying "I can't wait until we get this feeding thing all straightened out, so we can see what her real temperament is going to be like." Bridget smiled that patient, "oh, you're so naïve" smile and reached over and patted my arm. "Oh, Sweetie," she said. "You're looking at it."

This did not, unfortunately, deter me from trying to figure it all out and turn the "strong, passionate, creative, independent" young woman that I prayed for into someone more docile and, well, quiet. If you know my daughter, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt I fortunately did not succeed. But that does not keep me from still hoping…

The next two months of Latté's residence with us were spent in the utmost patience. He began to quietly unfold. He would lay at the foot of our bed. He would lay on the hassock by our feet when we watched movies. He would allow you to hold him for a full 30 seconds if you were very still and stroked him in just the right way. And best of all, he would chase his tail in great earnest for a good five minutes or more, which was a great delight to the whole family.

Then I got the brilliant idea he needed a playmate. We are gone quite a bit, and I didn't want Latté to get lonely. So we brought home a kitten and slowly introduced them to one another. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

I've questioned, ever since then, if the six month marker gets reset if you do something stupid like bring an insane kitten into the mix when the first cat is still adjusting to you. Or even increased. A year? Six years? How long does it take until I get my lap kitty? The questions and concerns run on a constant feedback loop. Would he be sleeping with us by now if I hadn't gotten the kitten? Would he be more inclined to be held? Would he play with his tail again if he were the only one chasing it? Is he happy here? Did I do the right thing?

I know what you're thinking. If she's this neurotic about her cats, heaven help her poor children. I will receive that prayer with gratitude. Because it's true. Only heaven can help them all now.

The obvious reality is that Latté is being fed and groomed and loved on and sleeps 23 hours of the day. He is deliriously happy. He even purrs sometimes, but you have to put your head right up to his chest to hear it. And better yet, he will actually walk through the living room calling for Zipper, which completely cracks me up. He's not at the foot of our bed as often, but truth be told, Zipper is a bit of an energetic "sleeper" (I've taken to calling him The Tambourine in the middle of the night) and so I wouldn't want to stay there with him, either. And he doesn't chase his tail, but, as previously mentioned, he now has someone to do that for him on a full time basis. He is as happy here as he can be, and adjusting just fine. I am the one with the problem.

I am the one with the preconceived notion (based on having spent the last 18 years living with The Best Cats Ever) about what things should look like. Big surprise that I would have expectations. Big surprise that I would be disappointed.

I am trying, however. I am trying to learn to let Latté be who Latté will be. I am trying to woo rather than force and influence rather than impose. I am trying to accept that he may never be a lap kitty, and I just may have to wait until the next go-round in another 18 years until I have that joy again. I am trying to loosen my claspy, sweaty grip on all ways I think things should be and just let them be how they are. I am trying.

I'll let you know in another six months how that seems to be working out. For both of us.

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