The three year old tabby was small for her age at only five pounds. Her dark-gray fur was striped in black with a lovely undercoat of coppery-gold and was surprisingly soft and thick, more like rabbit fur in winter.
Her round little head seemed too small for her expressive and large oval eyes, especially when the pupils dilated—anxious at my approach. She was nearly feral and only partially tamed by the priest who cared for her. She needed food and protection from her own kind so he had set up a covered cage on his deck where she could eat and sleep in safety. When I adopted her she had two sizeable infected wounds from being attacked by other feral cats and the trip to the vet was traumatic.
When I looked at her tiny paws and miniature prick ears, somewhere deep inside a warm gentleness overtook me. I wanted so much to cuddle this diminutive kitty and feel her warm purring body against my own. But she was small and frightened, so my patience was required. I’d had her long enough that she no longer bolted from the room when I came with her food.
In order to move close to her as she shrunk into the corner I would lay on my belly and scooch slowly across the floor, softly repeating her name “Georgia.” Extending my arm I would pet her with two fingers, being very delicate with my touch. Too much pressure or too near and she’d dart into hiding. When that happened I waited for her to regain her trust and return to me, that non-priest person.
What I found worked best was to sit on the floor near her with my open hand facing up and resting by my side, and where she was just beyond my reach. This one knew arithmetic well and could calculate exactly how far a human’s arm could reach! If I was patient she would often inch toward me, leaning into my open palm and choosing to feel my touch. She had decided to be more accepting of my enormity in her little life.
Georgia only came to me at night after I had settled in for sleep. She’d softly mew at the foot of the bed until I pulled my hand out from under the blankets—palm up and fingers slightly curled. She would then come eagerly when I whispered her name. Curled up next to my hip, she would rub against my fingers a few times, place her round little head in the palm of my hand, and settle down. We both would fall asleep in peace.
Too sick from being feral for too long, Georgia has since passed.
(This column originally appeared at www.catholicmom.com)