Leonard has arrived. He is five months old, and he was trapped a few weeks ago at a Burnaby lumber yard. His left front paw had been injured, and was so badly damaged that it needed to be amputated. The amputation is pretty radical. His arm is gone from the mid-shaft of his humerus, and he holds his stump so tightly against his chest that it sometimes looks as if it is missing at the shoulder.
At the moment, he is living in a big cage on the floor of our living room, and he will remain there until he has grown a little more comfortable here. Leonard, you see, is frightened and angry. Mostly, I think, he is angry.
He's been through a great deal in his short, hard life, and he holds me personally responsible for all of the terrible things that have happened to him so far. I have given him my assurance that we are going to be best buddies one day, but he's not buying it yet. Leonard regards me as the face of his oppressor, and has given me fair warning that there's nothing that he would enjoy more than to tear that face away and feast upon the warm flesh beneath.
Although my proximity is not appreciated and my presence hasn't been invited, I am permitted to enter his room on occasion. I may straighten his bedding, police his litter box, and certainly, I am allowed to present his food four times a day.
Our five other cats get individual saucers overflowing with tinned cat food twice a day. Leonard gets tiny dollops of raw, ground meat for each of his four meals. Ronny and Bianca have noticed that he gets fed more frequently than they do, and have expressed their opinion that the system is flawed. While he accepts that it is not something that he can do for himself, Leonard comments on the quality of my service with hisses, spits and low, grownup growls.
I've been told that mealtimes are the best times to socialise feral cats...this is where the Big Stick comes in.
Over the years, the Tall Lady and I have bought numerous cat toys. Most of them are still in immaculate condition, since the cats prefer to play with empty cereal boxes, toilet paper tubes and Sheral's knitting. Some of those toys are attached to long, plastic wands. One morning, when Leonard was enjoying his breakfast of smashed beast, I tried to stroke him with one of those big sticks.
Quite understandably, Leonard was appalled, but he resumed his meal, underscoring his dinner music with throaty rumbles. I continued with this experiment for another couple of meals, until I thought it was safe to try something new.
Yesterday, I left the wand behind when I gave Leonard his dinner. When I thought he was settled and distracted enough, I reached in with my left hand, and began to pet him. At first, there was a loud, sharp report, like a kitten exploding. The angry growl came next, as the poor, startled, little cat tried to slap me with his missing left paw. Finally, he grabbed onto me with his right paw, and sank his sharp, little feline canines as deeply as they could go into my offending appendage, while calling me every dirty name he could remember, as well as a few that he'd just made up. He growled, he clawed, he scratched and he howled. While he never let down his defenses completely, he did relax a little, and he eventually returned to his meal, while I kept on stroking his back.
Note to the Tall Lady - we are going to need a new oven mitt...
Our friend Lilian has suggested that we change his menu to something a little less...macho. She has offered to make him little quiches, watercress sandwiches [without crusts], or fairy cakes with pink icing and candy sprinkles. I think it'll just take time for him to trust us.
Last night, my nephew Dave reminded me of the MacPherson Clan motto, which is this: "Touch Not the Cat Bot a Glove". "Bot" means "without". I've been getting the same message from our new foster kid.
Perhaps Leonard is already family.