Friday, 2 October 2009
Pearl and Lily: two recovering cats
A very long time since I mentioned the cats, our war-time, music hall double act. Both rescue cats, slowly working their way back to security.
Security takes a long time. It has taken over a year for Lily, the silver and black, smaller part of the duo, to lose her resident terrors. She arrived from the cat home frightened by the car journey, frothing at the mouth in fear. Pearl had arrived a few weeks earlier. The first meeting of Pearl and Lily was not compounded of mutual delight. Territory and intrusion. More terror. Lily crept and slithered and scrambled out of the way, avoiding Pearl, avoiding us, even avoiding her food for a while. But food was necessary. Even we were necessary. But it was minimal contact. She ducked under our hands, would not be stroked and certainly never thought of leaping into our laps. It was all she could do just to get by in the house. And when visitors came she scampered off to find the most secure hiding place, squeezing into impossible corners, behind books on shelves. She desperately desired to be elsewhere. Or, perhaps, to be nowhere at all.
We had no idea what was making her behave like this. It continued for months on end and looked unlikely to change. But then a step forward. One day she leapt onto C's lap and settled there. Briefly. When touched, she leapt off again. She began to play wild games, involving Pearl in them. Pearl's notion of play was rather more violent. It would start quite tenderly. She would even groom Lily, but then something would get hold of her and she would start biting. Pearl had set herself up to be Alpha ex-female and was not going to be patient with a strange little upstart.
More recently Lily has entered another stage. She sprawls and lopes and gets under the covers of our bed in the morning and gives our hands a good lick. And yesterday, for the first time, a visitor came and she did not seek refuge. She showed a certain curiosity before sidling off.
She is a feral child who has learned to relax a bit. A war orphan.
Pearl is constantly hungry. She starts eating cardboard boxes as a hint. She eats fast and makes herself sick. She is bold and examines every visitor. Her fear is hunger. She can be stroked but not always. Like Lily she hates being picked up. With her half-Hitler moustache there is a touch of the comic about her but now she seems the more troubled of the two. She is quite a handsome thing but a touch lumpen compared to Lily. She waddles slightly. If we allowed it she would would eat herself senseless and sick it all up again.
Both these cats are more problematic than any we have had before. Both are in recovery from something. Pearl was found hurt on a road as a kitten. Lily was born at the catwoman's luxury apartment but the shadow of something dreadful had already lodged in her.
She is bright now, frisky. Still ducks from a stroke but likes a good firm scratch. She purrs a lot. Pearl has brief storms of purring than something else switches on. You can see it in her eyes. Sudden tension. Intelligent though. She understands certain words and acts on them without us initiating.
If my life were starting again I might be tempted to make a study of animal consciousness. Why they do this or that? Why leave a chair to move to another chair? Why walk or run or sit or lie? Why that direct look? What do their ears and noses tell them?