Clothilde is not my cat. I feed her and give her fresh water every day. She sometimes warms herself on a heat pad I provide. But she is not my cat.
She is not my cat, but I am her human. Her “I’m hungry” stare is so powerful that I can sense it through the glass windows and brick walls of my house as she sits in the garage and stares daggers until I magically appear with a can of food.
I take plenty of photographs of Clothilde, but they are not great. They are photos taken through the window, because even after a year and a half of daily feeding, she runs away when I come out.
This is our routine. She waits for me in the garage in the morning, perched on a mat to keep her toes from getting cold. I make sure to catch her eye through the window to let her know I’m on my way. She watches me gather the paper plates and cans of food. She is especially alert when one of my cats jumps into the window and I pause to pet them. When she hears the back door unlock, she runs under the fence to hide. She peeks at me warily as I fill three or four plates with canned food. She waits to crawl back under the fence until she hears my footsteps on the back porch. She pauses in the driveway to watch me get safely into the house before she returns to the garage and settles down to eat.
She has a nest nearby where she lives with her grown-up daughter, Aubergine, her last remaining kitten. (Clothilde did not take kindly to being trapped, but she is now spayed, as is Aubergine, and I have rescued her other kittens. Blueberry and Marshmallow live with my mom. The grand-kittens, Sweet Potato and Pomegranate, live with me.) We’ve looked for their nest several times, but we’ve never found it–even though we know it’s close enough for them to hear the lid pop on a can of food and show up seconds later to eat.
She tried valiantly to teach her kittens to be appropriately cautious of people. The lessons mostly took with Blueberry and Aubergine. But Marshmallow was a big failure, a cat who tamed himself against his mother’s express wishes. Within a couple of months, he was not only eating right next to me, he was letting me pet him. A few days after the petting started, he began to purr. And a few days after that, he allowed me to hold him in my lap while I pet him. The look of abject horror and absolute betrayal on Clothilde’s face when she saw Marshmallow sitting in my lap said it all.
I might anthropomorphize just a little bit.
Still. One time Marshmallow managed to get himself on the other side of the fence with Clothilde in between us as I put out food. He kept trying to scramble under the fence and come for his breakfast and lap time, but she hissed, growled, and swatted him repeatedly to keep him on the other side.
Sometimes I get lured into thinking that someday, she might tame up a bit. She eventually worked herself up to sitting on this side of the fence while I put food out–ready to slip under the gap if I moved too suddenly. On two memorable occasions she actually came into the garage as I sat there petting Marshmallow and he purred while he ate. She even took a couple of bites of food, but then dashed back to the comfort of her fence. Marshmallow’s rescue has understandably set back our progress, and now I imagine she worries that if she gets too close, she will be the next cat to mysteriously disappear.
For now, I watch for her through the window. And she watches for me.
My theme for Slice of Life 2022 is finding inspiration in the writing of others. Each day I plan to find my slice in someone else’s words or forms. My slice today doesn’t closely resemble its inspiration, Trina’s Ten Observations, but as soon as I read her post, I had the idea of writing ten observation-y paragraphs about my favorite thing to observe outside, the cat who is not my cat.