We have two black cats: Effie, a used-to-be-feral cat who now allows petting and even being picked-up (when necessary, but not for long) and Toby, who caught my attention when we were driving past him at 40 mph and still three hours from home. Now, there’s a Toby-lookalike hanging around. He’s not just semi-feral; this young cat is full-on wild. Humans, to him, are predators to be feared and avoided at all costs. And yet, he sees all these other cats—and even dogs—who live with humans and each other in harmony. He sees that these animals never have to worry about catching food or finding shelter, because on Dragonfly Pond Farm, both are always readily available in multiple locations.
The first time I saw this cat, I thought it might be Toby, because they were exact replicas of each other, but I immediately sensed something different, something off. Concerned that something might be wrong with Toby, I said his name, and this other cat looked up, startled. Then he ran into the woods. The next few times I saw him, I tried to make him feel welcome by calling, “kitty, kitty,” and putting out food. Each time, he ran. Sometimes, he might come back within a few hours, other times it would be days before I saw him again.
To facilitate my writing, I have moved my office to another room, one with a door I can shut, one that is far away from the television, the refrigerator, and the main part of the house where everything happens. My new office window is probably about twenty feet above ground level, and looks out at the mostly-unused (at least this time of year) greenhouse that is about forty feet away from the house. While I’m writing, I often gaze out that window at the trees and the squirrels and the birds and whoever in our animal collective happens to be strolling past.
Today (in advance of a couple of big storms that are going to cause some at-least uncomfortable rain for the animals who live outdoors and don’t have cozy nests to burrow into) I noticed the feral black cat sleeping, stretched out, on an unused shelf inside the greenhouse. He was sleeping the way feral animals probably don’t get the chance to sleep all that often, stretched-out, conked-out, sleeping hard. He was sleeping so deeply that for a second, I worried that he might have gotten stuck in there, been unable to get out, and died. At that point, I decided to connect in with him and make sure he was okay. Still sitting in my desk chair, I send a quiet mind-message: “Kitty, kitty, I don’t want to bother you, and I won’t try to catch you, but… are you okay?”
Most of the time, it is easy to communicate with an animal while they are sleeping without waking them up (because they just think they’re dreaming). But this cat bolted up from a dead sleep and glared straight at me— even though I sat three feet away from a window through which it is impossible for him to see, in a separate building which is at least forty feet away from the greenhouse where he was hiding—then disappeared.
And no, he’s not a ghost cat. He is a real cat who is too scared to accept help from humans, and too distrustful to engage in communication with them. His bad-human radar is so sensitive that it caught me trying to connect with him and zeroed in on my location even though there was no way he could actually see me. Once I knew he was gone, I went to the greenhouse and put out a bowl of dry kibble. I hope he will feel safe enough to venture inside and eat tonight, and maybe take shelter there again over the next few rainy days to come. I moved some pots and trays off the shelves farthest from my office window so maybe he will feel secure enough to hunker down there if the weather gets bad. I have promised that I won’t even look in his direction if I can help it, but fear is perhaps the greatest block to telepathic communication, and though this cat’s radar certainly let him know that I was reaching out, his fear won’t allow him to decipher the message I’m trying to send.
This cat will never be tame. He won’t even be semi-feral. I doubt he’ll ever fall for getting caught in a live-trap, and I have promised him that I won’t try to do that unless he gives his permission. Sometimes, there are limits to how much we can help, and I have promised to respect those limits in the hope of at least giving this wild cat a dependable and safe place where he can rest and find food.