It began as one of my incautious remarks to Sue, "If you
wanted to rescue a cat, why couldn't it be that one?" and
I pointed to a very thin and very small calico who was walking
through the line of pines that separated two buildings of the
garden apartment complex in which we live.
In the wild, via 500mm lens.
It doesn't take much to start Sue. In the midsummer she began leaving dry cat food in a special spot for the cat who she eventually named Moonshadow. I had first seen Moon the previous year in the early spring. Aside from her dramatic face markings, Moonshadow always had a most quizzical expression and, as a kitten about several months old, was not particularly fearful.
Of course any cat on the streets learns that there is much to fear: people, children, dogs, other cats, etc. She stayed close to the apartment complex but once disappeared for several months, and reappeared very thin and meager and very malnourished.
After leaving the food for a few weeks, Sue began to try to feed Moonshadow by hand to try to get close enough to grab her up and take her in. Nothing doing. Moon was far too cautious. I suppose any other cat would have followed the food source, but Moon refused to trust anyone.
Sue's efforts continued through the winter of 1993-94, the winter of the deep snow and the almost continuous snow and ice coverage. Moonshadow was just as cautious as ever about accepting food and stayed just out of hand reach but appreciated the crater that Sue dug in the snow and maintained for her. Moon also used the path that Sue made so that Moon could even reach the crater.
I expected the cold would help bring Moonshadow inside, but the cold had its own effects, numbing mind as well as body.
Spring came at last, Moon became pregnant, and Sue failed in any number of grab attempts. The little cat was just too fast, too mistrustful. Car motors, doors shutting, and children's cries could send her into deep hiding. But the pregnancy made the difference, because as time went on, Moonshadow needed a nest box and also wanted to be near the source of food. She explored all the loose openings to the building in the immediate area--to no avail. But she started following Sue back to the front door of the building.
Dare she go in the front door?
Determined to get Moonshadow in, Sue began feeding Moonshadow on the stoop by the front door; whenever anyone came in or out, Moon would run away and hide and then reappear. Occasionally, Sue would attempt to pick up Moon but never got more than several steps before Moon broke free (at the time I couldn't understand how such a little cat could make such a resistance). A piece of luck occurred when someone broke the front door (which wasn't repaired for months afterward), and Moon began to explore the lobby on her own.
One day Moonshadow followed Sue up the steps to the second floor. Sue held our door open, and Moonshadow walked in. Everything was quiet for a few minutes. Sue shut the door, called to me, and then all hell broke loose with cats chasing cats. Sue put Nick (big and white and deaf but loud) into the bathroom, and I walked into the living room to see Moonshadow stuck at the top of the screen door. I took her off, but I wasn't prepared for the pure energy as she twisted out of my hands and vanished down the hallway -- and into my office, where later she had but one stillborn kitten.
The difficulty came when it was time to introduce her to the other cats. Moonshadow refused to leave the office , and the others refused to enter. It took Moon six weeks to gain the courage to explore the rest of the apartment (during feline afternoon snooze), but she has ultimately adopted to her new home with great enthusiasm. Never is a meal eaten without a head butt (Moon's method of greeting), and never is a day concluded without a symbolic walking up and down the entire apartment with Sue in attendance, a mirror of the walks they used to share outside.
Some favorite toys by Moon's play station.
Moonshadow has become the most affectionate of cats (the one with the continuous purr) but has but one real fear in her life: To this day, over a year later, Moonshadow never ever approaches close to the door by which she had entered the apartment. And while she still dislikes being picked up (let's jump forward, backward, or sideways), she tolerates it in me a little. What she really prefers is either being by her toy collection or sleeping on Sue's pillow. Having a dish of food for the late night snacks is also appreciated.