They were street cats before my exflatmate adopted them. Two siblings, a red boy and a tricoloured girl. Part siamese, very intelligent, very talkative, very human oriented. When they first came they were scared of everything. People walking towards them, people sneezing, people bending down to the ground, people running, people looking at them, people coughing, plastic snaps on plastic sounds, anything loud, crushing leaves… Obviously the street had them thoroughly messed up even when they had been relatively young when they relocated to our shared flat.
Within weeks they prospered. They learnt we all did not mean harm and their life was not in immediate danger. They learnt which two legger needs to be pestered for food and when (VERY talkative), which two legger is the best at cuddling, which one invents the coolest games and where each two leggers pain threshold was. They were very respectful cats, mischievous but never pushing it too far. The boy was quite a tomboy, liked to pick things apart. The girl was much more reluctant to come out of her shell. She had one of us two leggers she deemed safe and did the second best to joining said flatmate on the hip. It took me nine months to have her completely relax around me.
We lived next to a very very busy road and in the adoption contract it was stated that these two are meant to be house cats, not going outside at all. Which is what we all would have preferred as we had already lost a kitten to said street. As the months went by the two were very creative in explaining to us without using spoken words how they REALLY wanted to go out. They started not being themselves.
Being deprived of how they were meant to live and what they truly needed no amount of cuddles and games could prevent the slow descent into desperation these two cats were headed for. I think for them this was an emotionally abusive situation. They wanted to do what they were meant to do. They did not understand about the street and about the one of us that is usually away working being their owner and how the owner gets to make the decisions. They just wanted to go outside. Simple as that. And they were denied what they needed by those they loved and relied on.
Eventually the boy started to become much more aggressive than before. He would all of a sudden start to bite and scratch me bloody out of nowhere. One minute all cuddles, the next his claws buried into my skin out of nowhere. I am very good at seeing emotions on animals bodies. I saw his confusion, his fear of repercussion, I dare say he was incredibly sorry for he loved me dearly. This was a kind boy, sitting on my chest as long as he could when I once came back after being away for 2 weeks. I saw he did not want to do this nor did he understand it. He had been pushed beyond what he can take for way to long and he was only a mammal.
The girl, always shy and quiet around all but her closest two legger started to really pester said two legger, demanding endless attention. constantly vocalising her unrest and displeasure. She became rather neurotic. I think like her brother she was in an equal state of frustrated apologetic desperation.
But there is a happy end. Eventually I drew a new border with the boy and made him understand I am not to be harmed. He looked for a weaker target. His sister. Now me being harmed was always waved away by the owner of the two cats but upon seeing their other cat hurt they were finally convinced that they needed out and all the strange homoeopathic medications they had tried amounted to nothing. From then on we walked the cats on a leash. around an hour each day, longer in summer, shorter in winter.
The boy rarely ever left our garden, he loved all the trees to climb and would just sit and be happy to sniff, to hear, to see without a glass between him and the world. He hunted down a grasshopper and found snails do not make tasty meals. he often was mad at the squirrel for running from him so fast and high up the trees when he wanted to chase it. He even managed to catch a young bird, but seeing the bird not yet very harmed we let the bird go. Our boy did not seem to know what to do once he caught the prey anyway. He forgave us eventually, he never understood, but he forgave for cats are usually the better people than people.
The girl surprised me, and I her I assume. One of the favourite things she would often say to me indoors was a complaint about me not being her favourite two legger. Factually correct of course I am not my flatmate XD, outdoors I would often walk with her and we tackled the street behind the garden, MUCH less busy and normally with bicycles and pedestrians instead of cars. She began to slowly gain ground. We dealt with so many of her triggers and within the months I got to walk this cat she grew into herself. Eventually she started complaining to all the other flatmates when on a walk that they were not me. Even her favourite indoor two legger wasn’t up to her standards. She managed to have twice as many ground to walk on as her daredevil brother and both were content enough with the hours outside they got.
Moral of the story? You need to find your leash and the world outside, need to find a way to have your needs met or else you will continue biting and scratch those who you love bloody. If you are in an abusive situation it’s not you who is to blame for acting out, screaming, throwing things, harming people you are fond of under such circumstances. But not fixing it is something you can not afford, for the world has trees to offer, little nestlings, snails and squirrels. Streets full of triggers from past nightmares that will be less scary with the right protector on your side.