I just had a most enlightening experience while out taking a walk tonight.
There were many cats out around the neighborhood tonight. I had been indulging myself in meowing at them and seeing if any will be interested in coming up and saying hi to me, when one cat in particular was hanging around the sidewalk that I was heading toward. The cat watched me coming closer and closer, sort of hunched up and moving backward, eyes wide. I meowed, told the kitty I didn’t want to hurt them, etc, but the kitty was just not interested. As I came up to in the path of my walking the kitty hissed so I said ‘okay, bye kitty’ and just walked on. I stopped and turned back after several steps to find the kitty sitting there looking at me, no longer quite hunching in fear. I called to the kitty and it started licking itself… so I kept walking. I found, a few minutes later, that in enjoying my walk home I hadn’t noticed I was on a street that dead ends in the middle of the neighborhood, so I had to walk back by. I had seen one or two other cats that were further away, not situated near the path, who simply wondered about me from afar as I meowed at them. Eventually I came back by the same spot with the cautious kitty, who was now laying down further away from the sidewalk in the grass. I stopped to see if maybe the kitty would come to me now, after some time for reflection, when just then another kitty comes bounding from across the street, meowing at me with a little note of desperation. I pulled my earbuds out and said hello to this kitty. No collar but in seemingly good health. It was pretty dark already so I couldn’t really tell if this kitty was clean but it appeared to have a healthy tummy. I introduced myself and found this kitty was ready to trust me, and was soon rolling around in kitty ecstasy as I administered scratchings and pettings. I was starting to relax, very much enjoying having the opportunity to pet a sweet kitty so randomly, when I just noticed out of the corner of my eye, the other kitty darting toward us. I didn’t think before I reacted, I flinched in surprise, and the kitty who’d come running up to me freaked out and backed up, apparently feeling threatened by the other kitty. I felt horrible for that, I had no reason not to give the first cat at least a moment’s consideration before deciding I couldn’t trust it.
Before I knew what exactly had happened, the first cat was circling my legs affectionately, having discovered that I do not in fact have any ill will toward kitties, while the cat who had facilitated the whole interaction by trusting me in the first place sat sadly alone in the grass, looking bewildered. I was now faced with two kitties, who both wanted my attention, between whom I had planted a seed of mistrust with a unnecessarily quick reaction. I apologized to the kitties, knowing it wouldn’t undo what I’d done.
I couldn’t shun the cat who had first refused to trust me without furthering the damage I’d done, yet I knew it wasn’t fair that the trusting cat was sitting on the grass alone. That cat had really trusted me, not just that I wouldn’t hurt it, but also in my perception to interpret possible threats. It now saw the first cat as a threat. I pet that cat for a little while, ignoring the other just long enough to focus on that cat and have a few moments with it alone. Then I slowly moved toward the other cat. I affirmed to the kitties that they were both nice, and the trusting cat rolled over and looked up at me as if it say ‘no problem from me, I promise’. I then was able to spend some more time with the trusting kitty, who I will say was very much fun to pet. I noticed the first cat coming closer slowly, with the trusting kitty remaining calm. I decided it was time to see if I could pet them both and everyone could be happy.
I had my purse on one shoulder, and I had kept it from falling by leaning to one side as I crouched near the kitty. I decided to take the purse off and set on the ground near me, leaving my arms free. As I do this, the first kitty becomes less interested in joining the petting and more interested in sniffing my bag. At first I keep focusing on the trusting kitty, but the first cat is getting more and more interested in my bag. It starts to put its head inside and — before I can think about what sort of effect it will have on our happy kitty space — I make a ‘no, kitty’ type noise and both cats freak out.
Now, trusting cat is really confused, why am I chiding this other cat? What is going on now? I reassert that I am friends with the first cat after putting my purse back on, strung across my back, and just barely manage to get a friendly vibe going again. Just when I get to the point of the two cats trusting each other as well as me, one of them decides to bat the other on the nose, possibly in a friendly jousting sort of way, but the movement was quick and of course, I took it as a sign of aggression. I reacted in a slightly scolding manner and once again the cat who had been completely trusting at first was back in the grass, watching with possible malice as the other cat circles my legs.
At this point I decided I probably couldn’t get them together again but I wanted to at least say goodbye to the good natured kitty with whom I had unfortunately shared my awkward paranoia and confusion. I walked slowly away from one cat and toward the other. The first kitty followed me slowly then walked quickly past the other cat. As I tried to get closer to trusting kitty, the first cat seemed to dart in again and they were no longer being nice to each other.
I called out for them to stop, and they did briefly. I bid them a good night and withdrew as they were drawing each other deeper into the driveway adjacent to the sidewalk we’d been hanging out on. I hope they figured it out once I got out of the way.
It occurs to me that it’s possible the first cat was really being annoying intentionally, but I didn’t give it the chance to find out. I do not currently possess the trust I wish to inspire in the world, but I am learning.
One foot in front of the other.