Some of you may remember Persimmon, our randomly visiting kitty. For the past six or seven months I have been leaving a bowl of food outside our door for him. When he visits he would wait at the bottom of our back stairs until I went inside, then he would come up the stairs and eat the food. I could never get close, or if I tried he ran away. So I would feed him, then watch from inside. Sometimes he would howl and meow and walk around, then if I made a move to open the door…he ran away. So I kept putting out the food.
About two months ago, I started leaving the door open when I went inside and would talk to him while he ate. Just spoke kind words and let him know we wouldn’t hurt him. Our cats walked slowly around him while he ate, then sat patiently while he finished off the bowl. During these months, my husband bought a new brand of cat food that our finicky felines did not really like. So when Persimmon came around, I gave him the canned food our herd would not eat…he gobbled it down in record time. This time he walked around the bowl and walked up to the open door and started ‘talking’ to me. It was almost as if he was saying. “Thank you, that was really good!” When I made the move to go outside, he walked away…but did not run down the stairs.
Then one evening last month he came for a visit and I did not have the food out. We noticed that the food was missing, and realized a baby possum was the consumer…so I stopped leaving out the bowl. This time he had to ‘talk’ to me to let me know he was here and hungry. I walked out and he ran partly down the stairs, waited about halfway…I jiggled the food bowl, put it down…and he creeped up the stairs. I calmly sat down next to the bowl while he ate. Here you see him letting me rub his head for the first time. And he REALLY liked it.
Now we have a new routine. He howls, I put out the food, I wait while he eats…then I scratch his head, his ears, and his back. He sticks around long enough to purr and get sleepy. At the end of our routine he falls asleep on our porch…near the food bowl of course. He has become rather insistent when he howls, making so much noise that we can hear him from our second floor bedroom. I guess now he knows that I am trained and semi reliable, he wants what he wants when he wants it. In all this let’s be real, I am the one who got trained.
Sometimes it takes a while for people to trust us. We say who we are and clearly communicate our intentions, yet the foundation of trust is not there. The cement might be poured, but it has not cured. If you truly want to build a relationship, it takes time. It takes trust. It takes consistent behaviors over a long period of time. It takes being who you say you are over and over and over again. It takes a willingness to get past the frustrations until the communications have time to change to include content and substance. Sometimes it takes a kind gesture like rubbing the head of a hungry cat before you break through the walls. Be patient, be consistent and let the trust build…you and the cat will be friends at last.