On Sunday afternoon I took myself and a large bag of catfood to the Ipswich Animal Shelter, to donate the bag and have a visit with the resident strays and rescues. As always, the shelter is a bright, cheerful place offering a comfortable refuge for animals in need of a home.
No dogs were in residence, but the kitten room was bustling with the antics of a dozen little ones, not quite old enough for adoption but big enough to scramble all over the cat tree and perching places, to tumble about wrestling, and to miaow pleadingly for the visiting human to pick them up and love them. There were two, perhaps three litters’ worth frolicking about. Many were mostly white with wild patches of dark tabby, some with comical smudges on their noses. Two solid near-black tabby kittens insisted on being held. Their soft fluffy bodies rumbled with purrs. It was so hard not to adopt one of those flower-faced sweethearts! But the menagerie currently in residence at my home would not be amused, so I retreated before my will buckled.
In the adults’ room there were half a dozen snoozing cats, some whose adoption is already in the works. In one corner was a large wire cage, its door open. In the far corner inside a pale plump tortoiseshell roused from her nap, mewed softly, and came out for some loving.
I let her sniff my hand, felt her rub her cheek against it, then stroked her. One stroke – she purred. Two strokes – she slashed my hand with her teeth and punched me with frantic clawless paws. One of the volunteers rushed in to warn me about her – too late. I brushed off the woman’s apologies, knowing how suddenly cats can be overwhelmed by the stimulation of being petted.
But this was worse, this went beyond into a pitiful territory no animal should ever inhabit. The poor cat stayed close to me where I crouched, her eyes wide and wild. Any small motion of my hand near her brought another furious flurry of punches. You could tell she desperately wanted affection, desperately wanted someone to be kind to her, caress her – but any attempt to offer it terrified her.
The volunteer told me she hadn’t been left at the shelter. Nope, she’d been rescued from abandonment. Some sorry excuse for a human being, having done who knows what to shatter her trust in people, had thrown her away, clawless, defenseless, like a broken toy. In the two months she’d been at the shelter, the volunteer said, the cat had made a lot of progress toward trusting. That alone sickened me – how badly must that cat have been abused, that the frightened little thing I saw was much improved?
Poor thing. It will take a special kind of person to adopt her, to slowly, patiently bring out whatever measure of trust this broken spirit can win its way to. Perhaps she’ll never find a home beyond the shelter. But at least there she has the loving care of people who’ll never let her be hurt again.