Cats come in all shades, physically, mentally and emotionally. Some are born with a certain character, some with another; some are urged by their surroundings in one direction, some in a second.
My big boy Renn was a very frightened cat when he came to stay with me as a foster. I think he may have always had a timid streak in him. He hid from any loud, sustained noise, hurrying away to his safe spot with a low, long groan, the sort emitted by a person who is expecting trouble. In my old apartment, he fled to a box I’d fixed to the top of the kitchen counters. In the new house, he usually retreats under the bed.
He has been getting better, stronger, braver. He quickly grows used to people and comes out to see them after not so very long in hiding. He may crouch low and his eyes may grow large with apprehension when someone new offers to pet him; he will probably not allow any physical contact right away. But when a familiar visitor arrives, he will absent himself only briefly now, if at all. Then he comes out, ready to meet the person; he’ll be quick to dart away at sudden movements, but he overcomes his fears as best he can, because he enjoys people, he wants to be near them, and he likes to be liked.
But a test of his nerves was coming. I purchased new blinds for my windows and, being largely incompetent in regards to matters of repair and installation, I hired someone to put them in. I figured that they may as well be done properly, rather than by me. But I worried about my cats’ reactions. Tungsten wouldn’t care about the intruder, even with all the attendant noises an installation would entail. Josie would be wary but would find a spot to be alone and wait out the episode.
My two boys would be concerned, though, and frightened. Tucker would hide somewhere distant from the fuss, while Renn would be unnerved and seek shelter under the bed or in a far corner of the downstairs library, where he has hidden before.
After the handyman started his work, Tucker indeed hurried to the bedroom where he jumped on the bed and laid low, literally. Renn retreated beneath the bed. I coaxed him out briefly, but then he returned. I thought it best to leave him for the time being. I worked about the house as well as I could with the interruption of my routine.
It was while I was sitting at the computer in the back parlour that I noticed Renn creeping out of the bedroom. Looking warily into the kitchen, from which a commotion of work was coming, he made his way slowly along the corridor to where I was sitting. He sat in the parlour with me for a while, then lie down and, though his eyes were watchful, he tried to relax - or at least pretended.
But that was the beginning. Over the next few hours, Renn’s fear battled his scientific spirit, and the latter won, just barely. He emerged from the parlour and examined the workman from a distance. When the man moved out of the kitchen, Renn cautiously sniffed the toolboxes and implements. He avoided the visitor but didn’t again run under the bed. He stayed with me, or climbed a cat-tree, but wouldn’t hide.
Tucker came out, too. He scampered away from any sudden noise more than did Renn, but I think he was following my big boy’s example. Throughout the majority of the handyman’s time in the house, all the cats were out and about - avoiding the intruder, but definitely not hiding.
Renn has come along way since the days when he would quake under the bed at the noise of a car pulling into the driveway. He knows that visitors do not always mean bad things are going to happen; in fact, they often give wonderful chest rubs. Life improves every day for someone who finds the courage to explore it. And that’s my big boy.