The following story is a finalist in the Pawsitively Picture Perfect photo contest. The top three finishers will receive $500 in cash, as well as $2,000 in cash and supplies for their favorite shelter. Voting runs through June 1. To read more stories and cast your vote, click here!
A huge long-haired gray male cat started sleeping on my back deck during the day, but he was always gone in the evening. I thought he was beautiful, but every time I tried to get near him, he would run away. After a couple weeks, I thought I’d feed him and see if that would show him I meant him no harm. This went on a couple more weeks, on a daily basis, but he still wouldn’t let me near him without hissing and baring his fangs.
After a month of this, I opened the patio door to feed “Tuffy” (as I now called him), and he casually sauntered into the house. He still wouldn’t let me pet him, but he ate in the kitchen and then slept on a kitchen chair. Okay… progress. I thought I’d just let Tuffy make the next move. I would walk past him and go to another room, then return in a couple hours to let him back outside.
After only a week of this, Tuffy found me in the living room and jumped up on the couch beside me. He started pushing at my leg with his head, while purring! I tentatively reached out to pet him and he pushed his head into my hand. That night, he slept on my bed, and would wake me when he needed to go outside.
The next day I purchased a litter box, cat toys, loads of cat food, actual cat bowls for his food, and a cat bed. Tuffy treated everything (but the toys – in which he showed no interest) as though he had always been a member of the family. I took him to the vet for a full exam and shots. They told me Tuffy’s previous life had been brutal, as his x-rays showed multiple healed fractured bones, indicating prior severe abuse. I assume that is why it took him so long to trust me. Tuffy only cared for my (now ex) husband and me and kept far distance from anyone visiting our home.
Four years later, I had my first daughter. When I came home with the baby from the hospital, Tuffy wasn’t sure what this hairless and odd looking “cat” was, and just stared into her bassinet. I was concerned that he would be terribly jealous (until now he had been our adored and only baby), so I watched him with a great deal of trepidation – ready to intervene if necessary. After watching the sleeping infant for over three minutes, this massive 28-pound cat suddenly leaped into the foot of the bassinet and curled up around my daughter’s feet – clearly taking possession of her. From then on, that was his “daytime” location. He still cuddled on the bed with my ex and me at night.
The ONLY people who could remove the baby from the bassinet were my ex and myself. If neighbors or friends came to see the baby and had the temerity to reach for her, Tuffy would rise up and growl at them. Tuffy would “mark” the baby with his scent by rubbing his face over her, as confirmation that she was “his” baby. After every bath (which of course removed his scent) he would mark her again.
When my daughter moved to a crib, Tuffy slept under it. When she later moved into a “big girl bed”, he slept next to her. They were inseparable, the very best of friends, and truly loved each other. Tuffy – who four years earlier would snarl at human touch – let my daughter dress him in baby clothes, dance with him, push him in a buggy, paint his nails – and never protested.
Twelve years later, our Tuffy died of kidney failure. My heartbroken daughter carried him up the mountain to his grave, having grown up with him since her birth, and having never lived a day without him. We all loved that cat tremendously, and I know he loved us. His transformation from an angry, frightened, abused animal to a loving and loyal cat was purely an act of trust and love within the entire family. We will always miss him.
This story was submitted by Shari Emling in support of Nine Lives Foundation. To read other stories from the Pawsitively Picture Perfect photo contest, and to cast your vote for your favorite, click here!