We moved into this house about a year and a half ago, the house is smaller than we preferred, but the yard is huge, two greenhouses and two storage sheds, and still plenty of room for my workshop. When we moved here, we inherited a yard that attracted a number of cats, 4 or 5 by our count. A few were neighbor cats and 2 or 3 were strays.
At first, we didn’t see much of our new little grey cat, we would occasionally see him looking from a distance or hurrying around a corner, he kept his distance. He and Sheba got into a scramble, I stamped my foot at him, he ran and kept his distance from me for quite a while.
About a year went by and we started to see more of him, we also kept food out and found that he had be living under our side stairs. He would watch us with a serious face. Long stares of sizing us up, he watched our every move. I thought he was watching with Earnest and that would be a good name for him.
We got to know our neighbor and He told us what he knew of her, (Earnest now became Earnestine) that she had been around for at least a decade, was the two occupants ago cat and was left behind for some reason, and might be the mother of several of the neighborhood cats. He kept food out for her, but never saw her much.
When we would did see her, she was always tense, Earnestine’s survival method was to run and avoid all cats, she was the one lowest on the totem pole, she was too small, too old to protect herself, avoidance was what worked for her, when she was confronted by Tom, she screamed, some kind of unearthly type of plea, would break our hearts as we ran out to chase Tom off. Pam would spend time with her and was making slow progress, It was then that we learned she is a “Hemingway” cat: If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to 6 toes on each foot, (24 toes) also, one eye socket is a little smaller than the other, Earnestine would take food from us as long as we weren’t too close, then one day as Pam held out her hand, Earnestine touched her nose on Pam’s finger, then soon Pam could pet her, I was making similar, but slower progress, her face started to relax from being earnest, to something sweet and curious. Food would now be eaten while we were close and we were allowed to pet her, then she came into the house, as long as we kept the door open, she was ok, if I closed the door, she would jump at windows trying to get out. It took a bit, but now she trusts us, and will lay with us if we sit on the kitchen floor and purr while we pet her and talk to her. She never ventures farther into the house.
Earnestine still wants to stay outside, she is a feral cat, and showing her age, too skinny, bones, and limps from an old hip injury that might be arthritic, we put together a warm cat house that has a heating pad and is insulated. We have fallen in love with her and hope this keeps her well for the winter, as she has lived a long time for a feral cat, as much as we want her to share her house with her, we fear this might be her last winter.