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Shari L. Coxford
He was a wild cat, literally. And I went against all the rules of the time in my training of him and produced incredible, if not bizarre, results.
Hadji was just a snip of a thing when I adopted him. Totally wild, he'd never been inside a house, never been touched by human hands, never had any close contact with a human except as a monstrous creature to be avoided. When a human came near, he did what any self-respecting wild cat would do: he ran fast and hard to the nearest hiding place. But he was the one. In spite of the time it took us to catch him, he was the one.
I'd brought a friend with me and during that first ride home, I drove while my friend held this minute bundle of lethal energy; a terrified little being who kicked and clawed and bit with such ferocity that I finally told my friend to let him go. Hadji bounded over the hump on the floor, skittered across my feet leaving long red trails etched into my skin, past the brake pedal and up inside the dash board. I didn't even know there was an opening big enough for a cat to get up in there; after all, my other cat had never done that.
Visions of loose wires electrocuting my newly adopted bundle of joy haunted me and I pulled over, intent on getting him out of that dangerous place. That proved to be tricky business. Laying prostrate on my back and arched uncomfortably over the hump in the floor, face upturned, wedged so tightly up under the dashboard that I couldn't move quickly if I'd wanted to, I reached up where he'd gone. Oh God, I thought, those wires could get me too!
He'd backed himself into a corner and a battery of miniscule razor blades greeted my hand as it groped for a body part to grab on to. Forty five minutes later, a hand sliced to ribbons emerged with my bundle of not-so-joy who was again relegated to the care of my friend. (And what a friend to put up with this!) "Whatever you do," I urged, "DON'T LET HIM GO!" He very nearly came to be christened "Spitfire". Once home, Hadji sought out the most remote spot and hid there for three days.
Now all the books say to coax a cat slowly. Put out food, back away, let the cat come to you as he learns to feel more comfortable with you. Don't force the friendship. Let the cat set the pace.
I had my own ideas about the whole thing. I dragged him out of his hidey-hole, held him captive on my lap and petted him. My theory was that once he stopped fighting long enough to realize that being petted feels good, he'd relax and start enjoying it like "normal" cats do. And my theory worked. Hadji metamorphosed into the most loving cat ever to grace my home; a cat who adored me with such intensity that merely being in my presence was enough to send him into paroxyms of purring. Wherever I was, he could be found just a few feet away.
Hadji is now ten years old and has one slight quirk - a rather bizarre fetish left over from those early days. He expects to be held captive while I pet him. All those sessions of holding him prisoner while forcing my attentions on him have now become our normal routine. He mews plaintively until I scoop him up, gives a token struggle so that I'll hold him captive, then the eyes close in ecstatic bliss and the motorbox comes on loud and strong. Hadji has found his heaven.
Every so often when my attention strays he gives a half-hearted attempt at escape, just enough to prompt me to do my part. I hold him tighter and the motorbox purrs louder than before. Sometimes for a change of pace he curls up next to me, my hand and forearm resting on his muscular thirteen pound body. He is happy. My arm perfunctorily pins him down and he knows he can't get away. He drifts peacefully off to sleep.
Visitors attempting to pet him get a cold shoulder, or so it appears. He teases at arm's length waiting to be scooped up. They coax with words of "here kitty kitty" and an outstretched hand. They don't know how to play the game. He walks off in a huff.
But one word from my lips and he's bounding across the room with joy, eager for the game. He stops just beyond the reach of my fingers. I lean forward and he darts away, just out of reach. We play at this until one of us tires and he moves close enough to "get caught". I scoop him up. He smiles. I smile. The motorbox is in full throttle.