Despite my favorite professional compliment (ever!) being that I’m “meticulous and patient,” in my personal life, I’m horribly impatient.
I like to have plans figured out far in advance, my packing list is written up days before I actually pack, I hate waiting for rsvps, and get anxious if things aren’t hopping right away at a party. I like to have things turn out great immediately when I’ve put work into them. Ideally, I’ll show up, give my best effort, and then immediately have great results.
Sometimes life does work that way. Most of my foster cats have bonded with me quickly and shown great affection to me within a few days of coming home. I fight my impatience and keep them separated from Toby, but they reward me for that by crawling in my lap, giving me headbumps and flank rubs, and being happy to see me even when I’m not providing food at the moment. I’m even good at being patient with animals in short-term ways. I can sit quietly in a room with an animal for 30 min at a time multiple times a day in a week until the animal finally comes up and investigates me. I have short-term patience when I’m training Toby. But patience in getting an animal to show affection toward me after almost a month…that’s difficult for me. Extremely.
Keen, other than the first day I was sick, hasn’t really warmed up to me. He does come to the door when I come home (sometimes) but he looks at me and then walks away. I have yet to get a real headbutt or flank rub from him.
I feed him wet food that he likes, he does let me pet him while he’s eating and for a few seconds when I come over to where he’s lying in the hallway. The other night he let me sit 3 feet from him but got up and moved when the next night I tried for 2 feet. He shows me his stomach when I get up at 3am for cough syrup (yeah, the cold’s not totally kicked yet) and stretches in that friendly way cats have. He’s purred when I’ve picked him up a few times, other times he’ll just lash his tail.
I know that he’s 15 years old. I know that he was yelled at for being affectionate and cuddly so he’s probably hesitant to be that way again. I keep going over in my mind the steps and ways to work with shy cats. I sit close, but not touching. I pet when feeding and keep an eye on his tail and ears and stop as soon as he seems upset. I avoid eye contact. I avoid startling him. I avoid making him feel trapped. I engage him in playbond time. In sum, I’m doing all I can to be patient and it feels so much like not doing anything, except for the playing. Admittedly, the playtimes are very short since he’s old and gets very excited before stopping and napping after about 2 minutes.
One of my favorite songs in Wicked tells us that some believe that people come into our lives for a reason, teaching something we must learn. If we expand that to animals, I think Keen is here to teach me what no adult ever could–to be patient over the long term. He’s a good cat. I just need to trust that, with time and unconditional (and appropriately shown) love, he’ll come around and show some of the affection he used to have.