Note: In the days of our youth, networks would broadcast summer programming that didn’t quite fit with the rest of the television schedule. Consider this Middle-Age Cranky’s offbeat summer programming. We will return to our regularly scheduled crankiness next week.
We were only supposed to keep him for a few weeks. We were socializing him on behalf of a local humane society. It was supposed to be a simple process — helping cats born in the wild become accustomed to humans so that they could be adopted . We’d been doing it for a while — doting over kittens and then delivering them to their forever families.
When Bandit came to us, he was clearly a cat’s cat. He would sit on the windowsill of the room where we were keeping him and look down longingly into the fenced front yard when we let our two cats roam there. I asked the humane society for another kitty to socialize, so Bandit wouldn’t be lonely.
That’s how we came to get Gus. In color, Gus was almost a doppelganger of Bandit, mostly black with some white. But in personality, he was exactly the opposite. Where Bandit was shy, Gus was outgoing. I would take them to adoption fairs and, in an attempt at some creative marketing, put up a sign saying, “Have Your Own Black-and-White Ball.” But Bandit and Gus were just a little bit older than most of the kittens at the fairs, so no one expressed much interest in them.
The longer they went unadopted, of course, the more attached to them we became. One morning my wife turned to me and said, “If you take them to one more adoption fair, I’ll kill you.” Being blessed with a strong sense of self-preservation, I paid their adoption fee and gave up socializing.
As if beholden to his birthplace, Bandit loved the outdoors. When we moved into a new house about a year later, we would frequently see him atop the fence, surveying his domain. But as a feral, he wasn’t much for being picked up, or even coming when called. We had to wait for him to come inside, and sometimes that process took two or three days. Once we actually had to set up a trap for him in the backyard to get him back in the house.
They say that people who work with feral cats have a particular kind of masochism because ferals are only animals that almost never reward you with affection. That was Bandit. As much as he loved the food we served, he would still cower and flinch when we came near.
But as time passed, Bandit began to change. Upon our return from a ten-day vacation, during which my mother-in-law kitty-sat, we went out to the backyard to call him. For the first time, the little scamp came running, meowing insistently as if he’d never been so glad to see anyone in his life.
After that, he became increasingly vocal and affectionate. This was unusual for a feral cat, because their mothers teach them to be quiet (so as not to attract human attention). First he began announcing himself when he walked into the house. Then he began sleeping with us after the lights went out. Then he started jumping onto the bed when we got into it.
And now — even if the door to his beloved backyard is open — he curls up in my lap when we’re reading the paper in the morning and when we’re watching television in the evening. He has a soft little purr and an insistent desire to snuggle.
His transition over the last few years from being a cat’s cat to being one that loves his humans has been a wonder and a joy to experience. So now we say we named him Bandit because he stole our hearts.