A matter of trust

As this picture may to some extent illustrate, the degrees of trust that our four cats have in humans are very different. Look at how they react to my approach to take the picture.

There was absolutely no difficulty in taking Piper to the vet a few days ago. I didn't even need to put him in the bag. I just left it on the floor. Sure enough, Piper and Parker started playing with it. Before long, Piper got in and all I had to do was to zip it up. There was no struggle at all. Likewise, if Parker needed such a visit, bagging him would be a piece of cake. He always crawls into my backpack, and when I playfully put the backpack on my back as though I was taking him somewhere, he just pokes out his head curiously and comically, making no attempt to jump out. Such is the trust he has in us.

But not Fred and Francis the very apprehensive ones. Lately, I have noticed that there is also something wrong with Francis's ear. Whenever he comes close, I can smell a stench of decay which I judge to be coming from his right ear. The fact that his sibling Fred often licks that ear confirms that there is a problem there. Last week, I made a booking with the vet and tried to take him there, but we simply couldn't put him in the bag. Francis never tried to attack as he is not a vicious cat, but he struggled for dear life, whined plaintively and even peed involuntarily when he was cornered. It was sad to see him suffer like that and we had to give up.

Both nature and nurture may have played a part in shaping their characters. Maybe Fred and Francis have that great mistrust in their genes and Parker and Piper do not. But I believe their past history does have a lot of bearing. Piper and Parker were rescued by a volunteer from a garbage can when they were babies, so while technically they were street cats they have never experienced a fugitive street life. All their lives they have been living in a safe, loving and caring environment. To them, we are like their parents and they have complete trust in us.

The lives of Francis and Fred are a different story altogether. They had been living in the street before being captured by SPCA volunteers under the Trap-Neuter-Return programme. As if the trauma of being caught in a trap was not bad enough, they had been roughly treated afterwards, such as having to live in cages and being moved from one foster home to another. Under such circumstances it was hard for them to develop a people-friendly disposition, and then it was precisely because they were judged to be unfriendly that the volunteers were about to put them back to the street before we stepped in and adopted them. As I said, they are not malicious cats, but they were aloof and alert and even hostile when they first came. It took a whole year for them to learn to trust us, coming for a nudge and letting us touch them.

I have worked out a plan to put Francis in the bag, but it has to be executed masterfully. If we fail, it will take much time to build the trust again.

No comments: