This is the story of Calypso, also known as Callie. It’s a success story if you look at success from a feline point of view and not necessarily from a human’s. Callie is a mostly tortie-with-a-white-bib-and-socks shorthair, with wild markings on her face that make her look as though she’d been designed by Picasso in his Cubist period. Some think she’s odd looking; I think she’s beautiful. Odd or beautiful, everyone agrees, though, that with her huge, round green eyes, she’s exceedingly striking.
That is, if you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of her. I guess you could call her semi-feral. Born in a back yard in downtown Toronto, she and her colony were being fed by a kind man named Patrick. Patrick could sometimes lure her into his apartment from time to time, but she was very skittish. Alas, the whole colony except Calypso died in a short period of time — of what we don’t know, because she has tested negative for the fatal viruses. Her mother died, her siblings, and then her own first litter — one of the kittens died right in Patrick’s hand. Then he had to move suddenly and could find no one willing to feed her. In desperation he took her to the Humane Society. They kept her a week and declared her unsocialized and therefore unadoptable. They would have euthanized her if Patrick hadn’t taken her back. Then he phoned us, the Annex Cat Rescue, frantic. He had to move in 48 hours. Could we take her?
We had no foster homes available. I had about eight or nine cats and kittens in my house at the time, but heck, what was one more? Patrick brought her over. He called her “Little Cat,” though she’s not so little — she’s tall and long and sleek. I took one look at that jazzy face with the sea-green eyes and named her Calypso. I figured I’d give her time to settle in and then we’d see if she tame up enough to be adoptable.
Well, Callie settled in just fine, but that was nearly a year ago and she’s only slightly less wild than when she arrived. The amazing thing about her, though, is that although she’s still very nervous about humans, she has never scratched or bitten me when I’ve handled her. Which isn’t easy — there are only two spots in the house she feels safe enough to let me pick her up — one chair in the kitchen, and one in my home office. Anywhere else, if I reach out to touch her, she flees from me as though I were some scary monster. On the other hand, she gives me those slow blinks — the cat equivalent of kisses — all the time, as long as I respect her safety zone. And when she does let me pick her up, within five seconds she’s purring like an engine, rubbing her head against my hand, etc. A crazy girl.
If Callie still isn’t sure about humans, she adores other cats, perhaps because of her tragic history of loss. Within an hour of her arrival, she had buddied up to a nursing stray I had in the house and within three hours was grooming the kittens. Amazingly the queen, Sweet Pea, was more than tolerant — she took to Callie like a long-lost twin. Next Callie fell in love with my Burmese, Moki. I have never seen such displays of affection — somewhat unrequited, I’m afraid — from one cat to another. Whenever she spots him, she gives little cries of passionate delight and runs up to him and tries to rub her body along the length of his. Mr. Moke plays it cool. He allows her to do this but doesn’t usually respond in kind, because the truth is, he already has a “mate,” a Humane Society refugee tabby named Pippin. (As my two original cats, before I began fostering, these two are very bonded.) Other times Moki permits or initiates play with Callie — wrestling, chasing, etc. and she happily engages. With new cats, she sometimes hisses a bit, but mostly accepts them very quickly.
Since she has never tamed up, though, she has not been adopted. So at some point I told the group that I was making a permanent commitment to her. It doesn’t matter if she won’t let me pet her much — the Burmese and the tabby give me all the affection I need. (Besides, the few “Callie cuddles” I get are all the sweeter for being so rare!) And I get infinite pleasure looking at her amazing face and huge eyes, and just watching her be a cat — she looks like a panther when she runs, yet she can also get up to the silliest, most undignified tricks when she’s playing!
Callie seems exceptionally happy here. She never tries to get out, though she enjoys looking out the windows. She plays with catnip mice and rubber balls and the other cats and even with me sometimes — if I’m on the other end of a Cat Dancer toy. So, yes, I think Calypso would agree: this is a success story!