Acceptance - so resistible, yet so important
Here's my dear little Blue Belle, the stray cat whom I've adopted. In this picture, I'm feeding her just outside her safe space - underneath the house. My plan was to continue feeding her twice a day on a regular schedule, building her trust in me. Then I was going to pick her up, put her in a crate, and take her for a vet check after which she would become either and indoor or an indoor/outdoor cat. That all went as planned, at least through the vet check. She got a clean bill of health, and I found out she's about eight years old and has lived outside all her life.
Yes, so far so good.
But then not so good. She clearly hated being indoors. She spent the first few days and nights hiding behind the furniture in my studio then under the bed in the guest room. After that initial period, she hid out during the day then spent the night wandering from window to window, door to door, wailing. I swear, her vocalizations sounded like a lamentation - "Oh, No!" After than, it didn't take me long to decide she could be an indoor/outdoor cat, spending her days outside and her nights safely in the house. Sound reasonable? You might think so. I did.
I'd let her out first thing in the morning and feed her. In the evening, I'd feed her outdoors then pick her up and bring her inside for the night. The nighttime wailing routine continued, but I stuck it out. To my mind, it was dangerous for her to be out overnight (even though that's exactly what she'd done her whole life up until now).
Then one day she apparently decided she had a right to have her own way, and put her paw down! She quickly discovered it was very easy to escape when I tried to pick her up to bring her inside for the night. All she had to do was run away or, even better, just slip under the deck where she was definitely out of reach without exerting too much effort.
I must have known she wasn't going to even be an indoor/outdoor cat soon after this routine began yet I deluded myself into thinking she'd get over it, whatever 'it' was. For a few days I'd chase after her or find some way to trick her to catch her. It didn't feel very respectful, but I thought I was being good to her by watching out for her safety.
Then came the moment of clarity. It was so clear a little airplane might as well have been hauling a big banner overhead. The previous day my precious dog passed away and I was emotionally drained. That evening, after she enjoyed her dinner, Blue recognized I was going to try to pick her up and slipped under the deck. She was determined to be what she'd always been - an OUTDOOR cat, thank you very much.
I saw that truth and, most importantly, knew it was OK. I wouldn't have what I'd initially wanted from her, but I'd have her living here safe, well-fed, and free. And that was plenty.
To show my acceptance of her chosen lifestyle, I built her a special house and put it on the front deck. She's using it! It feels so good to accept the way she is rather than continue a futile struggle to mold her to my own desires. Blue knows best!