One of the many characteristics we love about our cats is their independence. They are their own cat, and they make sure we understand the terms of engagement. If they feel our decisions do not suit them, they may start wandering and, in the extreme, find a more accommodating household.
But, what happens when a cat decides to do something that may bring humans into conflict? This is the situation: I have seen a very good-looking, semi pedigree cat roaming around my garden. Several times, as soon as I opened the back door, there he was talking to me and inviting me to caress him. I obliged, willingly. We made conversation and he followed me everywhere in the garden, purring and getting closer and closer. One day, as I went back inside, I closed the door and he sat outside, looking at the door. I felt guilty, so I opened the door, but without saying anything, just watching him. Very gingerly, he put a paw across the threshold. Then the other. I was still just watching, but pretending not to notice him. Then I moved in the kitchen and he bolts out, scared. I look out the door and I can see he is still there, looking back at me from a short, but safe, distance.
We played this game a few times, and little by little, he became more confident, until one day, he came through the cat flap into the kitchen, looked around, had a good sniff, and then went out again. Since then he has become more adventurous, going in and out, as he pleases. He has explored the entire house while our two resident cats have mixed feelings: Sooty is openly hostile, spitting at him every time she sees him, while Essi is curious, cool and confident, but watchful and ready to stand her ground. Our visitor –we call him Brad, as he is so good-looking- is friendly, not confrontational. He does not appear to be hungry and we believe he goes to his own house to be fed and then comes back for comfort and a cuddle. Sometimes he spends the night in our house, and throughout the day he is in the garden or around the house, clearly showing where he wants to be. We try to be welcoming but neutral, and we do not feed him, avoiding being actively enticing.
I know there are many instances of two-timing cats. I don’t know if Brad is one of them. I do not want to push him out or make him unwelcome, in case he has been abandoned, or he is not happy in his own home. On the other hand, we cannot properly adopt him. He still belongs to somebody, and they must be responsible for his food and veterinary care. So this is where the wishes of a cat may clash with the rights of his owners. His independence and free agency are compromised, while the owners may not even know where he is. And we are in the middle…