Monday, April 19, 2021

An Update On Venus

Last time we met Venus she was settling in to domesticated life as a member of the Spring Rock menagerie.  She continues to enjoy the life of a domesticated cat, but the domestication is just a thin veneer I’m afraid.  I imagine there will always be a feral puss, lurking beneath the surface.

Venus is happy to while away some of her time in the house with us and chooses most nights to come inside late at night and sleep with Tristan, Ambrosia and Nefertiti in the bathroom; this is despite the fact that Nefertiti constantly puts Venus in her place by snagging whichever of the two beds she thinks Venus will prefer that night.  When Venus first moved into the house, The Gang of Three (Tristan, Ambrosia and Nefertiti) wouldn’t allow her to sleep on their very spacious, faux fur covered bed in the bathroom.  I made Venus a bed out of a purple furry throw and a pet mat so she had somewhere to sleep.  It’s much more Spartan than the plush bed The Gang of Three share because our bathroom just isn’t large enough for another fully padded bed, but it wasn’t long before Nefertiti had decided that if Venus was happy with the purple bed it must be better than her fur bed.  She soon moved in and wouldn’t let Venus on.  Nefertiti will allow Ambrosia to share the purple bed if she’s in a good mood, and divides her time between the large bed and the purple bed.  Tristan has risen above all this musical bed business, somewhat literally, and slept on the windowsill during the warmer weather – now that the nights are cooler he’s moved back to the fur bed and ignores anyone who tries to turf him off.  Venus, ever the pragmatist, sleeps on whichever bed is vacant or shares with Ambrosia if Nefertiti and Ambrosia decide to spend the night one on each bed.  Ambrosia isn’t exactly welcoming but she doesn’t actually hurl insults at Venus – Nefertiti, who looks like a sweet, gentle cat never loses an opportunity to use the worst cat language I’ve ever heard when face to face with poor Venus. 

On the nights Venus decides not to come inside, no matter how many times I call her, she ends up sleeping in the laundry with the puppies.  Cleo and Aslan are much more welcoming, if somewhat embarrassed about being good friends with a cat.  Venus particularly loves Cleo.  How this came about I’m not sure.  The first time Cleo and Venus met, Venus was still mostly feral and coming into season.  She lived on the front porch at this stage in a seething mass of annoyed hormones.  I was out there patting her and telling her of my long-term goals to have her friendly enough to become a domesticated cat and Venus was listening quietly and soaking up the pats.  Cleo came bounding around the side of the house, saw a new cat she hadn’t introduced herself to yet, and proceeded to do so.  Venus took one look at the huge nose approaching her and hauled back with her right paw, claws fully extended, and told Cleo she did not like dogs and she particularly didn’t like very large, drooly dogs as she took a swipe at Cleo’s nose.  Cleo backed down the steps as quickly as she could, backed down the path and around the side of the house, never taking her eyes off the new cat with the sharp paws.  

I thought that would be that as far as Venus and the dogs finding an amicable living arrangement, but after her visit to the vets’ Venus became a much more peace-loving cat.  We soon set off on our two-week trip to Central Australia, leaving Venus living on the front porch (complete with comfy bed and sufficient food to last a couple of months).  When we returned, Venus came to greet us and then headed off to rub herself along Cleo’s legs.  Cleo had a look of panic on her face and was definitely trying to tell us to please, please save her!  I got the idea that this wasn’t Venus’ first efforts to befriend Cleo so left her to make amends for her previous bad behaviour. 

Cleo has now settled in to a friendly relationship with Venus.  Venus was late turning up this morning.  She chose to sleep outside last night, and when she's out and about after we've gone to bed, she usually spends the night snuggled up against Cleo in the laundry.  Cleo is her dog.  This morning I went out to the back porch and called Venus, with no tortoiseshell cat appearing.  The second time I tried calling her Cleo pitched in to help.  She picked up her newest squeaky toy and, with tail wagging, went looking for Venus.  If Cleo finds Venus when I call for the cat, Cleo will bring Venus back to me - Cleo leading the way and Venus following.  Cleo didn't find Venus this morning and came back empty-handed and tail drooping, but with her squeaky toy still held firmly in her mouth.  I then turned to go inside again, beginning to worry where Venus was, when I found her, sitting on the kitchen floor on the other side of the screen door.  She was clearly wondering what puss, puss, puss I was calling.  Cleo came up to the door to say hello as well and Venus just assumed a superior air and walked away after rubbing noses with Cleo through the screen.

We struggled with Venus’ weight for months.  When I say we, I of course mean I have struggled – Venus is quite happy to be a very rotund cat.  Venus found free food too tempting to pass up, wherever it was and to whomever it belongs.  She’d sit at the bowl of cat food and just keep eating until I removed her and closed the door to stop her returning to the bowl.  She ate the dog food when she was outside, along with a variety of wildlife, despite the bell on her collar.  By the end of winter, Venus’ weight had ballooned up to alarming proportions.  

I can’t keep Venus inside as I do the other cats because Venus simply refuses to use the litter tray.  She’ll go to the toilet behind a chair or some other very private spot if I don’t let her out in time.  Her preference is the garden, but if she’s desperate, Venus will make her own arrangements inside.  Needless to say, this makes Graeme and me super aware of when Venus asks to go outside. 

Thankfully, when summer arrived, Venus put herself on a weight reduction diet.  I really wish I knew her secret!  She has gone from a grossly overweight feline to a very svelte young lady in the matter of a few months.  When one of our cats lost weight when I was a child, my Nana always said that the cat was eating lizards.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but I do hope Venus isn’t catching poor defenceless lizards in her quest for a better figure.  I have noticed as we move into autumn, that Venus is now beginning to put on a bit of weight again.  I have a dreadful feeling we’ll have a very fat winter cat and a trim and terrific summer cat as the years go on.

As I wrote earlier, Venus’ domestication is just a thin veneer.  When there is just Graeme and me at home, Venus’ behaviour is very much like the other three cats’ behaviour.  She’s a bit more standoffish than Tristan, Ambrosia and Nefertiti, but she’s happy to lie on her back with maximum tummy exposed to the air cooler or heater depending on the weather.  She occasionally honours me by settling in on my lap and going to sleep, but mostly she prefers to have her personal space respected.  Venus is always happy to receive a pat or scratch behind the ear from me though, and she adores Graeme – choosing to sit on his chair as soon as he vacates it and looking very offended when he puts her on the floor on his return.  Her feral nature comes to the fore whenever we have visitors.  If she is inside when they arrive, she shoots out the back door as soon as she can, looking terrified.  She then doesn’t reappear until she thinks the strangers are gone.  If she has miscalculated, and the visitors are still present Venus will keep a very low profile under the dining table or demand to be put outside again.  I’ve tried to explain that no-one will hurt her, but Venus just isn’t comfortable with anyone but Graeme and me.

On the one occasion she visited the vet, to be spayed, I had to stress and restress that, although Venus looked the picture of a gentle, calm cat, she was still basically a feral cat for anyone she doesn’t know.  Venus sat in her carrier looking very chilled out and insisting it was all a lie.  When I picked her up after her surgery, the vet nurse told me that Venus had remained a quiet, calm cat until they did something she didn’t like, like getting her out of the carrier or anything else they needed to do.  Then Venus showed her feral side with a vengeance and she soon lost all the friends she’d made by looking calm and beautiful in her carrier.  Thankfully, no mortal injuries were dealt, but Venus left everyone who came in contact with her in no doubt that she didn’t like them, didn’t like their surgery, and didn’t like humanity in general.

Venus continues to refuse to use the litter box, despite being a house cat for eighteen months now.  Because she has to be put outside when she indicates she wants out, she now blackmails us.  Her favourite way of telling us is to jump up amongst my very delicate ceramic owl collection and wander back and forth causing the owls to make little clinking sounds.  She is promptly told to, “Get down!” and does so begrudgingly, but is confident that either Graeme or I will now open the back door for her.  With her tail in the air, and a triumphant look on her face, Venus regally escorts us to the back door and leaves the house. 

One problem we have is that Venus is one of those cats that firmly believe that the other side of the door is the best place to be.  She no sooner goes out than she’s back at the door asking to come inside.  Once in it’s not long before she wants out again.  Her personal record was the day she came inside, did a U turn and went outside again before I’d even had a chance to close the door.  I feel that I spend my days as an unpaid doorman, opening and closing it multiple times a day just to allow one rather spoiled, ex-feral cat to come and go as she chooses.  Venus is happy to believe that this is just how it should be.

Now that the days are getting cooler, Venus is taking full advantage of her domestication and spending more time inside.  She is happy to nab Tristan’s heated bed before our elderly gentleman can get there first.  Venus settles down with her back to the room and does her best it ignore Tristan’s affronted look.  While Tristan is usually happy to share his bed with Ambrosia or Nefertiti, Venus is built on a much larger scale and takes up the entire bed.  The fact that she stretches out to her full length to expose as much of her as she can to the warmth, doesn’t help at all.  I intervene and put Venus on a quilt or the furry bed at the top of their scratching post and with a resigned sigh, Venus settles down to the second best spot in the lounge room.  Tristan makes a show of hurt feelings and not wanting to sleep on the bed now, but the warmth soon calls to his old bones and he settles happily on the bed to sleep the day away.

The cool nights are also working on the bond between the Gang of Three and Venus.  Snuggling up to the larger cat at night is much more comfortable than letting Venus have the whole fur bed to herself.  Venus is more than happy to mend fences and welcome any of the Gang of Three who wants to snuggle and conserve warmth.