It was just this average kitten, you know? Two of the litter were party-patterned Halloween kittens, one was a pastel calico like their mom, and one was a tortie. Kitten the Fifth was plain old white with big tabby-ish patches in a shade that wasn’t quite orange and wasn’t quite brown. Sort of butterscotch, in fact. So much so, on further consideration, that I decided to name said kitten Butterscotch.
Until I got to know it — that is, her. At which point Garbo became the obvious choice of name because this kitten wanted to be alone with a vengeance.
Even after Momcat Phantom began letting me pet her, after Minerva and Houdini would eat canned cat food off the end of a spoon, Garbo was standoffish at best, skittish at worst. And I say she “wanted” to be alone, but I’m not sure that was true. Had she learned well the feral cat’s lesson to stay away from those tall two-legged things with the funny paws? Oh, yes, in spades: if I tried to get close to her, even passed her to top up the food bowl, for example, she took off like a shot for the crawlspace.
And yet when I’d sit on the back patio and start spoon-feeding canned food to the others, she’d creep under my car and sit at the very limit of its protection, willing to dart out only a couple of inches when I’d flip some canned food her way before she’d go back under the car.
She wanted to be alone, away…and yet she didn’t. Always on the outside, especially after the night of the “family walk”, when Momcat, Probable Dadcat, and all five kittens went trotting across my front patio and past the neighbor’s house toward what I always called the Edison yard (one of those half-a-block patches of ground with a couple of rows of electrical towers and the ground underneath either leased to plant nurseries or allowed to grow semi-wild)…and only three kittens came back.
Once I’d caught Houdini and Minerva, I hoped Garbo would open up a little, but she didn’t, or not much. If Phantom was at my feet being petted, Garbo would try to cuddle up to her mom while still staying as far from me as possible. And as it became more and more obvious that Phantom was pregnant, she was less and less friendly toward Garbo. I figured it was time to call on a friend for advice, because the last hing I wanted was for Phantom to run Garbo off as a potential threat to her new litter.
And so I called my petsitter (and friend) who worked at the vet’s office and also knew at least one person who did full-on cat rescue, and asked if she knew where I could borrow a humane trap, because there was no way I was going to get my hands on Garbo to carry her into the house. Fortunately, my friend either had a trap or was able to borrow one from her rescue friend. After that, it was a matter of figuring out where to put the blasted thing so I could catch Garbo — and not catch Phantom.
I finally realized I could use Garbo’s desire to hide against her. You see, my house and the neighbor’s had been built by a father and son who both worked for company that made headstones and monuments and such. There was, as I think I’ve mentioned, a path between the houses, and between my back yard and the entrance to the crawlspace was a gate made of chain link. It had seen much better days, had that gate, and the supports leaned a bit. So I had the clever idea to wait until both Garbo and Phantom were in the back yard one afternoon, and then I took the trap out the front door and set it up at the gap between the gate proper and one of the supports, a.k.a., directly on her path back to her safe haven under the house.
Then I went into the back yard and made a grab for Garbo…who instantly bypassed me and shot toward the path. *CLANG* One trapped three-month old kitten!
I took the trap into the house, closed all the doors in the hallway where the bathroom door was, opened the bathroom door and let Garbo out of the cage.
She was so petrified that when I tried to shoo her into the bathroom, she peed on the floor. I felt so sorry for that poor little girl, but at least she was inside at last.
Garbo is still one of the most skittish cats I’ve ever seen who wasn’t actively stray or feral, despite being…well, maybe not huge, but she’s a big kitteh both in bone structure and weight. She’ll come over for pettings, but if I move too quickly, or do anything that feels to her like restricting her movements, off she goes. If the landlady knocks on my door to drop of my mail, Garbo burrows under my pillows.
I don’t have any good pictures of her by herself, but the one below with Houdini will give you the general idea. Just add a few pounds. 😉
Still, she does let me pet her, comes over to me to be petted, sleeps curled against me, and when she purrs, it’s almost like a reward. 🙂