Gracie has had a crazy life. After the epic Tuscaloosa tornado in 2011, Gracie the feral (originally known as Madame Curious) was adopted by William – my friend, future landlord, and fellow Forest Lake neighborhood tornado survivor. He and his wife Leah (the bestower of the original name Madame Curious) were with her mother Hope seeking refuge in the bathtub when the tornado ripped the roof off and destroyed everything. It had been Hope’s house, but she had already been sick for awhile, and the loss of power meant her machines did not work. Some guys carried her to the hospital in a recliner during the immediate aftermath, but the ordeal was too much, and she never recovered, and was the last person added to the list of tornado fatalities. While William was sifting through the rubble of Hope’s property – which happens to be directly adjacent to his father’s, Gracie started coming around.
He fed her when he came to town every day for a few years, but she never let anybody within petting range. Nobody knows where she came from, but her ear was cut like they do for Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs, so it seems she was around people at some point. Only she knows her past, and she’s keeping that to herself. When I first moved into the house Willam was rebuilding himself brick by brick, Gracie had a running buddy I called One-Eyed Jack.
He was just as feral as her, and had a traumatic eye injury. (I never was able to catch him, and I still worry about him and feel bad that I took his friend away. But that’s another story.) I took over feeding duties when William got sick, and they lived under the house, but kept a distance, for a couple years. Gracie eventually became bold enough to come into the back of the house if the door was open, but bolted out at the slightest movement. Right before a cold snap in November 2014, we made a plan to trap her inside the house to keep her warm and safe.
The allure of wet food (and sometimes, tuna) is how we tricked her into trusting us.
She was not happy about this when we succeeded. She was inside until it warmed up, and as soon as the door opened, she was out.
But she kept coming back. And pretended to ignore us.
She eventually grew more comfortable coming in and going out again, and so I trapped her again before the next cold snap. I was finishing my PhD, and my main stress relief during that awful time was sitting on the floor in the back half of the house, trying to coax her into letting me pet her. Finally, in January 2015, she did.
She started to realize it wasn’t the end of the world, and even started to enjoy it.
She was less afraid of other cats than she was of people, so during March, if I left the door to my living quarters open, she would get a little bit curious.
It was April when she first came all the way in. I shut the door, and she was a little bit grumpy about that for awhile,
but it was tolerable as long as she still got her Friskies every day. She started to made friends with the other cats,
and as she got more comfortable she let her guard down more,
until she was in my lap.
After I graduated and got a job out of state, I had a lot of trouble making the decision whether to take her with me or not. Eventually, I realized I could not leave her behind. There was a lot of concern about how she would do in a cage for a 12 hour ride, so the trip was planned carefully. The day came when I locked her in the crate, put her in the car, and took her away from everything she’d ever known.
She did far better than anybody could have guessed, and now she hangs out in a crate sometimes on her own free will.
She continues to get bolder every day, and is a constant purrer. She seems to be very happy living indoors with us, but still demands wet cat food twice a day. So now everybody gets wet cat food twice a day.
Mostly, they have no idea how lucky they are, but I’m pretty sure Gracie knows.