In addition to being semi-feral, Gussie is also part Siamese. She has the long, slender body of a Siamese, as well as the pointy face, yowl, intelligence, and as much curiousity as fear, her nearly constant companion, will allow. Another trait of Meezers, is that they tend to bond fiercely to one person. For Gussie, I am that person. I believe that she would find the world quite perfect if she and I were the only beings in it, and she could have some part of her body touching some part of my body most of the time.
Gussie spent the first two days of her life at my house under the bed. She didn't lose weight or have any accidents, so she must have come out at some point, but I never saw her. I thought this would change as she settled in, and it did a little. But not much. 5 years later, she is still a phantom, a ghost cat, moving through the house nearly invisibly, and almost always running. By many standards, Gussie is not an easy cat to love.
Most people think of cats as aloof, but they assume they will get to see their cat, pet their cat, even cuddle with their cat. Gussie is not aloof, but she is always afraid. She is not comfortable being vulnerable or exposed, so she does not stretch out in sunbeams or curl up prettily on cushions--when she is not with me, I generally do not know where she is. Sometimes, when I finish showering and getting dressed, I'll emerge from the bedroom to find her sitting silently at the foot of the stairs, gazing up at me with her huge, yellow eyes. If I make to walk down the stairs to pet her, she runs. Her world is generally under things or in closets if she can find one open. I can find her if I look for her, but I've learned from experience that she often abandons a place once it's been found. For that reason, I no longer look for her. I did have to shut the door to the spare room because she became so fond of the space under the dresser that she would literally rub the hair off of her back on the wooden edge as she ran underneath it.
Picking Gussie up is asking for lacerations. She can't tolerate feeling trapped or held in any way, and so goes quite berserk the minute two hands are on her at the same time. When it becomes necessary to trap her (to go to the vet, for instance, or when moving house), she emits a horrible, heartbreaking howl that sounds for all the world like she's being run through with a sharp object. I've cried each time I've had to move her; I've cried in the car all the way over, as has she.
If I sneeze with Gussie in my lap, I'll have bleeding scratches from her frantic attempts to run from the noise. If I travel for a week or more, I'll come home to find her physically ill from the stress of having me gone. In all of her life, there have been only 3 or 4 people other than myself whom she has allowed to touch her. She does not much care for Mr. Knitingale, although she will tolerate him if I'm present. The last time I went away without him, Gussie spent most of my trip glaring balefully at him from under chairs, seemingly convinced that he was responsible for my disappearance; that he knew where I was and was holding out on her. When I'm knitting, she will sit on the back of the couch and lean heavily against my head, yowling in my ear with far more volume than melody. If I don't respond quickly enough (that is, by dropping my knitting and petting her), she will whip me with her tail--which, given that her tail has a small, bony kink at the tip, is not unlike being smacked repeatedly about the face with a rope with a knot in the end.
No, Gussie is not the easiest cat to love. I have had people describe her as neurotic. Her life seems sad, lonely, driven by the terror she can never quite shake. Still, I love her unreasonably. I love her more than I've ever loved a cat. Perhaps it is her absolute devotion to me or, more likely, the tremendous amount of work it takes her to demonstrate that devotion. Given her level of fear, I can only imagine the effort involved in leaping into my lap each day as I peruse the internet. Her body is always tense at these times--ready to run should the need arise--but she stays. She even purrs, and rubs her face against me over and over, but with one ear always turned towards the door. As I said, she does not care for Mr. Knitingale, but will nonetheless come to snuggle against me in bed, albeit always with my body between hers and the offending OTHER person in the bed. Under the covers, she curls up against my back, moving only when I do, to make certain that she does not lose contact with me until I'm asleep; only then does she leave me to go wherever it is that she goes. If I am sick, she will lie on or next to me all day, leaving only to eat and use the litterbox. If I'm crying, she will not leave my side until I stop. And you can see how much it costs her, how the stress has her thrumming like a coiled spring. Her sleep when she is not hidden is fitful, her tail twitches seemingly without her input, her ears move constantly. But she loves me without limit, and she is determined.
One night, Hubby was lying awake in the wee hours, and happened to see Gussie as she came trotting purposefully into the room. She is normally loudly talkative when coming into a room where she knows I am; this time, she made no sound. She leaped onto the bed, walked carefully up until she stood by my face. She looked down at me for a moment, then meowed very softly ("softly" is not a word normally in her meowing lexicon). I didn't awaken or move. Seemingly satisfied, she trotted back out of the room to whatever place made her feel safe. I'm anthropomorphizing, I know--but I can only think that she was checking on me. In the words of Winnie the Pooh, she was "making sure" of me, and leaving her place of security to do it. I have no idea how many times in a night she does this, but I've awakened once or twice since then to find her standing patiently over me, watching but silent; slipping away as soon as she was content that all was well.
It is a bit humbling to be loved this way. Gracie, although fond of me, would trade me in a heartbeat for a can of Super Supper and a catnip mouse. Ed is content as long as the barn across the street has mice. But Gussie--Gussie courts terror on a daily basis, entirely out of love. How many of us would surrender so much to love so fully? How much sweeter, how much gentler would the world be if more of us did?