Meet my feline family: Azrael, part 3
To get back to the less sad parts of the story, as I mentioned previously, I got Azrael spayed when her kittens were weaned. Since she was only an occasional visitor at my window at that time, what I did was to wait until she came inside on the windowsill to eat, and then I closed the window to trap her inside, before calling the vet to make the appointment. For this reason, I had to keep her in for one week beforehand, to make sure that she would actually be there at the time of the appointment. During that week, she was so bored and listless that it unfortunately reinforced my misguided notion that I couldn't keep her indoors without her getting very depressed, and so I let her back outside a few days after the spay surgery. For several months after that, she didn't trust me and didn't come to my window as much, staying on the outside windowsill when she did.
Eventually she forgave me though, and we became very good friends. I would open my window and call out "AAAZ-REEE-ELLLLLLLL" and if she was within earshot, she would come running, even meowing as she bounded up the spiral stairs. She would come inside, and I would pet her and give her some food. I put a collar on her on two occasions (she lost the first one, which I had put on even before she was spayed, if I recall correctly), mainly because as a long haired cat who was nervous enough about getting petted, never mind getting brushed, she would get matted all along her sides, and eventually the mats would fall off, exposing her skinniness to observers in the street. On the off-chance that someone who saw her like that might think she was a diseased, mangy, starving stray and call animal control to take her away, I put a collar on her to indicate that she had a home. She wasn't too thrilled about getting the collar put on, but by wedging her up against the window I was able to quickly get it on and secured before she could run away.
She began staying in for longer and longer periods of time, venturing into other parts of the apartment or sleeping on the armchair near the window. By this time EssPee (whose story comes next in the series) was living with us, and the two of them got along fairly well. Sometimes they could be found sleeping on the armchair next to each other.
EssPee was an indoor cat from the beginning, and so we would no longer leave the window partially open to let Azrael come and go as she pleased. We would often leave it open a couple of inches though, and on a few occasions realized that skinny Azrael had been able to squeeze out through a two or three inch gap. Not having grown up with humans, she hadn't learned to meow at us to ask for what she wanted, and so would sooner squeeze out the tiny opening, or, to my horror, leap a good six feet from our balcony railing over to the fire escape railing when the window was closed but the door to the balcony open so that EssPee could go out there if he wanted to (he was always a very good boy safety-wise on the balcony).
We did take EssPee out into the yard to walk on a leash when the weather was nice though, and during most of these excursions, Azrael would show up and follow the three of us around the yard, which was quite heartwarming - nice family walks!
The decision to keep her indoors came that summer after a scare where I was afraid she had been killed. My ex and I had gone out of town for a week, with my mom staying at our place to take care of EssPee and Azrael. But Azrael, as mentioned, mostly just likes me as far as humans are concerned, so after four or so days of coming around to find a stranger there instead of me, she stopped coming to the window. When I got home and learned that Azrael hadn't been seen for three days, I feared the worst, that she had been killed by a car like so many other cats in the neighbourhood. I felt responsible and extremely guilty. I *was* responsible; she was a member of my family, one of my dependents, and I had let her continue roaming around a dangerous neighbourhood. I certainly should have known better, but my fear that she wouldn't psychologically adapt well to indoor life had made me decide to wait until we moved out of town (less than two months away at this point) before trying to keep her indoors.
Thinking that she must be dead and it was my fault, I prepared lost cat posters and put them up around the neighbourhood, and visited the lost cat ward at the SPCA to look for her just in case, although it was extremely unlikely that anyone would have been able to catch her without a specific effort involving a trap, and I don't think many people paid that much attention to cats roaming around their yards anyway - it wasn't exactly unusual. I told myself that on the off chance that she was alive and I found her, I would keep her indoors from then on.
I almost couldn't believe it on Monday afternoon when my downstairs neighbour called to say that Azrael had been at her window a few minutes earlier, alive and well. She had just stopped coming around after I hadn't been home for so many days. The pit in my stomach from the past few days turned into a nervous hopeful excitement, as I waited for her to come upstairs so that I could see with my own eyes and truly believe that she was okay.
A few hours later she showed up at my window. I finally felt some relief as I opened the window to let her in. She hesitated partway through, starting to back up a bit, no doubt sensing my excitement. I quickly grabbed her, plopped her onto the floor, and slammed the window shut. I was going to keep my word to myself about no longer risking her life due to my own foolishness.
The transition to suddenly being an indoor cat wasn't easy on her at first. It must have been confusing and it must have felt confining. She wasn't accustomed to using a litterbox, and at the beginning would hold her urine for literally 48 hours, which worried me. A couple of times when she finally did pee she didn't do it in the litterbox. But after a few weeks, this gradually stopped and she was at least going once a day, in the litterbox.
She didn't actually become listless and bored like she had when I kept her in to get spayed a year and a half earlier. (Although there were some very hot days that summer where she and EssPee were both very listless, but that's different!) In retrospect I really needn't have worried about that at all. Mainly she was nervous and had to get used to the new routine. When we adopted Possum, about 10 months old, she and Azrael were not too thrilled with each other, but all that happened between them was growling and hissing and then staying out of each other's way. Not long afterwards we adopted several kittens, with whom Azrael was fine - if they got a little too rambunctious near her, she would just bat them on the head to remind them who was in charge.
Several years and several apartment moves later, she's still mainly the top cat, except that as I mentioned in a previous entry Fred has been bullying her, since the cats' hierarchy is in a bit of a state of flux. The photo on the left shows evidence of when they used to get along! She likes to spend her time sleeping in sunny and/or comfy spots, especially in our solarium and on the top platform of one of the floor-to-ceiling cat trees, and also enjoys sniffing the air at the window screens during warmer weather as well as watching squirrels in the park the apartment looks out onto. She's mainly a very quiet cat who doesn't meow, but every once in a rare while she'll roam up and down the hall at night meowing loudly in a way that I can only describe as otherworldly. It's been quite a while since the last time she's done this; it used to be more frequent back in Montreal not long after we started keeping her inside. I always wonder what's going on in her mind at the time... More recently, she used to love coming into the bedroom at night and sleeping on top of me, but unfortunately she hasn't been able to the last few months since we moved Hanna Harriet into the bedroom - the door is now usually kept closed to keep Fred from fighting with Hanna Harriet, who isn't fond of other cats at the best of times.
So, now you know a little about my sweet yet neurotic Azrael. She's been my dear friend for nearly seven years, and hopefully will be for many more. As an individual with likes and dislikes, preferences and interests, habits and personality traits, her personhood is clear. But there's no difference in terms of sentience between her and each of the billions of nonhuman animals that humans use and kill every year. If you aren't already vegan, take the personhood of nonhumans seriously and go vegan today!