Back when Steve and I made the offer to purchase the house we now live in, our contract negotiations included the requisite home inspection. On a sunny spring day we met our realtor and the inspector at the house for a walk-through. I was taking measurements in the living room when Steve followed the inspector outside to look at the gutters, leaving the front door open behind him. Within moments a pretty calico who we’d seen lounging on the porch a few times pranced up the steps and marched right through the door into the foyer as if she owned the place.
Our realtor shooed the cat before she could get very far, but the incident made me wonder if the calico had belonged to the people who’d lived in the home before us. There was a cat door in the kitchen, and anytime we’d been by to look at the house, she was camped out in a sunny spot somewhere on the property. The last two times I’d moved into a new home, it had come with a cat. It was looking like this one would, too.
By the time we moved in, I’d already named the kitty “Bliss,” a reference to our new home’s “address” at what3words.com, a program that generates a unique three-word identifier for every 100-square-foot area in the world. Most houses in the US occupy enough square footage to have several addresses to choose from; our favorite for our new digs was “bliss handy motel.” If my theory was correct, our Bliss had been independent for at least six months, probably more. We put a cat bed on the porch and fed her outside at first. She welcomed a few head-scratches and dinners that didn’t require scavenging, often even greeting us upon our arrivals home, but she remained wary of too much contact or any movement that suggested confinement was in the offing. Whenever we crossed that invisible line between Oooh, good scratches to Enough! she’d let us know with a quick swat or a sharp nip. She wasn’t exactly wild, but she wasn’t fully domesticated either. I petted her in small doses and didn’t even try to pick her up for several months.
Before she could come inside and interact (battle for dominance?) with our other two cats, she needed a clean bill of health and a vaccine update. I was pretty sure cramming her into a carrier would result in scars for one or both of us, so I was extra thankful for our local mobile vet.
Then it was time to introduce Bliss to the rest of the menagerie.
Charlie Kate and Lola had only just begun to get used to the idea they had to share their new house with a dog, and vice-versa. This additional feline interloper was met with angst and righteous indignation. Bliss herself clearly had mixed feelings about coming inside: during her outdoor days, other cats were threats, competition. There’ve been, as you might imagine, a few howls, hisses, and spats.
As she’s struggled to find her place in her new family and slowly, but surely, settled in, I’ve learned a few things via domestic Bliss.
- When you’ve been independent for a long time, constant togetherness can feel overwhelming. It’s easy to get your hackles up when your long-established boundaries feel threatened, but lashing out only hurts the ones you love. Instead, say you need some chill time, then take a walk or curl up in your favorite rocking chair to savor the solitude. The good ones understand.
- It takes time to learn, and honor, the needs and rhythms of another. It’s an ongoing process—daily, monthly, a lifetime. If you listen and observe closely, always with compassion, understanding grows.
- Everybody needs to be the center of the universe sometimes. Some days it feels like there just aren’t enough laps to go around, but giving each of your loved ones your full, undivided attention at least a few minutes every day fosters connection and trust.
- Small gestures of affection make a big difference. Gentleness begets gentleness.
And, as temperatures drop and snow threatens once again, there’s this:
- It sure is nice to have someone there to welcome you in from the cold.