A lot of love later, he was the perfect companion for me. I just didn’t know it at first.
The first time I met Otis, he clawed me through the lower lip. While I was sleeping. My son had rescued him from a friend’s farm because he was terrorizing the other kittens. He had been tossed from the window of a passing truck at about 6 months old, and may have perhaps been born to a feral cat one late Wisconsin fall. All we really know is that he absolutely loves anything dairy, and can smell it from the other side of the house. We think he was born in a barn.
He was brought to the vet by my adult son, and was treated for his medical issues before settling in to living with another cat, my son, and his partner. The cats had to be separated because Otis was just too rambunctious and annoyed the other cat. Poor Otis.
My son then moved to live with his grandparents in the country, and Otis became a cat that sometimes lived outdoors. He would disappear for days at a time and constantly meowed at the door to be let out, if he had been brought inside. He seemed to be very unhappy living indoors. That would change when he came to live with me.
At some point, my son returned to live with me and Otis came with him. This 14 pound black cat hissed and growled for the entire 15 hour car ride from Wisconsin to Colorado. For months afterward, I could not make eye contact with him, touch him, or even speak to him. He would Freak out.
He was mean. He would lash out and swipe with razor sharp claws for no reason. He terrorized my older cat, who spent a lot of time on the counters to get away from him.
She can get away from him easily because Otis cannot jump well. It takes him 5 or more tries to jump on something higher than 2 feet tall. This is the result of multiple leg fractures that did not heal properly when he was a kitten- probably due to abuse. He is also a little… different. I liken him more to a goat than a cat. He’s stubborn, and will exact revenge if he is scolded. His meow sounds remarkably like the word, “no.”
It took a full two years of hissing, swiping, and hiding before Otis started to trust me. There were many times when I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out. I often thought that he should be rehomed, but I promised my son we would keep working on him. Eventually, my son moved out and left Otis with me. He was still mean, but I just couldn’t give up on him. I went to work with long pink scratches on my arms (and sometimes my face); the result of trying to give him a pet, or getting too close. But I wouldn’t give up.
My older cat, Lucy, eventually formed a contentious relationship with him. He is a lover, and she is cold as ice. So when they do snuggle, it really is a brilliant moment. She has been known to protect him in stressful times, but she never looks happy about it.
Something about this bumbling goat-like cat made my heart melt and I just showed him all the love I could. Even when he bit, scratched and pulled away from me. Even when he woke me up at night by scratching the wall and shredding any paper he could find. He is a silly idiot, and I just love him.
One night when I was fast asleep, I felt the weight of a cat on the end of the bed; just barely touching my foot. I lay still, waiting for him to relax. It didn’t happen that night. He ran as soon as I shifted, but in the months and years to come, Otis became a completely different companion.
He went from scared, hiding, and lashing out, to a snuggle bug. He now seeks me out, taps me with his little paw to get attention, and sleeps like my little spoon. He is gentle and goofy and loving and amazing. Sometimes I think about the times when I contemplated giving up on him, because I felt he was a bad cat, and I love him even more. He just needed some time, and a human to show him that not everyone causes hurt. Someone to just love him for the crazy nut that he is.
I still can’t take him to the vet without dosing him first, and he still swipes when I tell him “no,” but he has truly become my buddy. My son recently came home to live (again) and brought another black cat into our lives. He picked her up as a stray, so we don’t know anything about her past, but we are being extra patient with her grouchy attitude.
Cats can sometimes take a long time to acclimate to an adopted family. It took two years for Otis to get over himself. Oscar took to my son right away, but it’s been a year and she is still warming up in the house, outside of his room. It takes time, but they come around. It really is worth it.