Bebe’s Cat Kisses
Many years ago, when I was working with Bebe, a feral cat who grew to become a much loved family member, I struggled with getting her to trust me. I worked with her in a way that would’ve tested the patience of the slowest snail, but I knew the only way to win her over was to let her set the pace.
After months of slow and steady behavior modification, something miraculous happened. Bebe rubbed up against me. I wanted to jump for joy but of course knew that would certainly not be the appropriate response, so I just sat perfectly still. She rubbed her face along my bare foot and then my pant leg. I felt my heart beating wildly in my chest and hoped she didn’t hear or sense it. I forced myself to take long, slow deep breaths in order to remain calm. After working with her day after day, this was the moment I had been waiting for.
Each day, after I had entered the room, waited patiently for her to come out of hiding, did an interactive play therapy session and then offered her food, she would gingerly walk over to where I was sitting on the floor and rub against my leg. I kept my arms at my side and was hoping she would come up and rub against my hand but no such luck. She wouldn’t risk coming that close. Immediately after rubbing against my leg she would turn around and bolt back up to her perch where she’d peer at me through the makeshift forest I had created by attaching artificial branches to her cat tree. Her eyes dilated and her ears almost going into airplane wing position, she was a mass of confusion. Our brief interactions always left her a little unsure.
One day, after our typical routine had played out and she was safely back in her cat tree, I noticed something. She was looking at me, but this time, her eyes and ears were very relaxed. For Bebe, this was highly unusual. There was something very soft in her gaze and then she did IT… she ever-so-slowly blinked her eyes. I very slowly blinked my eyes back at her. Many behavior experts refer to the slow-blink as the cat’s version of a kiss.