Ursula the Unlikely
Since her adoption, Ursula has spent two weeks with free reign around the house, yet she primarily constrains herself to my office. Perched atop the cat tree, she surveys and judges, and growls should any other feline dare to darken her domain.
Or at least that’s how I imagine her view of the world. Because Ursula has also finally attended her official veterinary checkup, and the findings are a bit surprising. She appears to be in fine health, and has even gained over a pound since her adoption about a month ago. No longer skin and bones, she could probably stand to gain a bit more, and she isn’t quite as voracious as before. But despite being more active, she still refrained from jumping.
So I brought this up with the vet, and she offered to give Ursula an X-ray to see if there was a past injury contributing to this. As it turns out, Ursula actually has mild arthritis. The vet explained that she’s seen that level of minor spurs and reduced cartilage in cats as young as five, but it’s more likely she’s much older. Perhaps that also explains the grey tuft on her chest, and why her fur is a bit tattered. Luna’s fur became similarly ragged in her elder years, despite regular combing.
Due to her checkered past, she essentially reached the local shelter with no records of any kind. Other than being spayed and having an unregistered chip, they basically knew nothing about her at all. As a result, we’ve inadvertently adopted an elderly cat. This honestly doesn’t bother me, given how older cats are often overlooked in favor of kittens.
This primarily means she’s had sufficient time to set develop her personality and estimation of any threats she might face. We don’t know how long she was a stray, or if she had a family before us. But one thing is clear: she’s incredibly anxious. If there’s even a hint of another cat being around, she becomes agitated and energized. Her tail animated and restless, she’ll bite if provoked in any way, petting included. To be fair, she’s not aggressive about the bites, but her desire to be left alone is clear.
Despite this, she ventures out after I feed her, and regularly follows me around the house. We’ve even noticed her roaming otherwise unpromped, exploring the basement, guarding the shower. This invariably results in her encountering another cat and subsequent growling. Sometimes she retreats back to my office, but not always. Occasionally she remains around the negative stimuli because she desires our company, even if not our direct attention. She’s warming up in spite of herself, and even if she’s a grumpy old lady, she’ll eventually realize she’s safe here and stop lashing out.
One thing is for certain: she loves treats. Salem, Lorelei, and Ash couldn’t possibly care less when we try to entice them with any cat treat we’ve ever tried. Cheese is about the only thing we’ve found that Salem and Ash will request or patiently wait for us to accidentally drop. Lorelie is ambivalent about that too. But Ursula? Shake any bag of anything, and she’ll appear as if by magic, wailing with her high-pitched meow until you relinquish a small handful. I’ve unwittingly summoned her this way with a bag of chocolate keto bark I was replacing in the cupboard, so I had to provide treats to reward her vigilance.
That’s one reason I personally believe she had a family at one point. I didn’t train her what treats were, she seemed to already know. Given her demeanor, she was probably the only cat there, and she finds extra company somewhat distasteful. But if Luna can learn to live with interlopers, Urusula can too. It’ll be interesting to see how things evolve over the next few months. If nothing else, we can bribe her any time we want. Maybe we can teach her that being cordial with the other cats means she gets more treats. Only time will tell.