So I've known it for a while now, but I'm really bad at following through on that whole Release part of Trap-Neuter-Release. Or maybe it's just that I'm bad at leaving them released. Either way, I'm just not cut out for the TNR life, I don't think.
I got home from my trip and was super thrilled to discover that Skittles had not disappeared. She was there almost immediately after I pulled into the driveway, greeting me with a meow and happily appearing anytime I came outside for any reason.
She would circle around me, closer and closer, never quite getting close enough to touch, but rubbing against the furniture, the feeders, the house, circling ever closer than away again, in a pattern that fairly begged me to pick her up and pet her. Of course I never did because any aggressive move toward her sent her bolting away. Instead I just talked to her and hung out on the back porch with her and one day when she followed me to the back door and meowed at me as I went inside, I held the door open for her and said to her, "Well, come on, then. Come on in."
And she followed me inside.
Of course the second the door closed behind her, she panicked and tried to climb it. I grabbed a hoodie from the hook behind the door and scooped her up with it. The minute my hands touched her through the hoodie, she froze. I carefully wrapped her up in the hoodie and cuddled her close to my body, which is when the most amazing thing happened.
She began to purr.
Now I know that some cats will purr not just when happy, but in times of stress or pain as well. But it didn't feel like a stressed out or pained purr. It felt like the real deal. Like something she'd wanted her entire life had just come to pass. Someone was holding her.
Maybe I'm delusional, but that purr sealed both our fates.
I ventured a hand beneath the hoodie and stroked her fur – so soft! – and cuddling her close, carried her to a back bedroom, where I set her up with a litter box, food and water. I've had her several days now and spend as much time in that room as I possibly can, getting her used to me. So far, I haven't tried to touch her again because she mostly hides from me and I want to build a level of trust with her. Trust that I won't overstep the boundaries she's established for our relationship. Most of the time she huddles under the dresser, watching me with a wary eye while listening to my voice. She doesn't usually venture out from under the dresser until I leave, but that's okay because I have all the time in the world to coax her into mine.