Before I get started I want to note that, for the rest of January, Fridays will be “Feline Friday” as I share the Athena posts I have planned. Also, be aware that this post is rather long. It covers from November 2019 when we first met Athena up to October of 2022.
Alright, yes, my title for this post leans toward cliché, but it’s true. Athena definitely adopted us as her humans before we officially adopted her into our family. But, for you to understand, I have to look back a few years, to November of 2019.
We were in our garage when “MEOW! MEOW!”
“Oh, hello little one!” Jim spotted the adorable little furball first. “How are you?”
“MEOW!” The kitten couldn’t have been more than 6 months old. It was all black and puffed up, sitting next to the downspout by the garage door.
“Aren’t you a little cutie!” I cooed at it.
“And very talkative,” Jim added.
“MEOW!! MEOW!! MEOW!!!”
That was our first interaction with Athena. While I don’t remember anything else from that day — I don’t even recall for certain that we fed her, but I think we did — her adorable fluffiness and confident meow have stuck with me.
Jim says he remembers seeing Athena around the neighborhood with her mother and sibling before then. Obviously, something bad happened to Mom, as, sadly, we have never seen her again.
Fast forward to January 2020 and we were regularly putting food out on our porch. Jim had purchased a cat house and winterized it — adding foam mats as insulation. At the time, he thought she was a boy for some reason.
Jim and I originally thought it was just one juvenile cat. Jim assumed that whatever got Mom got a sibling as well. However, on January 18, we discovered both younglings were eating at our house. I wasn’t — and still am not — spending much time outside, so I didn’t know them well.
Jim, however, spent time sitting outside trying to convince the little furballs to come over to him. He determined one kitten was brave, and one was talkative. So, he named them Brave and Talkie respectively.
“Not Athena?” You may ask. Nope, Athena chose her name much later. In the beginning, our sassy little girl was known as Talkie.
By the end of January, we’d learned that our next-door neighbor was also feeding the kitties. The smart younglings were begging at her door, too. However, they were still skittish, not willing to come closer to a person than 10 feet away. So, Jim started putting food down closer and closer to the porch while he was sitting outside.
Once they got used to Jim, it didn’t take long for him to earn their trust. By mid-March, they were waiting on the porch at mealtimes and actively using the cat house. They may have been using it before then, but it wasn’t until March that Jim saw one of them come out of the it.
Around the same time, Athena started accepting pets. And, shortly thereafter, she started giving body bonks to Jim’s leg. She even graduated to preferring attention and affection to food on some days.
Tonight, my little feral friend, Talkie, was much more interested in telling me about her day than having dinner. She was house cat level affectionate and kept walking around me and rubbing up on my leg. I gave her some pets and she loved it. Honestly, it was adorable. Once I turned to go up the steps to our door, she decided that food was good.March 22, 2020: Jim’s Facebook post
It didn’t take long for her to start making biscuits. While absolutely adorable, because she was an outdoor cat, we couldn’t trim her nails. This resulted in what I termed “prickly biscuits” and Jim called “cat acupuncture.” Because Athena was — and still is — rather small, her tiny little claws were razor-sharp. So even the smallest grab or swat would cut.
Every so often, Athena would go around to our back deck and visit with the boys through the sliding glass door. I don’t really know what went through her head during those visits, as they never seemed to last long, but it was cute, anyway.
On March 31, she was exhibiting unmistakable signs of an eye infection. We didn’t think anything of it. She’s an outdoor cat, she probably got into something. Jim made an appointment at the vet, thinking it would be an easy fix. Unfortunately, not everything went as planned.
Small but Fierce
To make sure we wouldn’t have an issue catching Miss Athena, when an opportunity presented itself to catch her the night before her appointment, we took it. We kept her in our garage overnight in a large trap cage we had with food, water, and a makeshift litter box. All was going well.
The next morning, we messed up. We made some poor choices in getting her from trap to carrier, and she got free. The smart little girl took off under the car. We tried to coax her out with treats. When that didn’t work, we tried to shoo her out using a broom handle which backfired horribly. She darted into the engine compartment.
Jim and I took turns trying everything we could think of to get her out of there. We poked, prodded, coaxed, and spritzed her in an attempt to convince her to exit the space. It took us so long that Jim called the vet to tell them we couldn’t make the appointment. Murphy was laughing at us, because that was when I finally managed to get her out and grab her. But her day’s excitement wasn’t done.
Because of COVID, our local vet was only providing “curbside service.” Pet parents parked and called the office with their spot number. A vet tech came out, collected the furbaby, and took them inside. Once the vet was examining them, she called the pet parent and discussed everything. Once finished, a front office staff member would handle check out, and a vet tech would deliver the furbaby back to their pet parent.
This arrangement isn’t ideal for a semi-feral cat who isn’t comfortable with people. Once Athena was taken out of her carrier, she proved she embodied “small, but fierce.” She escaped the techs, and it apparently took most of the staff to catch her again. She was so… spicy… that they didn’t complete her exam or administer her vaccinations. Part of that decision was to spare her the stress and part was to protect the staff, given her sharp claws. They did, however, send her home with medicine for her eyes.
Jim didn’t have much luck with the medicine, though. The ointment was a total no-go. She wouldn’t let him touch her eyes for that. He had slightly more luck with the eyedrops; enough, anyway to banish the infection.
While Athena had made major strides in accepting people, her sibling, Brave, remained standoffish. Because Brave was significantly larger than Athena, Jim assumed Brave was a boy. Spoiler alert: she’s not. Since then, we’ve decided Athena might have been the runt.
By June, Athena was barely recognizable as the feral kitten who found us. Instead, she was an outdoor cat; more specifically, Jim’s outdoor cat. So, when Brave returned pregnant after a multi-week absence, Jim made an appointment to get Athena spayed.
Unfortunately, there was a significant wait, mostly due to COVID. In the interim, Athena continued warming up to Jim. She waited for him to come back from feeding the kittens down the street — two of those kittens were our Dante and Ritz. She would also happily sit with him on the porch either relaxing, cuddling, or playing. She was such a happy cat, she would regularly make four-paw prickly biscuits. Poor Jim’s legs were covered in little puncture marks.
Athena claimed the porch as her territory, and she only grudgingly tolerated the kittens’ mother, Moon, and Brave. I think most of why she didn’t run them off is because Jim bought extra food bowls to make sure everyone had plenty of food.
In mid-August, we discovered Brave had delivered two kittens. One was black and the other was white with patches of gray and black tabby stripes. They were under the unused car in our neighbor’s driveway. But, after a couple of weeks, all three disappeared, and we haven’t seen them since.
Our neighbor has since told us about a house one street over where the owner has built a large shelter for outdoor cats. Our working theory is that Brave moved herself and her kittens there. I truly hope that’s what happened.
On September 2nd, Miss Athena was spayed as planned and received a standard round of vaccinations. Since she was much more comfortable with us by then, we were able to catch her the morning of her appointment. Everything went well, and we kept her in the garage overnight in the same trap cage for observation.
Because she was an outdoor cat, she didn’t get a cone of shame. We were just advised to monitor her for 24 hours to ensure her wound stayed closed. When it was time to let her go, we made sure to take the cage around to the front of the house before letting her out. We’d learned our lesson in March and wanted to make sure she didn’t end up in the engine compartment again.
That was the first time we saw Athena’s “philosophy,” for lack of a better term. She gets upset over a specific thing but doesn’t hold a grudge. She didn’t like being in the cage and made an instant beeline for our backyard, but she was back on our porch for dinner as loving as ever.
Only one semi-major change happened between Athena’s spaying and Moon getting pregnant again in March. In February, I cut off the bottom two inches of privacy film on the windows on either side of our front door. This allowed our boys to see out, and Athena to see in. Of course, our friendly, playful boys wanted to be friends.
But, back to March. Understanding that Moon needed extra food, Athena was more open to sharing with her. And, once the kittens were old enough to visit our porch with their mom, Athena didn’t chase them off.
Unfortunately for Miss Athena, this attitude backfired on her. The kittens — who Jim named Pumpkin and Spice — seemed to consider her family and had no concept of personal space. As a side note, there is a chance they are related. We can’t discount the possibility that Athena is Moon’s granddaughter.
Even Moon got tired of her kittens’ shenanigans and lack of desire to leave home. She migrated — probably one street over like Brave did, and has yet to return.
We found the new kittens a home with a friend of ours — they’re VERY happy and spoiled — and Spice is now known as Nuage — French for cloud — because he’s a fancy fluffy boy.
Athena was delighted to be an only cat again. Once more she could claim all the attention and food — except for the leftovers stolen by the possum and racoon.
How does Talkie feel now that the boys have a new home? “All your attentions belongs to ME!” As well as, “Not enuffs! Come back!” She’s adjusting well.October 12, 2021: Jim’s Facebook Post
By the end of 2021, she was in love with cuddles — when she wanted them. She’d happily sit with Jim, jumping into his lap often. He learned she has a particular fondness for double-handed pettings. She even allowed me to cuddle her on my lap from time to time.
Per usual, Jim winterized her cat house, making sure she had a safe, warm place throughout the cold months. And we made sure to give her extra food to cover the extra calories she’d expend to stay warm.
During winter of 2021-2022, our relationship with Athena started changing. According to Jim, she walked into the house one morning when he opened the door to feed her. She promptly turned around and left when she saw one of our boys. While she never repeated that action, she would press against the door while we unlocked it so that she was standing on the door jamb when the door opened.
Because it was clear she wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon, I started spending more time outside with her, and she warmed up to me. I was now allowed to hold her, as opposed to just petting her or sitting her on my lap. It was then I discovered that she wasn’t all black. Her outer coat is black, but her undercoat and most of her skin are a pale gray. I didn’t find out until about a month ago that she’s what’s known as a black smoke.
It also became clear that, in the same way our boy Dante was never meant to be called Sparky, Miss Athena wasn’t meant to be Talkie. Several times, I tried calling her different names to see what she might take a liking to. All I ever got was silence or upset meows.
Finally, I decided to try a different approach.
Athena It Is
“Talkie, sweetheart, we need to find your real name. It’s clear you don’t like Talkie. I’ve tried all of the usual kitty names I could think of. So how about a queen’s name?”
“OK. How do you like Nefertiti? She was renowned for her beauty, and was a powerful queen.”
“OK, then how about Elizabeth, or Beth? Queen Elizabeth was one of the last absolute monarchs of England. She was very powerful in her own right, and defended her kingdom against many threats, as you do.”
She just huffed at me. “Well, I guess that’s a no. Hmm, what about Catherine, after Catherine the great? She stole her kingdom, as you have from the other outside kitties.”
“Meow!” Angry this time.
“Oooh, definitely not. Well, if you aren’t liking queens’ names, how about goddesses? Do you like Athena? She’s the goddess of war and knowledge. She could obviously protect herself well and was very smart and beautiful.”
“You like that one, huh? OK, And how about Artemis? She’s goddess of the hunt, so she could obviously protect herself well, too.”
“Not so much, that one. And Aphrodite? She’s probably the most famously beautiful goddess of all time. And you’re also very beautiful.”
“Hmm… No to that, then. So, is it to be Athena?”
“Meow! PURRRR! PURRR!”
“I see. OK, Athena it is.” The little goddess had chosen her name.
At some point, she must have decided that she was part of our clowder (a group of cats). She expected to be fed at the same time as our boys. And, if we didn’t, she’d cry outside. She’d also cry when she wanted attention. Granted, we reinforced that behavior by going out to her when she did so.
She watched us more frequently through the space at the bottom of the windows near our front door. Many a night, I was startled by two glowing eyes staring back at me.
She also brought us rent in the form of a field mouse. I praised her for her hunting and told her rent was unnecessary since she was part of the family. In the time it took me to go ask Jim what I should do with Athena’s gift, she’d taken it and was having a good meal.
At the end of January, we decided to try again with our local vet. We were late with Athena’s vaccinations, so we scheduled an appointment. Based on the records from her spaying, a couple of typical kitten vaccines had been missed, so she got those as part of her checkup. We scheduled a follow-up appointment for February 19 for her to get a booster shot which would ensure she had all of the necessary and suggested vaccinations.
As her follow-up appointment drew closer, we decided to officially make her part of the family. I called the vet and asked them to add a note about getting Athena chipped while she was in for her booster.
Welcome to the Family
February 19, which we consider Athena’s gotcha day, brought with it several surprises.
We waited to feed her breakfast so she would stay around the house instead of heading out for the day. If she did that, we’d never be able to catch her for the appointment.
While I was making breakfast, Bumbledore started meowing at me and he wouldn’t stop.
“What is it, B?”
“You had your breakfast.”
“The other boys did, too. You know that.”
“Miss Athena can’t have breakfast yet.”
“She has a doctor appointment later, so she has to stay by the house. You know she leaves after breakfast.”
“…” He stared at me, clearly waiting for further explanation.
“Today Athena is officially becoming part of our family.”
“I promise, I haven’t forgotten her. She’ll get breakfast.” Bumbledore stared at me for another few moments before walking away and settling down.
When I took Athena her food to catch her, she was waiting at the corner of the porch and a mouse was on the mat. The amazing part is that it could have keeled over from a heart attack. There wasn’t a mark on it.
“You’re such an amazing hunter, Miss Athena!”
“There isn’t a mark on it! Such a clean kill. Good job!”
“Do you know you’re joining our family today? You just us as your humans, and we’re choosing you as our kitty goddess.”
“Catching” her was easier than usual. I basically just picked her up and plopped her in the carrier when Jim brought it out.
I don’t recall why I took her to the vet alone, as opposed to Jim and I taking her together. On the drive over, I explained to her that she would be officially joining our family during her visit.
She was very good while we waited and as she was weighed. The vet tech explained that the needle for the chip was rather large, so I should expect a reaction out of Athena. I’m guessing they don’t want pet parents to freak out if their furbaby cries.
When he stepped out to get the chip and her vaccine, I decided to prepare Athena. I was holding her, and she had her little chin on my shoulder.
“Miss Athena, remember I told you that you’re officially joining our family? There’s going to be a big ouchie, then you’re part of the family. No matter what happens, no one will be able to take you away from us.”
“Can you be a brave girl for the ouchie?” She nuzzled my cheek. “Of course you can. Be brave, and as soon as the ouchie is done, you’re a Crawford.”
When the vet tech returned, he and his fellow tech decided to start with Athena’s vaccine booster since it would be easier on here.
She did very well with the vaccine. She didn’t make a noise. While the first tech prepared the chip injection — the needle gun reminded me of the piercing guns used at mall kiosks — I prepped Athena.
“Miss Athena, remember I said there would be a big ouchie? It’s time for the ouchie. Be a brave girl, OK?”
With a pinch of the skin at the scruff of her neck and a loud click, it was done. She didn’t even flinch.
“Such a good girl, Athena! Welcome to the family, little one.”
The tech scanned her chip to make sure it was well seated and working properly, then we checked out and went home.
From then until she got sick in October, life continued as normal. Jim and I would trade off feeding and sitting with her. Unless we were running late, she’d be waiting on the porch or in our front flower beds. When we left the house, she’d be waiting for us when we returned.
She loved her cuddles. Being held was good, too. Jim was still more her person than me, though.
She particularly enjoyed being told she was pretty/beautiful and being called a little goddess.
I think one of Jim’s Facebook posts sums up that time well.
For a while now, Athena has been giving Rachel neck nuzzles. This morning, I picked Athena up and she nuzzled me. I think my sentimental circuit breaker got flipped. There are no words to express how happy I am that this little wild girl chose us. I could live without the bread making acupuncture, but it comes with the territory.March 25, 2022: Jim’s Facebook Post
And then, she got another eye infection.
Thanks for reading to the end, I hope you enjoyed this update on Athena. If you’d like to keep up with her progress, be sure to subscribe to my blog, check her tag page, or follow the AthenaUpdate hashtag on Instagram.