I adopted Tilly Two Legs in May of 2013. I wrote this post about her transition in November 2013. She still lives with me and my two other cats–Ralph and Weaz–in Charlotte NC. Here is her story…
I never should have adopted Tilly. Beyond the fact that she’s a special needs cat abandoned for “aggressive behavior,” taking my cat total from “a couple” to “a few” at age 28 seemed like a first-class ticket to Crazytown.
But as is the case with most of my misadventures, life starts somewhere in the space between should and shouldn’t when I act now and ask later. For better or worse I at least always learn something, and what I’ve learned from Tilly the Terrible is that everyone deserves a second chance (or four).
Tilly’s story starts where so many other animals’ end: at the shelter. My sister-in-law-to-be runs an incredible rescue organization–Halfway There–that pulls animals from high-kill shelters, enters them into a network of volunteer foster homes, and then adopts them out when the right family comes along. She works exclusively with dogs, but when she saw Tilly she had to have her.
Tilly is a 6-year-old tabby mix with bright blue eyes and a tendency to sleep 20 hours a day. She’s very vocal, mildly clingy and determined to murder the conniving laser pointer that has been pestering her as of late. She also happens to be missing her two front legs, but I’m not sure she is aware of this.
I guess I wrongfully assumed that Tilly would require extra care to accommodate for her lack of limbs, and at first I’ll admit I hovered over her like a helicopter. Even now six months later it’s still hard not to pick her up when she’s slowly shuffling across the hardwood floors in search of a rug with better traction. But the truth is, Tilly doesn’t need any help–not getting around, anyway.
She walks across a range of flooring styles, jumps on and off the bed, swipes at toys and uses her special handicat-accessible litter box without trouble. What Tilly needed help (and patience and time) with was learning how to trust humans again.
I don’t know a lot about her back story beyond the fact that she was abandoned by a male owner on account of “aggressive behavior” and “inability to use the litter box.” She was shy at first and always on edge. She wouldn’t let me pet her let alone pick her up, and she was always trying to nip at me. On one of her first nights in my house she attacked my then-boyfriend. A few days later she went at me.
I like to downplay the attacks because (1) it is HILARIOUS to watch a two-legged cat attack your grown-ass boyfriend, and (2) I don’t want people to write her off as “beyond help”, but the truth is Tilly attacked the shit out of us. At one point she was dangling from me ex’s arm by her teeth, and I definitely thought I had permanent nerve damage in my hand and wrist from the dozen or so fang punctures I suffered. The pain didn’t really go away for several months, and I still have scars.
As illogical as it may be, the reason I didn’t want to give up on Tilly was that I felt like she was acting out as a result of the trauma she faced after (and potentially before) being abandoned. I just wanted to give her a little more time. She was getting bounced around to different places and being handled by a lot of different people to the extent that it was probably incredibly overwhelming and over-stimulating. Add to that the fact that she doesn’t have front legs, and I’d imagine she felt pretty vulnerable at all times.
In the animal world Tilly is an easy target. In the human world she was easily dismissed, tossed aside. So in her world she hated everyone, especially my two cats.
[Fair warning: I attach human emotions to animals and speak on their behalf. I won’t stop.]
I eventually decided that finding her another home free of pets would be the best option for everyone, but after an unsuccessful trial run at a new house (where she attacked another human) she was running the risk of euthanasia. I stepped back in and asked for one more try with her.
This time we got it right. I decided this time around to give Tilly her own wing of the house away from my other cats, so she moved upstairs into my office. It took time but eventually she started to trust me. She started playing with toys and letting me pet her and even rolling over to expose her belly. Given her own space and place she felt safe, she was a completely different cat.
I don’t know if it was just a matter of time, location or divine intervention, but Tilly made a complete 180. I was thrilled but also approaching the end of my lease, which would shake things up again. I thought all our months of progress would swirl down the drain when I moved from a spacious two-story apartment to a small studio with no way to keep her away from Ralph and Weaz.
But Tilly surprised me again. She moved in without drama. She sleeps in my bed, is best friends with Ralph and has even made amends with men. Oh, and by the way, she has never not been able to use the litter box. Ever. I don’t know where that lie came from.
My journey with Tilly isn’t over yet. She and Weaz still aren’t great friends, but we’ll get there. I also suspect she has some health issues beyond her missing limbs, but I’m just really glad she didn’t give up on us. Because as is true in every story of stray pets who get a second chance, they end up giving us much more than they take.
I know it makes me sound like a lunatic, but my experience with Tilly over the last several months truly makes me think twice before I completely write off “trouble” humans. My experience with Tilly and her radical turnaround has made me more patient, compassionate and hopeful.
For the record, my cat total is technically only at 2.5 so… I’m not that crazy.
Most of the Tilly questions I get are about how she moves around so here are some videos for reference: