On scratches and listening
The first time Bennett jumped onto my lap, I wasn't very sure what to do or what to think. I appreciated him reaching out and wanted to be welcoming, but I also very much appreciate all features and fixtures on my face and didn't really want to risk a scratched cheek or a hollowed eye.
Bennett's person left him with us over the Summer, and I can't say we were over excited about giving board and bed to an large cat with strong nails, sharp teeth, and an edgy temper. For reasons that I cannot explain, Bennett insisted on sleeping on my bed; and after a few days of waking up to my toes being attacked in the middle of the night, I did my best to keep the cat out of my bedroom.
In this scenario, the day Bennett jumped onto my lap while I was seating at my desk dealing with my dissertation's methodology chapter, I wasn't very sure what to do or what to think. I did want to be welcoming - the cat was clearly eager for some human warmth - but I had dealt with enough bloody scratches by then to not be fully aware of my risks. But when you're in dissertation-writing mode even a scratch might be a welcomed distraction, and I decided to give it a shot. I set on talking to him calmly, and not moving very much. It worked - no scratches to report - and after a while of gentle conversation Bennett went on with his life and left me with no more excuses to keep my fingers off the keyboard.
Day after day, as I made my way through my dissertation, Bennett kept coming back to chat and sit on my legs. And by my following chapter, he had made his way to my chair, to my lap, and back to my bed. Soon after, Bennett got into the habit of waking up with my alarm clock and crawling up to my chest to purr and cuddle while I hit snooze for "just another five minutes." Sometimes times Bennett did not want to be petted, and he showed me that by gently and firmly pawing me on the arm - but never once he got his claws out on me again. Bennett had learned to tell - and I had learned to listen.
A few months later, Bennett's person was looking for a new roommate and approached me about that subject. I was not so sure about moving; but the prospect of sharing a home with Bennett did it for me. After all, if a few scratches is what is takes to teach you how to listen, it means they were well given - and well taken.