The Crankee Yankee and I have fed stray cats, our resident skunks, birds and the inevitable squirrels and raccoons for years now. By now they know that we are not going to hurt them. We have been careful not to spook our guests, and we speak to them kindly. Over time, they have come to trust that we will feed them and shelter them. Often one of the cats will actually sit nearby when we are putting the food bowls out.
Often in summer, the skunks may come out in the daytime (they are mostly nocturnal). Not long ago I walked out one morning to find two of our guest cats and one of the skunks patiently waiting for me.
FYI, skunks startle easily, and when they startle, they spray. When a skunk is around, we tread lightly and talk to them. They have come to know our voices and our scents (their eyesight is terrible), and they generally stay put until we put the food and water down. Over time we have built up a kind of trust between us all.
Building trust, be it with animals or people, is not always easy. It involves an unspoken agreement: “I won’t hurt you and you won’t hurt me.” It is a pact we make when we genuinely care for someone or something. When trust is established, we can rest into it like a comfy chair.
Trust is a process of kindness, regularity and a willingness to be vulnerable. When we have earned the trust of another person or a hungry stray, it is a magical moment. We want that person and/or that animal to know, deeply and truely, that they are loved and welcomed into our hearts.