Advice from a Cat
Updated: Dec 20, 2020
I was sitting in a darkened room staring at Frodo; an Aussie rescue, and wondering if I had the courage to keep him with us. Up until a month ago he had lived the first two years of his life in a hoarding environment-- outside with 20 dogs and little contact with humans.
‘Don’t expect too much,’ I kept hearing; ’Get him medicated immediately! You don’t know what he’s like. He can’t be trusted.’
After two weeks of gradual improvement, I looked into his gentle, anxious eyes. I worried that learning to get into a car or climb a staircase or even finding joy in inhabiting a house with humans, was beyond his ability. Many of the things ‘normal’ dogs do would ultimately be too much for him. Did I want a dog like that? Should he be returned to the shelter? Maybe there was a better home for him out there; or maybe a string of homes that would not work out either.
As I sat there; Connie Kitty strolled up for attention, touching noses with Frodo like she had the day he arrived. Connie is a little ball of black fluff with round owl eyes and a vacant expression. We’re not sure if she is a genius or a total airhead. But she was, I realized, an expert on a life lived in intolerable conditions.
For the first three years of her life, Connie lived with 90 other cats. She was rescued and lived at a shelter for another year. Then she came to us.
The first week we kept her in a bedroom closed off from the cat and dog already part of our household. She spent it mostly on top of the built-in dresser drawers in the closet. Gradually, we let her see the other animals; finally, we left her door open all the time. She stayed where she was; rarely leaving her high, safe hideaway and never venturing out the bedroom door. I realized it might be a long time before she did.
Her long fur was beginning to matt and snarl so one evening I carried her into the bathroom with a comb and shut the door. I combed; she ran away; I combed; she leapt into the shower; I combed; she fled; over and over; around and around. I didn’t get frustrated; I didn’t try to hold her; I just kept following her. Slowly she paused longer and longer until she settled quietly on a rug calm and relaxed and let me comb her.
When I opened the door, she walked out and never returned to the dresser drawers. She’s been the queen of her domain ever since—bossing around the other animals; demanding attention, and cuddling against my neck at night.
But normally, she doesn’t like strange dogs-- only venturing out when they are gone or (if we are dog sitting) after becoming resigned to their continued presence.
Not so with Frodo; she was nose to nose greeting him shortly after his arrival. And she has followed me to visit with him time after time ever since.
I don’t know why combing her fur gave Connie kitty the courage to embrace her new home. I don’t know why she is fearless and affectionate towards Frodo. Has she decided to become a therapy cat for dogs? Is that even a thing?
Is she a genius or a total airhead?
What I do know that she had the courage and resilience to move on from a miserable start to becoming a happy, ‘normal’ cat; and she seems to be telling me that Frodo can too.
I’ve always believed in listening to experts—no matter how fluffy!