This afternoon I was at my desk typing some edits onto my manuscript. Smoke was resting his damaged hip, snoozing on a cardboard box. I heard the noise, one cat-owners have likely heard at some point, and slowly walked towards Ember, and her fresh pile of vomit.
I told my friend I would be right back because she’d been sick, and my friend suggested I give her a cuddle.
Nausea doesn’t put us in a good place.
In reality, neither of our cats let us near them when they’ve been sick. They slink past, eyes wide and ears back, even though we never shout, and I specifically walk very slowly, and crouch a good metre away while talking in a sing-song tone. Still, they are fearful after being sick.
I don’t know if its a vulnerable predator instinct or from the fact they weren’t treated well before us, but I also know my parent’s cats don’t do this. This fear is not innate, but learned. They experience anxiety, just like their human parents.
These are the roots of their current evolution.
What they experienced in their first 18 months of life has truly shaped their adult lives, even though we’ve been their sole carers for twice that long. They both fear skirts and long coats/cardigans. Neither of them can handle new voices (even on youtube). And both are afraid of crinkly-noise-cat-toys. Smoke is also afraid of a neighbour’s cat half his size.
The advert from the cat rescue charity specifically spoke of their fearful nature, how they would need extra care and patience. Unofficially, they were seen as ‘damaged.’
When I returned from a brief head-scratch of Ember and cleaning the carpet, my friend and I spoke about it some more. The cat’s past home, although the details are not known, is known to have been difficult for them. And explaining how this affects them day-to-day, over three years later, is where I suddenly connect the dots.
These are the conversations where pennies drop and insights *bing*.
She said “It’s so sad they’re still fearful after all the love you’ve given them,” and I instantly shook my head.
Because we all have a past, and it’s okay. When I think about how my brokenness is actually part of my superpower, I can smile about theirs.
The caterpillar disintegrates into a soup to become a butterfly. Damaged like everyone else, affected by events and feelings.
We’re all in this together, experiencing, growing and blooming, while fallen leaves nourish our roots.
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