I have two cats. Until recently, I had a cat named Molly and a cat named Snow Crash, both of them rescues.
Snow Crash is not part of the family any more. He decided to play escapo-kitty a few weeks back…headed out the door and disappeared. I spent several days looking for him, and put food outside the door, but he never turned back up.
In a way, this is as it should be. He dropped unexpectedly into my life when we rescued him from a rooftop, he stuck around for a while, and he left when he wanted to. He’s a tough cat, and if he hasn’t found someone else to look after him (which I suspect he has), I do not doubt his ability to look after himself.
At roughly the same time as Snow Crash decided to leave, I adopted figment_j‘s kitty Liam. Liam is a lot like Molly in temperament; he loooooves people, and he loves to cuddle.
But the integration of Liam into the household has not been smooth. Molly, who tyrannized Snow Crash, is for some inexplicable reason terrified of Liam. He’s never once behaved aggressively toward her, but she’s frightened of him nonetheless.
And these past two weeks have been enlightening. Molly and Liam are a microcosm for human society, really.
I spent the weekend in Tallahassee with Shelly. Upon my return, both cats greeted me at the door enthusiastically, and they even put aside their differences for long enough to cuddle with me at the same time. The two of them were purring so loudly they sounded like a 1977 Harley-Davidson “Shovelhead” V-twin with loud pipes. Liam was so happy he snorted.
When the people in your life know how much you love them, they’re more likely to reciprocate your love, and to seek to take care of you. Emotional reservation is hard on the people in your life, and oftentimes leads to loss.
Molly is still scared of Liam. When he first came into the house, she ran and hid under the bed, and wouldn’t let him within ten fet without arching her back and hissing at him. Her radius of fear is slowly shrinking–she’ll sometimes let him very close before she freaks out–but she’s still quite frightened of him, in spite of the fact that he’s very good-natured and non-aggressive.
When we fear something without even pausing to know whether or not we have anything to be afraid of, we accomplish little save for making ourselves miserable. Fear of the unknown, or fear of novelty, robs life of its joy. When you decide in advance you will fear something before you even experience it, you deprive yourself of opportunities to make new friends and learn new ways of joy.
Every so often, Liam will walk up to Molly and sniff her nose. Molly usually sniffs back…until she remembers that se’s afraid of him. Then she pins her ears back, hisses, growls, and spits in his face. So Liam, naturally, bops her on the nose with her paw. Occasionally, Molly will walk up to Liam, then remember her fear and turn and flee…and Liam, thinking that Molly is playing the “chase me chase me” game cats are so fond of, will tear after her.
In both cases, Molly’s preemptive fear creates the very behaviors in Liam she’s afraid of. He chases her only because she runs; he bops her nose only because she gets in his face and makes a fuss. It’s common for people who are behaving offensively to believe they are being defensive, and that their behavior is provoked; but often the provocation is the phantasms and fears in their mind projected onto others, not the behavior of the people around them.
Assume the best. Don’t project your fears and doubts onto the motivations of the people around you. It’s remarkable how far you can get when you treat others as though they’re basically decent people. Not everyone is a decent person, of course, but you can’t tell the ones who are from the ones who aren’t until you quit projecting.
Liam loves high places. He also loves knocking things off counters and shelves and watching them fall. And, on top of that, he’s clumsy. As a result, my apartment now looks like its been struck, in rapid succession, by a herd of stampeding water buffalo, an earthquake, several flash floods, and a small tornado.
Liam loves climbing behind one of my shelves to sleep. A couple days ago, he knocked a box full of 3.5″ floppy disks off the shelf, and they fell in a big pile, preventing him from being able to get behind the shelf.
The things you do now may come back to haunt you later. The world you live in tomorrow is shaped by the things you do today. Think about that before you knock stuff over, especially if you’re knocking it over just for the joy of seeing it fall.
Molly loves sleeping with me at night. Liam loves sleeping with me at night. I have a king-sized bed; there’s plenty of room on it for two cats.
But Molly is afraid of Liam, and reacts defensively wen he hops up on the bed. He really likes sleeping next to me, though, so he won’t back down when Molly puts up a fuss. The two of them tend to argue over who get to stay in the bed next to me…often at four AM. Sweet, yes?
Not so much.
When this happens, I kick them both off the bed. I choose to spend my time with people, and animals, who make my life better, and whose lives I make better. Waking me up at 4 AM and introducing drama into my bed does not count as “making my life better.”
When you disrupt the lives of the people closest to you, expect those people to be unhappy about it. Regardless of your reason for making the disruption. Or who got there first.
Neither Liam nor Molly is shy about letting me know when the litter box is full or the food bowl is empty. This is a good thing, because on a good day I’m about as disorganized as a band of anarchists at a wake for Hunter S. Thompson, so their little nudges are what keeps the food delivery and the waste removal on track.
You can’t expect to have what you want if you don’t ask for what you want. That’s one of the little secrets of life that people often don’t find out ’til they’re much older than they should be.