What Cats Teach Us About Life: Are Relationships Natural?

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Sophia trying to quietly impress ‘uncle’ George

One of the many things that I am, is a social gad about – I love meeting new people… To get to know them, to share their similarities and quiz them on their quirks… And once that is accomplished, I will walk away, head for home and then roll a large rock over the entrance way to the Cave that the cats and I share (or in plain English – shut the door)…

As I have crawled, toddled and walked through life I have amassed family, acquaintances, colleagues and friends; and I am happy that some stay in my life and that some are passing through (for minutes or for years). All is in natural order.

I will always return home – to the silence and space that belongs to me and the people and creatures that a mixture of choice and fortune have decreed up on me.

And in amongst the weaving ways that make up the cloth of my life, cats have long been threaded through, from childhood until now, adding depth and colour and love to the fabric of my being.

Funny how I find now, in this middle stage of life, that I am no longer a social butterfly, who wants to flutter every where, sip at every flower and fly in pretty circles over summer day buttercup fields… Now I have slowed down, my home cave has become a multi purpose, multi dimensional place of domicile, office, sanctuary and thinking post.

And the cats of the Pride, saunter and skitter and insinuate themselves throughout all these activities.

When I moved into this particular cave, George and Taz came with me, both as young adults. George and I have been together since he was tiny and a year later Taz loped into our lives, a semi grown kitten cat. George, you understand, would far rather be an only cat, but he begrudgingly accepted Taz, who couldn’t care a fig about anything, as long as he is fed and loved and then left to his independent devices.

When the boy cats reached their middle age and we were all nicely settled in our respective ways I decided to bring a third cat into the mix. There were lots of reasons for this, not least that I thought how sweet it would be to have a kitten in our lives that we could all baby…

Bless my naiveté… or curse my lack of fore thought…

After a long search I found a creature that fitted my brief – a friendly, sweet, female kitten, who would be the ideal and accepted counterpoint to the older cats.

I found Sophia via a cat charity. I met her at her foster home and then had to pass a domestic assessment. Having seen her for the first time, she was clearly beautiful and seemed to have an even, shy temperament, but suddenly I got cold feet and changed my mind. Two cats was surely enough… I forgot to cancel the home assessment visit however, but still, I would explain that now wasn’t the right time. Well… the Cat Inspector came to the cave and she came with a (travel) cage that contained Sophia. She didn’t inspect, she opened the cage door instead and Sophia flew out and ran squealing up to sleeping and unsuspecting George.

So suddenly it was all a done deal! In a daze I signed the paperwork and bade the Cat Inspector good bye. Then I dashed out of the house to buy kitten food and new feline paraphernalia, leaving the cats of the newly enlarged Pride to introduce and fend for themselves.

A text book introduction of a new cat into a home with other moggy incumbents is to section off a quiet, safe place and keep the kitten there. Then gently introduce the other cats and let them get used to the scent of the interloper and the knowledge that they are near, but not a threat.

All textbooks were ditched out of the window, as the new comer careered around the home, desperate to be friends with the adult cats and being rejected instead, being scratchy and naughty and some how being noisily every where, at once.

Taz and George did not take kindly to having a feline stranger in their home. It was a huge adjustment for all of us.

Sophia had been a rescue kitten, found in a sofa in someone’s garden and had not been socialised with humans until she was several weeks old. This possibly explained her lack of social graces and her frequent anti social / dirty actions… I had to throw some of my furnishings away and replace them with clean, kitten proof ones… She didn’t obey instructions and hated being picked up, preferring to yowl and wriggle away.

The male cats fled the house and I would rarely see Taz except at meal times. George hates to be parted from me, but even so, would spend no longer than an hour in the same room as Miss Sophia.

Sophia was unwittingly trespassing in our cave and upsetting the rhythms and routines we had gently carved out in our cave over time.

Just as I like to have a refuge, George and Taz had had theirs suddenly taken away from them. Just like me, they like to socialise, but on their own terms and that means being able to pad away when we feel like it too.

I was so tempted to send Sophia back to the cat charity. But instead I persisted, I adjusted, I created boundaries, I repeated lessons, and I used patience and love in abundance, with all my cats. I kept Sophia out of certain rooms in the house, so the big cats could have their space. And over time, without my even knowing it, we all grew into each other and accepted each other, without force or push, just gradually evolving together.

This morning I picked Sophia up for a cuddle and she nuzzled into me and purred joyfully. Even though she has now been with us for 18 months, I can’t quite get over that she willingly allows this close physical touch… The rules are that if she doesn’t want to be handled then I let her go. And we are so much happier now because we accept Sophia’s ways too – learning that you never approach her, you allow her to come to you instead…

And, after months of growls and hisses and swipes from her uncles, Sophia is now rewarded with their constant company and even the occasional grooming lick… It is, in our world, the ultimate cat accolade.

Sophia truly is my little sweetheart now, and I’m glad that have I learnt, yet again, what some boundaries along with a whole lot of love and patience can achieve, in any relationship…

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