Winter 2010 - Lessons From Feral Kitty
I've never been a cat person, but all that changed when 'Feral Kitty' came on the scene. Over the past year I've watched this creature transform from a hissing flash of white fur darting through my yard to a welcoming, purring presence on my doormat. In exchange for some kibble and a lot of space, I've learned more about relationships from this feisty tomcat than from a year of couples' therapy with my ex!
Prior to being Feral Kitty, F.K. lived life as a domesticated cat in training with my grown daughter who had adopted him as a feral kitten. Despite her love for him and all her best efforts, she could not socialize this cat whose feral roots ran deep. No longer willing to put up with scratches on her son's face, and knowing that no one else would ever adopt this surly, scratching mean machine, she finally gave up trying to change him. She decided to accept his feral nature and set him free -- in my yard.
Although the food I left out for him every day would disappear, I didn't see him for months, nor did I really expect to. I accepted his wildness and supported him in it. And here I am, a year later, in love with my good buddy who greets me at my door step every morning.
It's funny how when we let go of our own agendas and just love someone unconditionally for who they are (as opposed to who we want them to be!), we end up getting the love we'd hoped for in the first place! It's such a simple concept, but I think a lot of our resistance has to do with giving up what is actually more just an illusion of control. When we let go and let people be themselves, everybody wins.
Because F.K. is a feral cat, he doesn't need a litter box or cute little cat toys. He does, however, need food, wide open spaces, and a covered place to sleep each night (underneath my house). F.K.'s happy; I'm happy. He has total freedom, and I don't have to deal with litter boxes or fleas in my house. How much happier we'd all be if we supported each other in our uniqueness like this. Why do we insist on turning our night owl friend into a morning lark or Mr. Life-of-the-Party into a stay-at-home recluse? We can either accept and support each other's unique needs or we can release our loved one 'into the wild,' but wishing for someone to change his basic makeup rarely has a happy ending.
During the holidays we'll find ourselves at gatherings with all kinds of 'unique' people -- the niece who refuses to go to college, the 56-year-old cousin who still isn't married, or the uncle who dropped out of law school to become a clown. Each of them has the right to live life according to his or her own desires, as long as it's not harming anyone else (speaking of which, yes, F.K. is neutered!). This holiday season (if not the whole year or the rest of our lives!), my hope is that we can suspend our need to change or control others and just enjoy them for the one-of-a-kind people they are. Who knows what lessons or love might be in store for us by practicing a little more acceptance?