Important life lessons learned from a feral cat

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  • #861005
    Profile photo of Chey
    Chey
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    Important life lessons learned from a feral cat: A journey in mental health
    By C M.
    Mental illness has been something that I struggled with for many years. This memoir is about an important part of my journey to take the steps to learn to manage my illness. Many years have passed, so I strive to re-tell this story with as much accuracy as my memory will allow. While I cannot remember the precise position of several coworkers in my story, should they come across this memoir, I hope I convey how thankful I am that they are a part of my journey of deciding to live, grow and manage my mental illness.
    In 2006, when I was living in Hamilton, I had not yet connected with the services of The Canadian Mental Health Association. I was struggling emotionally with many unresolved demons from my past. I was becoming frustrated and beginning to feel suicidal. I felt ashamed to reach out and ask for help. I was working at a baby sitting room that was located at a gym in Hamilton. I enjoyed looking out for the kids and thinking up silly and fun games for the kids with my coworkers. While at work, it was easier to pretend my pain and emptiness did not exist. Even in my darkest days, I was determined that I would hold in my anger and frustration. I managed this well at work with the kiddos. I was always happy to watch the children play and be kids. Each evening, I left work I would feel deeply empty, as if I was not important and that the world was still better off without me. I felt that I did not want to risk making others miserable because I was bottling up my own misery.

    One night I was standing at the bus stop, watching the bus approach I decided to step in front of the bus, but at the last second I stepped back and I went inside my work and talked with my manager. I do not remember the conversation as I was feeling in a fog, but after a long talk, and made plans to seek help and take the steps to access the Mental Health services I needed, my co-worker drove me home.

    In the days that followed I was able to get a referral to CMHA in Hamilton.

    A few weeks later I was sitting in the staff lunchroom when I saw a flyer from one of my co-workers who had rescued a mother cat with a litter of kittens. I was certain that I was not interested in having a cat, but I did feel compelled to talk to my co-worker and find out about the litter. I found out that someone had probably dumped the mother cat near her farm and my co-worker was trying to gain the trust of the mother and try to socialize the kittens.

    I believe that this co-worker did not know about my attempted suicide, but she did know that I was very shy and guarded. She seemed to have a good measure of my personality and she told me about one kitten in particular that she thought would be a perfect match for me, even though I kept saying I wasn’t sure if I wanted a cat yet or not.

    After talking with her for a couple weeks, she managed to persuade me that there was one cat in particular that she thought would be perfect for me. She told me this kitten was very shy and said she saw how I was so patient with the kids in the babysitting room, so she told me that she was worried this kitten would not find a good home and that she thought I was the best person to take in this timid kitten. I decided I would take the kitten. My co-worker was pleased and told me this cat was scared and just needed time to trust people. Little did I know then that I also needed time to trust people as well.

    ***
    Doxie’s first meeting. I’m hiding in this small plastic crate when this large head looks at me. I am shaking all over. The lady taking care of me said we were going to meet someone who would be my forever mummy. I did not know what that meant. My cat mom told us a story about being put in a box and left alone. I was very sad and scared. This lady tried to make me feel less scared as she talked to me. This new lady I had never seen before poked her head and then suddenly opened my cat crate. She started to reach her hand towards me so I hissed as big of a hiss as I could. Maybe if I kept hissing, this new lady would go away. I did not want to have anything to do with her. The lady taking care of me then told me I was a good girl and that she knew that lady I met would adopt me. I was scared and just wet my towel as I stayed in my crate till I was back with my littermates.
    ***
    I did a little research online to learn ways to make this cat feel a little more comfortable. It was suggested that I put a pillowcase or socks in the sleeping area that the cat would be. I told my co-worker that I wanted to take this kitten, so I gave her my pillowcase with a couple socks in it. I wanted this kitten to get used to my scent. After a short time my co-worker arranged to bring this now 13-week-old kitten to my home.
    ***
    This was very strange. One day the lady brought me to this new lady’s house. I was very confused. It was the same person who stuck her face in the crate. The lady that found me took me out of the cat crate and showed me the litter box that this new lady had set up for me. She told me the new lady was now my mom and would take care of me. I just wanted to stay in the crate so she left the crate for me to sleep in. The lady who found me was talking with this new lady. They spent a long time talking I am very scared and do not understand what is going on. Suddenly the woman who found me left. I was so confused and so I ran all around the apartment trying to find a way to get out and find the woman who left. I kept hissing and decided to hide. I did go back in my crate and found my towel that was there. Something else was there too, there was a strong smelling bundle that kind of smelled like this new person, but the smell was stronger. I stayed on my towel and slept.

    ***
    After a week I was feeling discouraged as this cat was still not warming up to me. I decided to put my couch cushions on the floor and sleep on the floor near where this new kitten liked to hide. I hoped this would win her trust. I lay very still for a long time and eventually the kitten curled up beside the cushions. At first she would run away if I tried to pet her so I would just lay on my back looking up at the ceiling and talk to the kitten. Even though I was discouraged, I was determined to gain the kitten’s trust.
    ***
    Why is this strange person laying on the floor? She is laying on her back. I sniff around and that smelly bundle is by her strangely shaped back paws. I realize that I kind of like this person’s smell. She has been giving me fresh water and food and always talks to me in a quiet voice. She does try to pet me but I run back to my hiding spot for a little while. She continues to talk to me and eventually I curl up near her feet. Now she does not try to pet me but she talks to me for a little bit then when she seems to be asleep, I go to sleep too.
    ***
    After sleeping on the floor, I had a small “ah-ha” moment when I realized that this cat was slowly trusting me, so I felt like I had some purpose and would keep this cat’s trust by being there for my cat. Little did I know at the time was that we would continue to keep learning from each other. Trust and braking each other’s brick wall. I would learn to trust, and she would learn to feel safe around others other then myself. Eventually I would be more outgoing, and visitors would never suspect my vocal greeter was once a feral kitten who was afraid of all people. That first night that Doxie slept next to me, I realized her trust in me was a nudge for me to trust and open up to a worker at Canadian Mental Health in Hamilton.
    Over the months, Doxie became very comfortable with me. I felt like I needed to work on getting better so I could make sure I was always around for her. She would climb on my desk and sit on my shoulders or watch me from one of several perches in my apartment. Once, in the morning before work, I had made the mistake of removing a cat mat and placing a lamp on top of a dresser. That evening I got home and saw that the lamp had stayed on the dresser all day and I mistakenly thought I could keep it in the new spot. Doxie was sitting beside the lamp but I did not give this any thought. I started making dinner. I did look over, and when I did, Doxie lifted her paw to the lamp. I figured Doxie was small and decided to ignore this. Once my dinner was done, I looked over at the cat to see she was still there. I had only looked up for a second or two when she took her paw and pushed the lamp down off of the dresser. I knew Doxie did not do it to be malicious; it was where her bed had been. As I carried the broken lamp to the garbage shoot, it occurred to me that I intruded on her ‘territory’, her ‘boundary’. I started to think that perhaps I needed to stick up for myself in life and establish boundaries with friends and family.

    As the years pass, Doxie’s favourite thing to do is stick her head in my running shoes. She will also place her favourite toys in my shoes.

    Now that my sweet cat is eleven years old and we still have our morning snuggle time in bed. I still struggle with aspects of my mental illness, and I also do need to take medication, but I am so thankful for my coworkers and this special semi feral cat that helped me find my purpose.

    #861007
    Profile photo of pussigato
    pussigato
    Participant

    @ Kittenmaster

    #861008
    Profile photo of Chey
    Chey
    Participant

    It has been a while since I have posted in TDK.

    Chey

    #861020
    Profile photo of Kittyzee
    Kittyzee
    Participant

    Wonderful story you unfolded above. Cats work miracles in our lives, I’m glad that yours helped you out of the darkness!! Good to see you again, Chey!

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