Two months ago, a scrappy white stray tom cat showed up at our house. It was a blustery, rainy day. That, combined with his color, led us to dub him Blizzard. At first, hungry and skittish, he was vocal about wanting food but would not come anywhere near us. We dutifully put out wet and dry food twice daily, and established a routine. He was always around near mealtime, but then disappeared.
Gradually, though, he began to stick closer and closer to the house, for more and more hours of the day. Within a couple of weeks, he surprised me by coming right up onto the floor of the shed where his food dish was as I was filling the bowl. A few days later, he rubbed up against my leg. I tentatively reached out a hand, and he allowed me to pet him. I was exultant. We had won him over.
But although now Blizzard spends all his time nearby, and loves to rub against me, and purrs loudly when I bring the food, he is filled with mixed messages. He frequently swats at my hand as I fill the bowl. Sometimes the claws are drawn in, and it's just a tap. Often, though, he draws blood. He has been in the middle of a caress, and suddenly turned and grabbed me around the leg with both front paws, sinking in deep. Two days ago, while happily greeting me, all at once he jumped up and bit me on my calf, again drawing blood.
I believe part of the problem is the fact he is unneutered, and we hope to trap him soon, and take care of that. But beyond that issue, it seems that Bliz has been living in the wild for some time, and has gotten a bit confused about how to appropriately express love and affection. Let's just say he sends lots of mixed messages.
And yet - every day, twice a day, I go out there to feed him. I stay centered in my body, trying to calm him as much as possible. I pay attention to his body language, and remain alert to what he may be trying to tell me. When he whacks me, I am startled, but I have never been mad or thought to myself, "Fine. No more food or love for you!" I simply regroup, refocus, and keep right on loving him.
Blizzard is very docile and sweet with the rest of our cats, never instigating any fights. A couple of toms from the neighborhood have begun showing up late at night to terrorize him, and I hear him in the wee hours, squalling. I jump up from my bed, and rush out, to chase away the intruders, and Blizzard saunters off once again to his post underneath the shed, where he spends the night. In other words, I have adopted him, for better or for worse, just as surely as if he were any of my other animals.
What amuses me, thinking about it today, is that I tolerate this erratic behavior from a cat without a second thought, when I am so sensitive when it comes to human beings. Blizzard may very well rub against me and purr one moment and bite me the next, but it doesn't in any way lessen the amount of love I have for him, or the amount of patience I bring to the relationship. I am not thinking about my needs and wants when I approach him. I am thinking about what he needs, what is going on for him.
Why, then, is it so hard to do that with humans? When my mother hurts my feelings, I question her love in the absolute. When a friend snaps at me, I retreat in silence and resentment, instead of extending a concerned hand of compassion. When my boss is in a bad mood at work, I am convinced that it is something I have done, and I fret all day about how to make it right, even though I don't know what "it" is.
Then I go home to this stray cat, Blizzard. I am patient and compassionate and loving. I willingly lose sleep to protect him. I offer myself up to him day after day, making myself vulnerable, because I know that he wants to love me - he's just not sure exactly how to do it yet.
Ah, loving a rogue. I need to learn to treat everyone in my life as if they were a scrappy stray cat that showed up at my door.