The cat that changed my mind

 

(This blog-post is not part of the series on Pumpkins’ life. That series will be continued soon!)

Pumpkins has disappeared.

He’s gone. Disappeared. Just like that. We went to bed like normal one night, and the next morning he wasn’t there when I woke up. Normally when I get out of bed, he will be sitting on my deck or pop up from underneath, but this time he didn’t.

I went about my morning as normal, thinking he would walk in a little later, that he had just fallen asleep in a cozy spot and hadn’t realised it was morning. After a night of prowling, he usually sleeps his deepest sleep in the mornings, on the doormat or on my lap. So maybe he was just zonked out somewhere else.

But he never walked in that day, heading for his food bowl, as he normally would.

I spent the day hoping that he would pop up in the evening, that maybe he had been wandering off too far in the night and decided to hide out somewhere safe during the day before he would walk back under the protection of the darkness at night.

I hadn’t woken up during the night from screeching cat fights or barking dogs in combination with cat screams, which could indicate that he got in trouble. None of my neighbours had heard anything alarming either. So I didn’t think he was lying somewhere half-crippled and bleeding from a dog-attack, the way we first found him, several years ago. Or maybe I was just hoping he wasn’t.

 

Where was I? Or better, where were you? Oh, right: still on my neighbour’s back porch, recovering from another attack. Crazy cat. 

Every once in a while there will be a vet coming to the island, so when that was the case, they tried to get you fixed. But my neighbours totally underestimated your opposition to being put in a carrier, so ten steps on their way to the vet you were out and away. Good for you!

Pumpkins the cat that changed his mindNext time they asked my help, and together we got you into a cage, and to the vet. It was amazing to see how you relaxed into the idea of sitting in a cage for hours inside an unknown space full of strangers and dogs, waiting your turn. You just went to sleep. You really seem to know when to surrender, don’t you? (you should write a book about it, make it into a workshop, it will sell very well). When it finally was your turn, the vet sedated you through the slits in the side of the cage, to prevent you from attacking her. Once you were out, you looked so harmless and sweet. But lo and behold: you had never been operated in your life, but you had no balls. Well, you have balls for sure, but no testicles in your little ball-sacks. They had never dropped in. So you didn’t get fixed. All that trouble for nothing. You were of course very pleased with yourself, I assume.

A few months later, time was coming for my neighbours to leave the island again. Their house would be occupied by a watchman, and he was ordered to feed you and give you fresh water every day on that back porch. They left a big sack of cat food, which should be enough for the time they were gone. You were in good shape by then, with only some minor scratches now and then, but no gaping holes, festering puncture wounds or other parts missing. You were basically living your independent cat life, apart from that bowl of kibble every day. I was only asked to report back on you every now and then, nothing else. 

The night before their departure, you disappeared, like most house cats would do. It’s that old trick of making us humans extra worried, so that we feel guilty about leaving you behind, even though there is not one hair in your fur that wishes to travel with us.

So as expected, they worried, came over and asked me to keep an eye out for you and let them know if I found you, if you were alright, etc. So suddenly I had cat duties……

 

If you want to read episodes 1-5 of Pumpkins’ story, click here.

 

This episode finds you at your new home. You instantly made the big mistake of flagging your territory inside the house as well. That definitely made you a little less welcome, and my neighbours banned you to the porch for good, but you seemed alright with that anyway. Your legs were getting stronger, and you were venturing into the garden every day, and stayed away a little longer every time. You were slowly getting back to being a proper bush cat, always outside. But you had changed your mind about one thing: it was very convenient that you had a plate of food on that porch waiting for you every day, plus some treats whenever they had some tasty leftovers from their dinner. Life wasn’t too bad for you, a couple of months after you dragged yourself near-dead into that hotel-kitchen. It had been worth the humiliating effort of asking for help. 

Pumpkins the cat gets chased by dogsHaving said that, you got into trouble again. Somehow two dogs got you cornered when you had ventured off the deck. My neighbours caught them in the act of tearing you apart, literally. One had hold of your hind legs, the other of your head, and they were pulling in opposite directions. You “looked three feet long” as my neighbour described it agitatedly after they had bravely rescued you from the bloody chops of these ferocious canines. Result: re-traumatised cat with several puncture wounds and cuts. Where had we seen that before? 

Anyway, back on the porch you licked your wounds, stayed low and just recovered again, like you did before. A little more skittish for a bit, but after a while you were just back to your “normal” self. Did I ever tell you that we have a dog on this island that’s called Trouble? I don’t think she gets into a whole lot of trouble herself, but jeez, that name would fit you well, Pumpkins! 

So after this incident my questions were: how do you get yourself into so much trouble…..do you not see the danger coming because you’re partially blind or deaf or otherwise impaired? Or do you not consider it danger? Did the Creator not fit you out with a healthy sense of danger-assessing abilities, the way they usually come with a complete cat-kit? Do you just have no concept of danger at all? Are you a total dare-devil? Or do you have such a big ego that you think that you can handle everything, and no cat or dog or even two or three dogs can bring you down?  Maybe you are just plain suicidal but not very successful at it? I am not sure what is the answer to these speculations. Let’s keep it on a mixture of all of them. Although, on second thought, if you were suicidal you wouldn’t have dragged yourself into that kitchen. So fair enough, we’ll scratch that option. 

Life goes on even if you're woundedRecently I was reading a book by Wayne Dyer, such a wise man. Illustrating the concept of living in the moment he described how he had once been on a safari where he watched a zebra peacefully grazing and chewing her food. She seemed very graceful and calm, notwithstanding the fact that one of her legs had been chewed off by lions the night before, but she had somehow escaped. Since there was nothing she could do to change the situation of her probable near-death, she just went on with what she would always do in the morning: have breakfast, and then go for a drink at the watering hole. When I read that story, I couldn’t help but think of you, Pumpkins. Even though you are severely damaged at times, you just go on with life, as normal as possible. 

We humans could learn a lesson or two from animals here, couldn’t we? Whenever we get “severely damaged”, we curl up in bed and cry and whine and feel very sorry for ourselves and hope that everybody else also feels very sorry for us, and how are we ever going to get over this misery? Often we need counselling to get over all our traumatic experiences, or store it at cell level in our bodies which then start aching or develop chronic diseases……Right? Well, as the zebra and Pumpkins have been illustrating, there are other ways to deal with trauma…… Just saying.

 

If you missed earlier episodes of Pumpkins’ story, you can read them here.

 

 

Another cat had gotten air of you, Pumpkins, the new cat on the block, and had started marking its territory outside my house, in the garden, and even on my doorpost and porch bench. That freaked you out. You had to do something. So you actually ventured down the steps into the yard, and spritzed your best scent all over the place. In the mean time I scrubbed the doorpost and the porch bench. It had been another cat 

pumpkins the cat that changed his mindand a challenging situation that had made you brave enough to come out of the house and get back into the big world. Go Pumpkins! We all need a little push now and then to get out of our comfort zone, or out of our funk.

But this other tom cat wouldn’t put up with the unknown invader that was hidden in my house. At night he would come to piss all over the place again, and actually start a fight with you, through the crack under the front door. Growling, scratching and full on screeching was taking place in the middle of the night. Hmmm, not so much fun anymore to take care of you, Pumpkins, since this was costing me my precious sleep. Luckily my neighbours were coming back soon!

A few days after their arrival we transferred you to their house. I thought I was just going to carry you up there, but I had totally overrated our relationship that was barely a week old. Maybe I thought that picking you up was an OK thing to do by then, but you definitely didn’t agree. Ten metres away from my house you put up a fight and I had to let you go. Mission aborted.

 

Pumpkins the cat that changed his mind

So I had to find a box and fix it in such a way that I could put you in and close it in one smooth move, before you would find your way out. Only then we could move you to your new home. You were not pleased at all with that box-manoeuvre. All cats like boxes, but only if they can play with them in their own time. The moment you put them in there when it is not playing time, they are highly offended. As they always are when they are not being treated like the queens and kings they all think they are, you included, my dear damaged Pumpkins.

At your new home you were getting the back room and adjoining porch as your domain. There was a litter box inside, and corners to hide, and during the day the door to the porch was open, so you could be on the balcony, safe from dog attacks, because there was a dense railing all around. You could see the world, and you could squeeze through if you wanted, but no dog could come in and get you, and that was the main goal: keeping you safe from mauling dogs, that had done such terrible damage to your body and to your mind, while you were recovering.

You didn’t start off too friendly with your new caretakers, and they may have been a little impatient for you to become a sweet and cuddly house kitty, who knows. You lashed out at either one of them every once in a while, and bit them several times, so they started calling you psycho kitty, which probably wasn’t helping the situation. When we repeatedly say or hear something, it becomes a belief and then gets confirmed time and again, because we start to manifest more of it. The Universe (or God, if you want to call it that) will always provide us with what we put our energy to. So my neighbours got more unexpected scratches and bites, thanks to the fact that they called you Psycho Kitty. This is my belief. Because after enough time for you to get used to me, you hardly ever lash out to me anymore. And I have never called you psycho kitty. So there you go, theory proven right, right? Life can be so simple.

Missed the first 3 episodes of Pumpkins’ story? You can find them

here.

 

 

Read more about cat behaviour:

 

We’re slowly advancing into your story, probably as slow as you were recovering. 

The cat that changed his mindKaren was going to leave the island and wanted to take you with her, but you were still in no shape to travel. Even though we have learned here on the island that it is easier for a Nicaraguan cat or dog to get into the US than for a Nicaraguan human, for sure no vet would give you a clean bill of health, mandatory to travel. So we looked at other options. My landlord was not particularly fond of cats, so I couldn’t adopt you. I asked my neighbours, who had once told me they were cat people, although they were forever taking care of dogs. They agreed to take you in, when they would arrive on the island for the season. But between Karen’s departure and my neighbour’s arrival was a 10-day gap. So there I came in. Since it was only for 10 days my landlord was willing to give me an OK on having a cat around. You were still so injured it was unlikely that you were really going to go around and make a mess everywhere and get into fights with other cats (we thought…). Under your loud protests we stuck you in a cat carrier and wheelbarrowed you to my house, into strange territory. It must have been another terrifying experience.

 

Once we arrived and let you out, you scooted under the bed, and stayed there for the rest of the day. For the next few days, the far end corner of the bed was where you ensconced yourself. Hardly visible for the outside world, but you could just peek around the corner and keep a lookout through the open door. Then, a couple of days later, you posted yourself on the far corner of the mat that Karen had given me,  it must have smelled familiar, I guess. You still did not want to go outside. The big world had really given you a good scare, apparently, and on top of that you must have felt that your weak legs were a major handicap when it would come to confronting whatever danger was lurking out there. You were happy to use a litter box, since that relieved you from the need to go outside, but your stiff legs that still prevented a proper squat sometimes made you miss the box, so I was mopping every day, sometimes a couple of times a day. My little house smelled of you, Pumpkins, and it was OK. 

The way you were taking your time to recover from your fears AND wounds was an eye-opener for me. You were constantly sitting with your fears balancing on the edge of your confidence, nudging the limits of your comfort zone. Shifting them a little bit every day, moving a little closer to that open door. You weren’t wallowing in you misery and fears, but gave them time to calm down and subside. You weren’t going to be traumatised forever, that wouldn’t work for a bush cat, would it? You had to get back out there, but only when you were ready. In the right time it would happen. An amazing process.The cat that changed his mind

Then you moved to the door mat.

And then trouble came around. 

To be continued….

 

(This story takes place on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. You can read parts 1 and 2 of Pumpkins’ story here)

 

So there you were: a wreck.

At first sight I had even had thoughts about how we could help you out of your misery in the most humane way by ourselves, since there was no veterinarian on the island, and you looked beyond repair with your snapped spine and dragging hind legs. Karen had the same thoughts, but she also felt that she could at least try and make you feel comfortable and safe, until you perished or would be “destroyed” as she would say. (I found that the most horrible expression ever for putting you down. But then I am not American, and maybe this is a common word for it in the US?)

Anyway.  You did’t get destroyed, nor did you perish….you started to improve….. 

Only later did I come to understand that you are not an ordinary cat with 9 lives. You have probably 58 or more. 

So under Karen’s nursing love and patience, you showed signs of getting better. You started to be able to use your legs again, which was amazing, after the way your spine had been twisted. On your own, without surgery, without pain killers, without physiotherapy, crutches or braces, you just started to use those skinny legs again, bit by bit. It made me wonder why an animal can do that, and we (Western?) humans think we are incapable of it. Then I realised that you can, because you have no other options. You don’t know about doctors and operations and pain killers, and that is why you don’t need them. You either get better and survive, or you die. That is nature in all its simplicity and beauty, God at work. In nature you don’t have prescription drugs that you will have to take every single day, thinking that otherwise you will be sick and suffering for the rest of your life. We humans do that, because we cling on to life, with all our might (which is in fact not so mighty at all), and the pharmaceutical industry makes sure that we believe that we need all their medicine to be able to survive. We cannot deal with discomfort, and most certainly not with the idea that life might be short. We are unwilling to accept life as it comes to us, with disease and injuries, that either heal or not. Basically, with medicine and operations, we are just trying to play God, aren’t we?

Oh well, I got side-tracked here. Back to you, Pumpkins. You slowly managed to stand on your own feet again, and walk, albeit awkwardly. Jumping was still out of the question, and so was sitting. It was funny to see you trying, but literally not being able to bend your knees enough to sit on your haunches. It reminded me of some of my less flexible yoga students (usually guys, sorry, men!), trying to do the Garland Pose or Malasana. Garland Pose is a beautiful name for a wide-footed hip-opening squat where you push your knees outwards with your elbows, while your

hands are folded against each other in a praying gesture in front of your chest. The idea is to have the feet flat on the ground, but with short leg muscles and more than anything with tight hips, you cannot squat very deeply without lifting your heels off the ground. But since most people always want to go as deep as everybody else in yoga class (what do you mean, shutting up that little ego-voice in our heads and just be on our own mats without constantly comparing ourselves with others?), those heels will come off the ground and the not-so-flexible yoga student will be squatting on his toes, which will make him lose the stretch in the hips. But as a cat you don’t have a concept of squatting as deep as everybody else; you have no need to be as good as everybody else. So when your heels started to come off the ground, you just stayed there and didn’t squat any deeper. It looked very awkward, and it probably was, because you never sat for long. It taught me that when I have such a tight student in class I maybe should not make them stay in this pose for too long, because they are most likely feeling very awkward. Bummer, because I love to hang out in Garland Pose forever! So guys, be grateful for Pumpkins teaching me this lesson!

(This story takes place on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. Read part 1 of Pumpkins’ story here)

 

To be continued…. 

The first time I met you, you were completely broken, severely damaged. Both physically and emotionally, it seemed. When you dragged yourself into that hotel kitchen, you looked more dead than alive, but at the same time you seemed determined to get in there, exposing yourself to all these people you’d never met before. It was probably the last thing you wanted to do in that miserable and vulnerable state you were in, but it was also the last thing that you could do, since you had decided that you didn’t want to die yet.
The amazing thing was, that in all your squalor and brokenness, you still radiated a certain stoic arrogance and fearlessness, as if it was the most common thing to do for a wild cat: scramble into unknown human territory while you were skin over bones with festering puncture wounds and your hindquarters dragging behind you. You were probably scared to death, but at the same time you didn’t care anymore. You were at the end of your rope.

And the moment I saw you, I could feel exactly that: you had surrendered to God, to get help in any way imaginable, and in this case you were imagining that these humans were going to take care of you, even though they had never met you before. I call that Faith with a capital F. And you had it. 

The fact that the girls in the kitchen didn’t throw you out and just let you be there was a first sign that you were right. The fact that Karen, the manager of that place and a friend of mine decided to take care of you proved you right even more. Basically you had asked for help…..and received it! Life can be so simple. It was a brave thing to do, and probably not easy for you at all. ( Like it is for most of us humans. Why do we find it so difficult to ask for help? Is that just because it shows our vulnerability?)

Once you knew you could stay in this safe place, you let your trauma come out, and all of a sudden you were scared of everything. Nobody could come close to you except Karen, every little sound or movement startled you and made you scoot into a corner or under a couch as fast as your malfunctioning legs would let you. You were filthy and smelly , because you would pee yourself since you couldn’t squat properly. Your tomcat pride must have received a big blow by that attack that you had to fight off out there in the bush, but it was still being hurt time and again while you were recovering all these weeks and couldn’t show off your strong and proud tomcat image yet. 

In all your wounded vulnerability you were small, very small. In physical size and weight (when you dragged yourself in you probably weighed less than 4 pounds), but also in your severely damaged ego. There was not much left of it, it seemed. Totally subdued and afraid of everything. You were a total wreck.

 

To be continued…