Relationships Skills as Taught by a Cat Nicknamed Elvis
(This is the 3rd blog in the Christmas gift series of 3)
Next month's blog will return to understanding a Self Appeal problem we women face)
We first noticed Bosco at a local pet store. He was a big cat in a small cage. Although somewhat tamed after a year or so in a room at the animal rescue, he’d been born feral, wild. Initially, he wouldn’t have anything to do with us. My husband became fond of saying, “I saw Elvis today.” We saw glimpses of his passing shadow.
After a few months he relaxed enough to lay on the bed in the middle of the day. Understanding how important it was to have contact to continue taming him, I learned to creep up on him slowly, when he was at his most sleepy self, and pet him. Any quick move though, and he would bolt.
Next, while he was in this hazy, half sleep, half wake state, I began to pick him up. He’d stiffen. But I’d continue stroking his fur, something he’d learned to like throughout the months when I’d petted him while he lay on the bed. With time he was able to be held and purr at the same time.
After six months he’d sit at the back door and watch Sissy, his pal, play outside in the backyard. My heart ached for the playful cat in him.
After one year we microchipped him, and let him out.
Knowing we couldn’t pick him up (he still ran from us when fully awake), we devised a way to get him back in. One of us would open the back door and stand where we couldn’t be seen. The other would go out the front door, open the side gate, and walk towards the back yard with a loud bang, waving the flashlight beam. Bosco, you see, is the epitome of the scardy cat. He’d run in the house. We’d quickly close the back door.
Bosco has taught us that trust takes time. We had to spend enough time with him to trust that he knew where his home was. That he wouldn’t run away. In other words, that he knew where he was fed, even if one of our other cats was defending the food bowl as their own. Bosco had to learn to trust that inside the house was safe, that what we offer feels good. And I’m happy to say that after almost three years, he’s learned to trust our touch—petting feels good. He’ll indicate he wants that affection by coming around me until I follow him to the couch. He’ll crouch, with his back to me, which is my cue to come up behind and snuggle him. Sometimes he’ll even jump on the bed while I’m still in it.
Bosco is also a clear example, that if you pause long enough to consider the positive reward beyond the fear and resistance you initially feel when something or someone new threatens your sense of familiarity and safety, you can slowly override your instinct and change your habits that don’t serve you well. Rewiring your brain, your neural networks, to those actions and reactions that help you feel good about yourself, can’t be forced, but they will happen with time and patience.
In all your relationships if you follow Bosco’s examples, of
- looking beyond your initial fear of something or someone new to potential rewards
- taking time to build consistency, communication, and trust
you’ll know more clearly whether someone is approaching you with love and caring and worthy of your trust. You, too, may find safety, stroking, and a sense of solid trust in your relationships. You may, on occasion, like Bosco, even feel happy enough to drool.