I met Fred in 2012.
He had a giant striped face, matted fur, and was as thin as a rail.
He sat at the bottom of the front porch stairs but quickly darted under the orange tree when I came out.
Well, you can imagine what happened next:
As cat lovers, whenever we see a stray or feral, we begin worrying about them
- whether they’re hungry
- where they’re going to go
- whether they’ll be warm enough
- whether they’ll come back
- whether they need to be trapped and fixed
- and then the predominant thought…
I already have X amount of cats!
Worries aside, I put out some food and a bowl of fresh water.
The next morning my heart leapt a tiny bit as I saw two empty bowls.
I knew he’d come back!
But I’d soon learn that Fred was feral and did not want me near him.
Eventually, he allowed me to put out food while he stood there, but he’d hiss, scratch and spit at me if I got too close.
I still loved him immediately, and that love grew every single day.
I love how unconditionally we love our cats.
We don’t take things personally, we give them room to respond, and we don’t impose any expectations on them, despite holding a few hopes close to our heart.
We love them fully, fiercely, and freely.
This is how I loved Fred.
And I couldn’t help but think how I wish I could do this with people.
The only photo I have of Fred:
A Growing Connection
As Fred and I worked on our relationship, I kept imagining how much he might love a soft head petting or under-chin scratch.
Those indulgent thoughts were more for me.
I know ferals feel safer not being touched.
However, I kept thinking about who Fred could have been had he received nurturing and touch early on.
I decided to give Fred some flower essences
I had already been using essences for other cats and human clients in my life with great success.
And personally, I had been using them on myself for about 18 years at that point.
If you’re not too familiar with flower essences
Flower essences are an incredible holistic modality of energy medicine.
They help bring the body back into balance by addressing underlying core issues that cause one to feel unwell, dis-eased.
Normally, they come in a tincture and you can dose topically or take internally.
With Fred, I couldn’t do a topical application, so I put the flower essences in his water bowl.
By the next evening, he came up to the top stair, and when I put the food down, he hissed…and that was it.
The evening after that, he came up to the top stair and rubbed his face on my hand as I put the bowl down.
Then he startled himself and he jumped back and hissed.
By the end of the week, he’d not only come up to the top stair to get fed, he’d roll over and let me rub his belly.
We all know this is a very sacred, trusting spot on a cat.
Here’s the funny thing:
as he’d allow me to rub his belly, his old habit-self and wiring would sometimes kick in and he’d suddenly jump back and hiss at me mid-belly rub.
It was like he was thinking...
“Wow, this feels so good…I’m so relaxed….WAIT! What’s happening?! OMG! I’m not safe!”
As I observed this, I realized that I had this pattern with people.
Fred was mirroring back to me how I let people in, but then pushed them away when I felt unsafe or if they got too close.
I realized that it was just an old habit.
There is something exponentially healing when you witness your own patterns outside of yourself so clearly.
A common side effect of past trauma is anxiety.
I’ve learned through the years that although social anxiety can be debilitating and painful, connecting with others socially is crucial to our well-being and healing.
There may be an intense desire to stay at home alone, but we need connection: positive connection with others in doses that align with our energetic capacity.
For many of us, our cats will continue to provide a level of unconditional safety, trust, assurance and love.
But we can also learn so much from them in how we relate to and connect with people.
The unconditional love we experience every day from our cats opens our hearts and allows us to stretch a bit.
To go out and cultivate deeper connections with others, always knowing we can come back home and we are safe.
Fred lingered a bit longer one night, peering into the screen door from a safe distance on the porch stairs.
I gave him some extra treats.
I stood at the screen and smiled at him.
He let out a relaxed sigh as I caught a little glimmer in his eyes, followed by a slow love-blink.
That was the last time I saw Fred.
For the next six weeks I would still call for him and hope to see him, but I never did.
However brief our connections might be, every one has the capacity to leave indelible heart prints wherever we go.
What I’m most grateful for with Fred is
he taught me how I can heal my own connections with others
I well up sometimes, thinking of Fred, feeling so grateful that he got to experience what a belly rub and chin scratch felt like.
He deserved that and so much more.
Have you been lucky enough to know the love of a feral cat?
What did they teach you? I’d love to know in the comments!
With Love and Above,
💌LOVE NOTE: I wrote the original version of this as a guest post, published on 6/27/21 by Ingrid King. You can find Ingrid and her cat Allegra at Purrs of Wisdom.