Monday, December 8, 2014

On cats and trust

I wanted to write a post on How To Domesticate A Feral Cat on this blog. It would be a very irrelevant post considering the single-digit readership of this blog. This is a precursor to that. Me randomly ranting to explore why I want to post that post. At its heart, it's just that I've come to realize I'm exceptionally good at it: at taming cats. I am a cat person, yes, but as it turns out, cats love me too. Maybe they know that they can trust me, I have no doubt why: I'm very like a cat. I've had some bad experiences, and okay, who hasn't, but have very conveniently and almost unalterably decided to judge the world through those experiences. To be on the safer side, I guess.

People think cats are evil, conniving. Cats hiss, cats scratch, cats steal, aren't loyal and won't love you like a dog could. Honestly, it's people who are evil - and kind of stupid for believing that any animal could have genuine bad intentions or any intentions at all! What cats have are trust issues, and even for that we are partly to blame. I am no vet but I have grown up surrounded by enough cats to be entitled an opinion. Cats get kicked, have stones hurled at them, bucketfuls of water poured on them and superstitions spun around them. And they're the problem!

There was a stray cat that used to sneak into our house to steal milk. One day, I started leaving her milk and cat food outside the house around the time in the afternoon that she used to stop by and from that very day, she never stole, not once. She wasn't sly, just hungry. You couldn't blame her for that. A feral cat, or a stray (likely a housecat that's been abandoned or has lost its way, has been living outside for a while) once it learns that you mean it no harm will love you like every dog you've ever met and more. Cats beg to eat out of your plate, they play with you, they want to sit on your lap, they literally vibrate with purring adoration whenever they're around you - even as I write this there's a cat sitting contentedly on my laptop, forcing me to type 'around' it. Strays, ferals and pure-bred Persians alike make amazing, often hilarious, sometimes really clever pets.

Why am I so invested in socializing feral cats? Because, these trust issues - I have them too. I made a good friend recently who made it clear on the day I met her that she prefers point blank honesty to sweet flattery. I used to be sceptical about people who claim to be a to-your-face kind of frank, because it's almost a norm that they aren't ready to handle the occasional indelicate truth delivered to them. This friend I've made is like that, a little hypocritical for abhorring hypocrisy, unfairly expectant of trust for someone so furtive - but I don't mind it, nor do I have any right to, because all trust issues stem from unresolved suffering. (Suffering is a big and small word, the most subjective of words in its scope, so don't chide me for using it here.)

The only way to get someone to trust you is to not try to get them to trust you. I'm a firm believer in letting people deal with their problems all on their own. Let time do its job and wait for them to ask you for advice it they need it. And even then, be the Lorelai to every bird-versus-turtle dilemma. Don't push them, don't just tell them what to do and don't crack that resolve no matter what. Give them an unwavering routine of a friendship and a lot of time, and they'll thank you for it later. That way works with cats, it would work on me and I have a feeling it would work on her too.

This may sound like a stretched metaphor, but the way you to get that cat to abandon its hideout for your home is not simply to bring it into the house and place it on a warm cushion. The way to keep it from climbing in through your window to steal your milk, is not to give it a saucer of milk every day for a month but leave that window open through the month, just in case. You can catch a person unawares with trust. Let it sink in, before expecting them to shatter a long-held belief, however wrong. Change may be constant, and for the better, but for me, please make it slow.

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