How many of you have a small cat that loves you with a huge fierceness?
My Keko-cat started out as a rescue, skin and bones and hungry and dirty-white-street-smudged all over. She quickly became my friend, then delegated me as her best friend, deciding that she would change my hope to foster to a decision to adopt. It didn’t come quickly, but she earned it.
She curled up on my blue living room chair, her tail wrapped around her body, and chin on her paws, all sleepy and cute-like, and looked at me with that “keep me!” and “I’m not going anywhere” look, mixed with some “how dare you give me away” and “I love you” looks. And all among much purring and passing out exhausted after playing with string and pens and fake mice (she was only six months when she came to me). And when she was sent for weekends to other homes to be fostered, she quickly overstayed her welcome by instigating conflicts with their cats to the point of being timed-out to one room and one room only.
Keko was apparently a ‘boxing ring fighter cat’ (not actually, it’s just the image I have of her with other house cats, as apparently her offence and defence were both really high). Until, that is, she came back to my house, where it was only her with no other cat-competition, and then she made herself right at home, one eye closed to sleep and one eye on me with that cheeky, fervent, determined look of “What’s the problem? Isn’t this where I belong?”
After she was adopted, things went well for many months. She seemed a happy apartment cat. But soon the fight-face emerged, the “I want to hunt you” and “you are my mouse, my bird, my prey look,” and eventually we went through a long period of poor behaviour and sinking claws into my ankles and unexpected sharp biting, so much that we considered re-homing her. It seemed hard to know why, but she was relentlessly restless and tale-swishing, and seeking out my arms and legs to sink her claws into and satisfying her urges for aggression.
But then I ended up three years ago in a house with a yard, and the blessings through her beautiful personality bestowed themselves upon me and my roommates. Her gentleness was restored. Keko became an indoor/outdoor cat, and the freedom she needed to be herself and hunt and play in the fresh air became very apparent. Now that she is happier, she is also able to give tons of love back to us. My vet explained that she had a very high hunting play-aggression and needed lots of time outdoors to essentially be the cat she needed to be.
And aren’t we all like that? We can adapt, we can work at being someone else, but deep down, it seems we are made to be who we are and the more we and others honour that, the more we emerge into our authentic beautiful selves, happier in the world, and with more love to give others. Ideally, we need the right circumstances, the right amount of space, the rightly-deserved our-needs-being-met circumstances. A home where we’re safe and loved and free to be us. Where we can mess up and do well, and not be loved by how we perform, but be loved for the gift of who we are.
You can’t put a fish into a sink of water, and ask her to be happy.
I live as a friend and support in a community house, among those who need much support for difficult circumstances and trauma and poverty in their lives. I have learned in the relationships I’ve built here, that we cannot change each other, and cannot expect from one another more than we can give. We can only lean in with our hearts, love deeper into who we are, and make room for the best in us to come out.
We still often call our house cat ‘baby Keko’ because she is so little, but don’t be fooled: she loves with the heart of a lion. And the loving lion in her is so much more naturally-beautiful, than the apartment cat I originally tried to make her to be.