It’s National Be Kind to Animals Week. While we should always be kind to animals, I’d like to share what my kitty, Missy, has taught me about kindness. It might seem a little woo-woo to some, but I believe that our pets are our teachers. More specifically, they are here to teach us what they’ve already mastered: unconditional love.
Cats are notorious for being aloof, a little (or a lot) mean and not interested in pleasing their owners. Let’s be honest, cat guardians, this post wouldn’t be so popular if you were absolutely sure about your cat’s love for you.
Even so, Missy has taught me several timeless lessons about kindness and unconditional love over her long 18 plus years:
Kindness is: Not Always Getting What You Want
Missy wasn’t my first pick of the litter. To be fair, we didn’t even know she existed. The 8-year-old me wanted a much smaller orange kitty that was all over me. Missy was hiding under the bed, and they only brought her out because she looked similar to the cat that I wanted but that they were keeping.
I also wanted a lap cat who was super affectionate and outgoing. And that wasn’t Missy. Well, it wasn’t her in the beginning. After a decade, I grew on her and she trusted me, so we did it on her terms. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I learned and got so much more.
Kindness is: Keeping it Simple
Cat tree? Check.
Cat stroller? Check.
Cat hammock? I was dying to buy her one, and the leopard print was screaming my name, but I had learned my lesson by now. Almost Check.
Missy didn’t approve of any of the fancy toys and accessories that I splurged on. Our weekly Costco boxes were more her style. If I spruced them up with some 99 cent wrapping paper, then that was acceptable.
Kindness is: Protecting Your Territory
Missy knew when and how to protect her territory. And she could be fierce doing it. Yet, her territory radar wouldn’t go off for every cat in the neighborhood.
Boundaries were important to her, and they should be to all of us. Just keep your guards up wisely.
Kindness is: Lots of Tolerance
Missy put up with my messy hair, no makeup face and the occasional body odor that I couldn’t even stand. She still found her way on my belly whenever she saw me lay down just to tuck her head under my chin.
She put up with the river of nicknames that I gave her. And I made the annoying baby voice to match. When Missy wasn’t Missy, she was: mi niña, Misha, green-eyed monster, linda wawita, sunshine, mi bebe… Poor cat, right?
But nothing tested her tolerance like the arrival of the dog — a Yorkie with a bossy attitude and an even bigger Napoleon complex.
She put up with a lot.
Kindness is: Taking Purrfect Care of Yourself
Even though Missy loved me despite my disheveled appearance, I think Missy was always sending me hints about the important of self-care. She liked looking in the mirror, grooming was non-negotiable, and her anxiety went up if there was something that she couldn’t clean herself.
I like to think Missy was from Paris or she read the book “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” She ate when she was hungry, savored every bite, took her time and she stopped when she was full.
She always stayed perfectly hydrated.
She got her sunshine fix everyday, too.
Taking purrfect care of yourself isn’t easy, but Missy certainly did.
Kindness is: Snuggle it, Don‘t Smother it
Missy eventually learned the joys of snuggling, but she never let me over do it. Too much petting or petting that was too rough could result in a “love” bite. When she had enough kisses, she wasn’t afraid to literally put her paw on my lips.
Affection has boundaries, too; I’ve carried this over to my human relationships.
Kindness is: Being Selfish Sometimes
If she was angry at me, then she would take her time to decompress and compose herself before letting it go. She never let me smother her with affection.
Sometimes she liked to just go off and be by herself in another room.
She always took care of her internal needs, and that’s okay. We don’t always have to be “on” for everyone all of the time.
Kindness is: Letting Go
In early April 2014, the light that made those gorgeous green eyes sparkle had to turn off.
The vet said it was cancer. While I could go into a lot more detail, I’ll just say that Missy knew that she was dying.
The cancer gave us a few months to make peace and eventually accept that she had to go. While I’m happy that she’s off continuing her journey and that she’s not in any pain, I’m still trying to let go of my human baggage (i.e., guilt and doubt) about her passing. I know that she wouldn’t want me to hold onto those feelings.
Acts of kindness, whether they are to a human, an animal or the planet, are great. But true kindness is a lifestyle, and Missy lived it well. She innately knew how to be kind to herself and kind to me. Her love and kindness continue to give me permission to be kind to myself, and I work on it daily. Even though I never liked sharing her, you all have a piece of her now. I hope that she can teach and inspire you, too.
I don’t want too many tears on this keyboard, so I’ll keep this part short: To mi niña, save me a spot (knowing you, it’ll probably be the warmest spot that you can find) at the rainbow because I’ll be there in no time. I can’t see you anymore, but I feel you always.
I would love to know what lessons your pet(s) have taught you about kindness, love and life, so please share in the comments.
Photo Credit: Jessica Ramos