Almost two weeks ago, my partner and I moved from an apartment in the city across the country to a farm on the countryside along with our two cats. Our cats are used to a city environment where they would go outside and be confined to a rather small area due to the high amount of other cats in the area. Now they are living on a huge farm and have probably doubled their space of movement more than tenfold.
In the process of moving I had been researching how to best move cats and read on several sites that it is recommended to keep the cats indoors for at least 2 weeks to let them acclimate to their new environment. Cats are extremely habit- based creatures who orientate themselves based on scent and they have been known to travel several hundred miles when relocating to get back to their previous home. So I was set on following this advice to prevent the cats from getting lost.
So after we moved I took ‘pity’ on the cats, especially the male who loves being outside and who is used to being outside 24/7 in the summertime. So I looked at how I could make the transition more comfortable for them and decided to create a contraption with rope on a window in our bedroom so that the cats could peak out and get some fresh air. I created the contraption such a way that (or so I thought) the cats couldn’t possible squeeze through the window.
I took our male cat out for about 10 minutes every day where I would monitor him closely and as he is used to walking with me from when he was a baby (without a leash) I felt quite comfortable that I would be able to manage.
I also decided to leave their collars off which otherwise have our phone numbers listed and is reflexive so that the cats can travel more safe in the darkness, because I again took ‘pity’ on them and wouldn’t want them to feel uncomfortable.
Everything was going really well, surprisingly well actually with our two cats quickly becoming comfortable and integrating nicely into the household (where two other cats also live).
But then one night, I had left the window contraption open and had left the room (which I had otherwise instructed our partner and myself that we’re not to do).
When we were about to go to sleep we couldn’t find the male cat, Cheeky. I looked all over the house, in all cupboards and cabinets and in the basement in case he had gotten trapped somewhere. Nothing. Then I started to panic slightly and I started putting two and two together since I was sure that I had locked the door to the bedroom with the cats still inside, only leaving the window contraption option of him having possibly squeezed himself out.
My partner was already in bed but agreed to get up and help me look for Cheeky. It was a dark and rainy evening so I was afraid that he would get lost outside without being familiar with the area and with the rain making it more difficult to locate scent marks.
We went around the property and called and called. Nothing. Eventually there was nothing to do but to go to bed and I had a distinct experience of panic within me where I couldn’t stop thinking about him being hurt or lost and that we wouldn’t be able to find him.
Then last night the same thing happened again! Now I was feeling more comfortable because we’ve almost lived here 2 weeks, so I let him out at night.
In the morning when we woke up his collar was lying on the ground with a bunch of fur from another cat. He had been in a fight and was nowhere to be seen. We looked for him all day. We walked around the entire premises over and over calling for him but he only came out in the evening after having been gone almost 24 hours. He’s never been gone for so long before.
During these two episodes I went into quite an extensive reaction of anxiety, worry and even panic to the point where I couldn’t perform my usual work tasks.
During the times where he’s been away I’ve also thought about how much he means to me and how grateful I have been to have him in my life (in case I’d never see him again). What I have discovered is that all beings, and this goes for humans as well as animals, have their own unique expression or signature. And Cheeky happens to be that of ‘cheekiness’ lol. He is a very playful and naughty cat and I enjoy his expression a lot. He is literally the embodiment of his name Cheeky and he often times cracks me up with his antics. So I was lying there in the bed reminiscing and becoming more and more emotional.
I then talked to my partner about it and he suggested that I look at what I can learn from all of this. If the cat was dead or gone there was nothing I could do about it and he suggested that I instead look at how I could prevent something like that from happening again.
The first thing I did was to apply self-forgiveness on the panic I was experiencing. Then I also looked at what Cheeky represents to me through his expression and how I feared losing/not having that – and how I could live that in/as myself.
However, the point that stood out the most was a point of self-compromise and self-neglect and thereby neglect of my fellow beings.
See, I had first of all left the window open. And I had avoided putting collars on the cats because I was afraid that they would be uncomfortable. Since I got the cats I have been ‘hyper-conscious’ about their well being and often compromising myself (and even them) to accommodate their ‘wants’.
An example is how I’d stay up late at night even though I was tired and ready to go to sleep to wait for them to come home (lol as I’m sure many parents do as well) or to give them food even though I knew rationally that it would probably be best for them not to eat at this particular time.
Here for example, Cheeky wanted to go out and he only knew/experienced his desire to go out. He did not have the ability to consider that he might get lost and wouldn’t be able to find his way home. As such, it is my responsibility to care for the cats in a capacity that they might not be able to do for themselves where all the know is what they want here and now and cannot consider possible future consequences.
What I’ve done in the past is to weigh their immediate ‘want’ over what I saw would actually be best for them because I didn’t want them to be ‘unhappy’ or ‘dissatisfied’ thereby reflecting back on me being a ‘bad cat-parent’ lol.
So I would rather compromise their safety and health than risk them being momentarily unhappy or dissatisfied, which indicates that I still have a tendency to place preference (mind) over principle (life). This is obviously a problem, because it can potentially create life-threatening consequences and consider how many parents do not do this with their children or how we even do it with ourselves in our own lives.
The other point that was also revealed/emerged from this event was the facts that I had compromised doing what I saw was best for the cats based on how I perceived people in my environment react to it. I have several times experienced feeling ridiculed as being ‘squeamish’ or ‘oversensitive’ when I have been looking at applying myself in specificity and consider what is best for all in a particular situation. However I also see how this fear of being judged as being ‘pedantic’ is something I’ve experienced even before in my life and it all leads back to people reacting to my mother’s specificity when it comes to cleanliness and judging and ridiculing her for having extremely high cleaning standards.
So as a child I turned against my mother and sided with the people who judged her because I was so scared of people seeing and speaking about me the same way – and this has actually become a pattern of self-compromise and self-neglect. Because I have been so scared of people seeing me this way that I would rather compromise myself than risking this happening.
The same thing happened a couple of months ago where I fell and hurt my leg quite badly. I have had a perception of my partner and his family being people who think that you should just get yourself together when something like this happens, who doesn’t go to the doctor or cry. So for example when I have been sick, my partner would sometimes react and see me as a ‘wuss’ and so when I fell and hurt my leg, I was afraid that they would think I was a wuss and that I was pretending that it was worse than it was. My instant response was that I had to go to the emergency room but I didn’t. Now, a couple of months later I have a permanent ‘dent’ in my life and still have marks from the fall on it. I don’t feel any pain but it goes to show how I’ve compromised myself and what I see is best based on fear of what other people will think of me.
So with the cats, the same thing happened. I feared being seen as ‘pedantic’ and ‘mothering’ and this was one of the reasons why I didn’t do what I saw would be best for the cats, which often involves taking more steps of responsibility, consideration and specificity than most people are used to when it comes to how they treat animals, themselves or others. It is something I’ve only started learning myself when I started participating with Desteni and I remember also reacting to the high level of specificity in consideration as being ‘unnecessary’ and ‘too much’. But looking back I can see that the resistance was based on a laziness and unwillingness to take full responsibility for directing my reality and myself. This sometimes still comes up too for me but over the past few years I’ve been increasingly practicing becoming more specific in caring for my environment and the beings within it.
Although none of this has been a lot of fun – I have learned quite a lot, also in the context of taking preventive precautions for whatever may come into my life in the future.
To be continued…
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