Holy shit. I never thought I would ever be a cat lover. I've seen my friends all fall in love with their cuddly furballs and I was like ... how does such a love for cats exist? Welp, I was sooo wrong. When I first saw a cat named "Gherkin" aka "little pickle" I fell in love immediately with that little calico beauty. With no prior pet experience, other than my family dog (which my family bought when I was in university) and a pet hamster that died within a couple of months after I got her. I was scared shitless that I would not be able to care for a feline friend properly and something bad would happen. Yet, I had been wanting a little thing to take care of for a long time now, and truthfully, I had no idea that thing, would be a cat.
When she first entered my apartment, Gherkin immediately ran for her dear life and hid under my bed for about a week. I thought I had failed in the cat mom department. I thought she hated me and I would have to bring her back to the rescue. I feared that she would take a stand and starve herself or rip apart my entire place because she was pissed. But as I sit here writing this blog post, she is currently laying on my side sleeping finally finding comfort in my presence and trust in my company. You'd think we loved each other or something...
Here are 10 lessons I learned about love in my first weeks of adopting this little pickle, "Gherkin".
Entering a new experience and relationship is scary for both parties.
Whether you're starting a new relationship with a cat, pet, or significant other it's scary. Both Gherkin and I were entering unknown territory, a new space, and we had no idea who or what we were up for. Who would this cat or person turn out to be? A narcissistic asshole? A suffocating cling-on? A devil feline? Who knows! My biggest fear is that I'd never really cared for anything other than myself and I've killed 99.9% of all my plants. But despite all that, I still wanted to take the leap. The excitement for what this opportunity could bring, of what this little relationship could grow into exceeded the risk. Obviously, the risk is less if it's a cat you're getting to know, but you catch my drift.
We all have quirks and it takes constant effort to cultivate a loving relationship.
God knows we all have little things that we do that annoy the shit out of our partners. This is also true for cats as well. They are very particular little beings that have a time a place for everything. They do weird things that are unexplainable - some make you laugh and others make you cringe. But through these quirks, you still love them dearly. Because you love the cat that they are, you know these quirks are who they truly and innately. You love them anyway. You still love them for every piece of kitty litter they kick halfway across the damn livingroom floor. Because they still show up for you. They still support you. No matter what. They are still the thing you want to laugh at. The little thing you want to care for. But dear god, if I had a penny for every piece of kitty litter I stepped on... Gherkins... I still love you.
Trust takes time.
When you enter into a new relationship - both parties have baggage. Gherkin most likely has abandonment issues and has a hard time getting close to people (such as life). She was a feral cat that was born in the wild and then was found and brought into a foster home. I can only imagine the immense fear she had coming into a house with a woman she didn't know at all. On the other hand, I've had a difficult time with relationships, love too hard, and give too easily, and have hurt too often. Building trust takes work ... and time. I began talking to her every day, communicating with her the best way I could. Interacting with her through play and wet food (a very successful tip might I add). The key is to keep working at it every day and you know what? Each day she explored a little further, she allowed me to pet her and now... she is cuddling with me on the couch. Trust is never something that happens overnight. It takes patience, consistent love, constant care, and lots of cuddles.
I clean up her shit... unconditionally.
Well, this one is pretty much self-explanatory. When you clean up another living things feces, and you still want to cuddle and play with them. That's straight-up called love. It just is. The end.
Scheduling time for play and connection is important.
Like trust, cultivating a connection with another person takes time and commitment. I have learned to set aside at least 30 minutes a day to throw a mouse on a string around for Gherkin. She loves that shit and jumps up and down like a hooligan. Most times, I'm dying laughing. To be honest, it's as much fun for her as it is for me watching her be crazy for a toy. As I do this, I am building a connection and bond with Gherkin. Investing time each day to nurture that has been essential in building our foundation in our new cat/owner relationship. Let's face it this is 100% needed in intimate relationships with our partners too. How many times have you set aside playtime with your partner? ... that's what I thought.
We know both know when we need our alone time.
The good thing about cats is that they will tell you when they need their alone time. Either Gherkin will move away when I try to pet her or she will find a space to be alone. She's taught me to establish boundaries - something I need to learn more about. She will come to me when she needs love and attention but will let me know and allow for space when she needs a moment to breathe. I feel that deep in my bones. I follow her lead and it encourages me to set up the same for myself. I am grateful to her for that.
She's taught me what responsibility means.
Until I adopted Gherkin, I was living life for myself, which quite honestly was f*cking great. But I always felt I had a little more love to give. To be honest, I love my life too much to give up too much of it, yet I wanted something that I could call my own. Hence, enter the cat. It was just enough responsibility to give me the freedom to still live my life the way I wanted to. I know I might sound like a mushy cat mom, but I cannot believe the joy she brings to my life. Obviously, a cat and owner relationship is different for many reasons but knowing that I was responsible for a living thing is pretty incredible. Basically, she is the unconditional love I've never had.
I enjoy buying gifts for her without guilt or feeling like I need to.
As in many relationships giving gifts is one of the love languages and being able to get little toys, treats, and knickknacks that make annoying sounds for this little one warms my heart. The feeling of bringing home a toy that she completely loves (I know because it's ripped to shreds) makes me happy. I never feel like I have to - I do it because I want to. I want to make her life joyful, fun and most of all, I want her to feel so incredibly loved.
She promotes calmness in my life.
Have you ever cuddled and pet a cat while watching Netflix? It is one of the most calming things I have ever done in my life. Aside from meditations, I am making this a daily practice. Hearing her purrs and coos and seeing her eyes close as if she is about to pass out lowers my anxiety, allows me to take deeper breaths, slow down, and embrace the moment. Just like her, she reminds me of how precious life is... all life. This is how your partner should make you feel - a sense of peace, presence, and gratefulness. Your partner should make you calmer, lighter, and alleviate stress rather than enhance it. But really, If you've never cuddled a cat, I suggest you borrow a friend's cat, your mom's cat, your next-door neighbor's cat, open your arms, and welcome to a world of calmness, presence, and limitless space.
She's something I look forward to coming home to.
This is slightly embarrassing ... I miss my cat when I'm away from her. It could be because I'm a new cat mom but I often wonder what she is doing - like...is she drinking from my toilet? Trying to bite through all of my necklaces? Is she watching our favorite shows on Netflix without me? Even though she's my pet, I love to share the exciting things that are happening in my day with her. That could be because of the pandemic and my lack of human contact... BUT... it's true. In a new relationship, you should be excited and look forward to seeing your partner. Even if they piss you off before you go to work or you've gone to bed angry... they're still the first person you want to see when you go home at night. Both waiting with kisses, and snuggles at the door.
This is what my cat, Gherkin taught me about unconditional love and I feel so blessed to be able to learn something new every day. She's given me a glimpse of what the important parts of love look like. Now, I know what to look for in a partner and I'm grateful to Gherkin for showing me that.
Hope all you cat parents, pet lovers, and those looking for love find what you deserve.