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I grew up in a household without any pets. Okay, we had goldfish for three years, but that’s it. My mother always said cats and dogs were just fleabags. I do remember one time when I spoke sweet words to a cat in a garden nearby. The cat was rolling around, pleased with the attention. I also remember walking the neighbour’s dogs one day when I was eleven or twelve years old. I remember my struggle. Could you talk to dogs? Cause it felt so natural to me, but I couldn’t decide if this was allowed or maybe too weird? Overall, I wasn’t much interested in pets. I wasn’t the girl who would beg her parents for a puppy. My mother wasn’t the kind of person who would be open to such pleas, so I didn’t.
Looking at me now and at how I live, you wouldn’t believe it. I own four cats, and I’m obsessed with them. But it took a long time before I got to this point.
Socializing Aged Twelve
The pivotal point in my life was when my parents divorced. I ended up living with my father. His mother, so my grandmother, was a cat person. For as long as I’ve known her, she’s had multiple cats and even a dog at some point. Soon after the divorce of my parents, I stayed with her during a vacation. Even though I was unfamiliar with pets, the cats immediately accepted me. If I remember it right, I even picked up one without any problems.
My grandmother would also pick up strays from the streets. One of these strays was aggressive and didn’t fit in with her other cats, so she asked if my father would take her in. He did, and I accepted her as my first project. She definitely disagreed with being moved to a small apartment or with my father. My father was a gentle soul who loved cats, but at this point, this cat hated everything and everyone. All she did was hide under the bed all day. So I socialized her.
I was twelve years old. No one helped me, no one taught me how to do it; I just did what I felt was right. Every day I went into the room where she was, I would speak soft words to her and get closer every day. Finally, she did emerge from under the bed. After that, I taught her how to lie on my lap. I would place a box on my lap and put her in it. When she was used to the box, I exchanged it for a newspaper or some leaflets. Until she trusted me enough and would lie on my lap without anything special underneath. She was an extraordinary friend. Unfortunately, we lost her early as she got seizures one day, and we had to put her to sleep.
Socializing Aged Twenty Six
After her, we had two more cats. At that point, I moved out and didn’t have cats for several years. It wasn’t until I moved out of my ex-boyfriend’s house and lived on my own I adopted another cat. She, too, needed to be socialized. She hid behind my fridge for weeks. So with her, too, I spoke soft, sweet words to her until she trusted me enough to emerge from behind the refrigerator.
There were several surprises with her. Turns out she was abused in her last home. She would flinch if I raised my hand too swiftly, not to hit her, but just to pick something up nearby. She hates being laughed at. Really. You can’t say ‘Mispoes’ to her, which is a jeer kids use in play in Dutch. Even today, I can’t laugh out loud when I see something that’s hilarious, like a comedian performing on TV. She’ll become all restless and give me a thousand cuddles in an attempt for me to stop. She hates thunderstorms and hard rain. These days she’ll stay close to me, but she’ll glance at the windows, afraid she’ll be put outside. I can’t imagine what they put this little girl through.
Anyway, she turned out to be pregnant when I took her in, and she delivered three healthy boys. My grandmother took one in, and it was her favourite cat for the rest of her life. I also kept one kitten. He just turned twelve last week. He’s now a grumpy old man, but he’ll always be my sweet boy.
Cats Are My Life
I love all pets. I still talk to all the pets I meet while on my walks. Just tonight, I said hello to a butterfly who sat at a butterfly plant. I read the pet’s body language. I read their eyes, the way they hold their tails. Pets often trust me. More than once, I have heard people say how they were surprised their pet would come out and sit on my lap while they usually weren’t open to strangers.
I have more to tell about the beautiful kittens I adopted four years ago, but I think this post is long enough for now. I also didn’t get to the neighbourhood cat who adopted my father’s house as his second home. Guess I’ll have to write another post on the same subject soon. Since one of my cats is sitting next to me, begging for his night portion of cat milk, I guess that’ll have to wait. I think it may be clear: I love my cats and all the pets in the world 🙂