Sylvia is a cat I foster. I rescued her from her hideout in an unused hut, just two reflective eyes shining in the night, through a broken window, cries in the dark, to witness her presence. It took some time, a bit of work and food bribery to get her, but eventually her hunger over-rode her fear and distrust and in hindsight I see just what courage this took her, now I understand just how fearful and damaged she is.
I took her in and she has been here for over two years now, no one wants her, there are too many others to choose from, sadly just too many cats needing homes and not enough to go around, especially when a cat is ‘special’.
She and I have a shared journey. I must admit I forget now that she is a foster cat, she feels so much a part of me, even though she is still far from an easy cat to deal with. It can be frustrating but there is a reason she is so disturbed. I can never know what that is, I will never know her history, but she is part of my life now and she is as she is and I accept her strange, fractured self.
Sylvia is very defensive, very distrustful; she doesn’t like strangers, loud noises, she doesn’t like being handled or touched in certain ways. She hisses, growls, lashes out sometimes, even at me, after I have only ever shown her kindness and care, but I know she cannot help it, there is some darkness buried deep inside, so strongly wired into her she cannot fight it. It makes life difficult, when you only want to help her and she lashes out at you, even drawing blood sometimes and her face gets a look of dark distrust and anger-fear, a look that tears at my heart, but I cannot soothe her. No matter what I say or do, she will not calm, will not relent her defensiveness. I just have to back off and let her be. Then she is okay again. But you only have to touch her wrong or do something and it can be the smallest thing, and it triggers whatever lies buried in her and she reacts aggressively.I know now it isn’t personal, I know she cannot stop herself, and I wonder what must have happened in her life to turn her from a beautiful, innocent kitten, into this disturbed, anxious, fearful, defensive creature and it makes me so sad and even more determined to show her that I will not hurt her. To be un-phased by her behaviour. I will not give in.
I don’t think she is ever going to change. She carries her scars too deeply. She will never be the cat you can pick up and snuggle and cuddle, but that is okay. She is her own person. I give her space. I give her time. At the beginning, I hoped it was temporary, that she would soon come round, when she realized she was safe and cared for and her behaviour would become more relaxed. Now, it doesn’t seem to matter so much. She is what she is, just as I am as I am, moody, imperfect, we travel the days together. I will give her a home as long as she needs it.
For every growl, hiss or lash just makes the purrs and snuggles that much more special. And I guess I’ve always been a sucker for hopeless cases, the difficult, the damaged, the disturbed, the ones no one has time for. I guess that reflects on my own experience of always being the outsider, the ‘freak’ if you will. Like attracts like they say, but with that grows a deep tolerance and awareness beyond the surface. Because it’s all about who you are when things aren’t perfect, when things don’t go smoothly, when life bites and challenges and things lash out, when you see the ugliness of things but just carry on.
Sylvia has love, a lot of love, but it is damaged, she has specialness, she is unique, but she hasn’t made her peace yet. Her life is her own now even if it is tied irrevocably to the past, maybe in time she will find some peace, even if never totally forgetting whatever it is that haunts her. Something drew us together and we understand each other. We tolerate eachother. We are survivors. Whatever it takes.