Love Thy Neighbor

Some people are difficult to love. The whole Love Thy Neighbor thing gets really hard with those people. I guess I must whine a little too often about this, because God keeps sending me personal tutors in How to Love The Difficult Ones.

My current tutor is a little gray cat, Cleo, that came into our home with a gray tabby cat, Emma, in April 2009. After the usual two-cats-one-house dispute, Cleo and Emma became best buddies. Emma soon demonstrated her ability to reach high altitude cat perches we didn’t know we had, and began to earnestly compete for Most Affectionate Cat. In contrast, Cleo developed a very demanding voice, and if we did anything unexpected, her first reaction was to hiss. Cleo did not like to be held, and preferred to be stroked only when she was able to make a quick getaway.

At Cleo’s first visit to the vet, we found that her front right paw had been broken as a kitten and healed badly. Foul play or folly? Who knows. The lady at the SPCA had told us that Cleo had been a teenage mom, and her kittens had been taken away from her, but hadn’t said anything about an abusive environment or an accident. The one thing we knew for sure, Cleo had Issues. What to do?

Then I remembered Little Bit, L.B. for short, a very cranky little female I’d had before. L.B. had been tiny, but willing and able to stare down a young herding dog. L.B. hadn’t hissed, but her claws had made their mark more than once. (The “B” didn’t always stand for Bit.) And yet, after years of patient affection, L.B. had become a lap cat like our others. Still a little temperamental, but undoubtedly sweet.

So now, with Cleo, we apply the rules we learned with L.B. We give her affection and attention frequently, on her own terms. Every so often, I test her comfort zone by giving her affection in my lap, but I quickly put her down when she squirms. It has taken time, but lately she’ll stay in my lap much longer, while we both enjoy a massage of her luxurious thick fur.

Are cats so different from humans? I think not. There are ones that are Easy, fun to play with, and a joy to be around. And then there are the Difficult ones, that always seem to be grumpy, or temperamental, or ready to take offense. Will the Difficult ones ever be Easy? Not likely. But with a lot of patience, and a lot of persistence, you may find a way to show them some Love, that both of you can enjoy.

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