What cats & heartbreak have taught me so far

This is a story about a girl and a cat. (and some other things…)

I wrote a post about Kitler last August (and holy shit is it more apropos than I remembered…seriously, go read it. It’s short). Kitler is the stray cat I started feeding last year, and he’s stayed in my life, off and on, since then. Every time I think he might be gone for good, there he is when I open the door. As if nothing has changed.

And I feed him, just the same.

In that post last year, I used his lack of trust and my unreciprocated affection as a metaphor for my love life. I give and give and give (cat food), and though he’s slowly warmed up to me, he still won’t let himself fully connect (by receiving kitty snuggles).

That sounds about right.

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Tonight as I was leaving my house to walk to the park — the one safe place I could think of to clear my head — there he was on the porch. After another long absence and presumed tragic ending. He looked skinnier than usual but meowed like he was happy to see me. (Allow me to give the cat some emotions. I need him to have emotions right now.) But when I carried the scoop of food outside, he hissed at me. (This is not typical Kitler behavior anymore.) On closer inspection, I noticed he looked a little dirty, and he was walking with a little limp. Somebody hurt Kitler.

This was too much, universe. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

…Because I’m helpless. The little guy won’t let me touch him when he’s well, so there’s no way I can manage to take him to the vet. He’s not even technically my cat… so I just have to stand there and watch him be hurt.

…And also because that’s how it goes sometimes. People you love get hurt and there’s nothing you can do about it. (Sometimes the “people you love” is you.)

But I’m letting this moment with Kitler teach me an important lesson. I think he’s been hurt by a lot of people in his rough little kitty life. After a whole year he trusts me — but not much. Not enough to let me close.

I see how life can get that way. (For people. I do still relate to people, cat lady conspiracy theorists.)

You trust and you love, and then you get burned sometimes. (This might even happen three birthdays in a row, for example.) After that kind of hope and heartbreak, you might want to completely self-protect. Close off. Shun affection. Put up walls. Harden your heart and never believe there’s someone who could truly care for you again.

(Right?)

But I’m not going to let myself believe that. Whether or not I ever get my own Nora Ephron ending (speaking of sad news this week, you guys…), I know that I deserve to be cared for.

I may be the sort of cat who’s a little roughed up in places, who’s not quite as trusting as she used to be. And sometimes I hiss at life — even at the people I love. But I’m not ready to close myself off. Not yet.

I know I can still care for Kitler even though I can’t fix him. And I certainly don’t have to end up like him.

Besides, I don’t think they make you change your status from “and ready to mingle” to “and ready to die alone” until at least birthday #30. (And it’s longer than that, I’ve heard, in cat-years.)

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