How My Cats Have Helped Me Be Tougher — and More Tender


Anybody who knows me knows that I learn great deal from my cats. I’ve always believed that my cats have helped me become a better person. How can such gentle, pure beings do anything but make us better?

Kali was a cat of mine who was both tough and tender. Sharing 18 years with Kali, I learned a lot about her and about myself. And I can say for a fact that, like Kali, my cats have helped me become both more tough and more tender.

Let me first say that my toughness is probably invisible to most. I don’t come off that way. Most people find me mild and gentle. My toughness, I think, is more under the surface. And my cats have had a lot to do with my getting tougher over time. We all get a little tougher, I think, the more time we spend on this earth. Life knocks us around a little, and we can’t help but toughen up or put up some defenses.

The tough and tender Kali.

Here are some ways my cats have helped me become tougher:

1. I’ve helped several cats pass

It must be my personality makeup, because the process of letting go seems never to get easier for me. It’s not something I ever look forward to, but I will say that I think I go through it in a better and more educated way each time that it happens. I’ve learned (and am still learning) to try not to let my emotions cloud me as I go through this process. Every time, it feels as if I’ve gone through a wringer, and every time, I come out of it a little stronger.

2. I’ve made difficult medical choices

We’ve all been here. The blogger Ingrid King of the Conscious Cat once said that euthanasia is the loneliest decision, but I think making medical decisions for our loved cats can also be a pretty lonely proposition. Sometimes you’re guessing, based on the evidence you have. Sometimes you don’t have all the evidence you would like. If only your cat could tell you what to do. This is a courageous responsibility.

3. I’ve faced fear, over and over again

We don’t want to always face fear — many times, we’d rather run from it. But being responsible for these little lives brings up fear over and over, when the stakes are high. I can’t run. I have to deal with it and toughen up. I have to do what’s best for the cat, even when there are times that I’d rather pull a quilt over my head and hide.

Kieran is quiet and can get lost in the shuffle if I don’t remember to give him his share of love.

4. I’ve learned not to care about the opinions of others

I have six cats. Some people think that is very strange, and they don’t mind telling me so. I’ve gotten stronger over the years about not caring about the judgements of others. If the animals (cats or otherwise) are receiving care to the best of the guardian’s ability, who cares about the opinions of others? Would I judge someone for having six kids? No, although it wouldn’t be my choice. I try to let such judgements go, without any resentment of my own. I don’t want to create more bad energy that I don’t need, so why add to it?

And now, to flip the issue, here are some ways my cats have helped me become more tender:

1. I’ve learned to love and serve my cats

This may not sound like a big deal, but it is a big deal if you have ever wondered whether you had it in you to love anything. Cats have taught me a great deal about how to love unconditionally. Anything that helps me learn to love better, in my opinion, contributes to an improved human being!

Curious and funny cat by Shutterstock

2. I’ve learned tolerance and love for different cat personalities

No cat is entirely the same. Kieran’s gentle, spaced-out personality might not be as obvious or attention getting as Zorro’s constant cuteness, but they both need love. Norton is the nosiest, smartest cat in the world, and he reminds me that he needs stimulation for his happiness. Jamie Bluebell has her usual fits of calico twitchiness and exuberance. I love them all.

3. I’ve learned to take action for cats

I have a long way to go, but I have acted and rescued cats who would have otherwise likely died. I have adopted cats who were less adoptable than others, or who had special needs that scared other people off. My life has been richer with every single cat that I’ve cared for, and I think they’ve given me as much, or more, than I could ever give them.

If I had to emulate an amazing cat, Kali is certainly a memorable choice. This cat had been through abandonment and abuse, and yet, she loved humans unconditionally. But she also suffered no fools, and she had an attitude that meant business. I never forget her.

Have your cats helped you be a better person? How so? Tell us in the comments!

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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