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Guest post by Siena Lee-Tajiri

I met Fred in 2012. He had a giant striped face, matted fur, and was as thin as a rail. He sat at the bottom of the front porch stairs but quickly darted under the orange tree when I came out. Well, you can imagine what happened next: as cat lovers, whenever we see a stray or feral, we begin worrying about them – whether they’re hungry, where they’re going to go, whether they’ll be warm enough, whether they’ll come back, whether they need to be trapped and fixed, and then the predominant thought…I already have x amount of cats! Worries aside, I put out some food and a bowl of fresh water.

The next morning my heart leapt a tiny bit as I saw two empty bowls. I knew he’d come back! But I’d soon learn that Fred was feral and did not want me near him. Eventually, he allowed me to put out food while he stood there, but he’d hiss, scratch and spit at me if I got too close. But I still loved him immediately, and that love grew every single day.

I just love how unconditionally we love our cats. We don’t take things personally, we give them room to respond, and we don’t impose any expectations on them, despite holding a few hopes close to our heart. We love them fully, fiercely, and freely. This is how I loved Fred. And I couldn’t help but think how I wish I could do this with people.

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The only photo I have of Fred

A growing connection

As Fred and I worked on our relationship, I kept imagining how much he might love a soft head petting or under-chin scratch. Those indulgent thoughts were more for me. I know ferals feel safer not being touched. However, I kept thinking about who Fred coul have been had he received nurturing and touch early on. I decided to give Fred some flower essences blended especially for feral cats. I had already been using essences for other cats and human clients in my life with great success. And personally, I had been using them on myself for about 18 years at that point.

If you’re not too familiar with flower essences, they’re an incredible holistic modality of energy medicine. They help bring the body back into balance by addressing underlying core issues that cause one to feel unwell, dis-eased. Normally, they come in a tincture and you can dose topically or take them internally.

With Fred, I couldn’t do a topical application, so I put the flower essences in his water bowl. By the next evening, he came up to the top stair,and when I put the food down, he hissed…and that was it. The evening after that, he came up to the top stair and rubbed his face on my hand as I put the bowl down. Then he startled himself and he jumped back and hissed. By the end of the week, he’d not only come up to the top stair to get fed, he’d roll over and let me rub his belly. Yes….his belly. We all know this is a very sacred, trusting spot on a cat.

Here’s the funny thing: as he’d allow me to rub his belly, his old habit-self and wiring would sometimes kick in and he’d suddenly jump up and back and hiss at me mid-belly rub. It was like he was thinking, “Wow, this feels so good…I’m so relaxed….WAIT! What’s happening?! OMG! I’m not safe!”

Healing connections with others

As I observed this pattern, I realized that I do the exact same thing with people. If you’ve been following Sunday Cat Love and Above and/or visited the about page on http://www.loveandabovecatclub.com, you already know that I had trauma in my past and battle anxiety. Fred was mirroring back to me how I let people in, but then pushed them away when I felt unsafe or if they got too close. I realized that it was just an old habit. There is something exponentially healing when you witness your own patterns outside of yourself so clearly.

A common side effect of past trauma is anxiety. I’ve learned through the years that although social anxiety can be debilitating and painful, connecting with others socially is crucial to our well-being and healing. There may be an intense desire to stay at home alone, but we need connection: positive connection with others in doses that align with our energetic capacity.

For many of us, our cats will continue to provide a level of unconditional safety, trust, assurance and love. But we can also learn so much from them in how we relate to and connect with people. The unconditional love we experience every day from our cats opens our hearts and allows us to stretch a bit, to go out and cultivate deeper connections with others, always knowing we can come back home and we are safe.

Fred lingered a bit longer one night, peering into the screen door from a safe distance on the porch stairs. I gave him some extra treats that night. I stood at the screen and smiled at him. He let out a relaxed sigh as I caught a little glimmer in his eyes, followed by a slow love-blink.

That was the last time I saw Fred. For the next six weeks I would still call for him and hope to see him, but I never did.

However brief our connections might be, every one of us has the capacity to leave indelible heart prints wherever we go. What I’m most grateful for with Fred is that he taught me how I can heal my own connections with others. I well up sometimes, thinking of Fred, feeling so grateful that he got to experience what a belly rub and chin scratch felt like. He deserved that and so much more.

Thank you for reading, friends, and Happy Summer!

With Love and Above,
Siena

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Siena Lee-Tajiri is the founder of the Love and Above Cat Club. Please visit, sign up for their mailing list, and browse their shop.

FTC Disclosure: The Conscious Cat is an affiliate partner of the Love and Above Cat Club. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.

Photo at top Unsplash stock photo, photo of Fred ©Siena Lee-Tajiri, used with permission

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11 Comments on Sunday Cat Love and Above: What a Feral Cat Taught Me About Connecting With People

  1. Flower essences for cats? I have a cat who needs one. Well, that’s the trouble, I don’t have her. She’s moved outdoors. She started life feral, we think. She doesn’t like to be handled at all. The story about Fred made me think I might find a flower essence which would help her feel more comfortable with coming indoors, coming home again.

  2. Thanks Siena for such a beautiful remembrance of Fred. I personally feel that he had a purpose in visiting with you to help teach you how to connect with others. Perhaps when he left he moved on to help someone else who would be as receptive as you were. I feel very much like you do and loved what you said – “we need connection: positive connection with others in doses that align with our energetic capacity.” What a beautiful way to express that. I love my alone time but I know how important it is to interact with others and sometimes I have to push myself but I am generally happy that I did though I prefer that in moderation as I don’t feel the need to constantly be around people. Now my cats are a different matter and I am more then thrilled to be around them and learn from them too. My Charley even talks to me!

    • Thanks for sharing, Nancy! Oh I love thinking that Fred went on to help someone else who needed him. Thanks for offering that. I feel the same as you: I often need to push myself to socialize yet always feel better for having done so. But I also love my alone time, refilling my well and I can never get enough of my cat or cats in general too! Say hi to Charley for me!

  3. I am so very grateful to have read this today. I have been trying to save a feral living under the crawl space of an apartment building…for months. I respect its boundaries but have solicited outside assistance to try to save it. Two others of my own..I cant watch it starve.. so this really resonates with my soul in this process. It comes out at night closer for me to see the appreciation..I am happy for that acknowledgement alone.

    • Thanks for reading, D. I’m so glad it resonated with you! I feel you. It’s such an emotional ride. There was a point when Fred went missing for 9 days, but I could still “feel” that he was around. I kept thinking he was in our neighbor’s garage but they had checked twice and didn’t find him. Then one day, I decided to go in there myself. I called quietly for him, stepping softly. And just as I was about to give up, I heard a scratchy, gurgly meow! It was Fred!!! And he darted out into the sunlight! But those 9 days…oh, the rollercoaster. Keep up the love-work, D! You’re doing such an incredible job.

  4. I am glad you both benefited from the brief encounters you had. Hopefully, Fred is well and has found a forever home.

  5. I deal with social anxiety too so, I know how lonely it can be. But cats did help me somewhat. A few months after I lost Nani, I decided I wanted another cat and went to a rescue in my town. That’s where I got Miss Kiki from. I also became friends with the lady who ran the rescue and I ended up volunteering at the rescue for a while. That put me out in front of people who I had to talk to. But the love of cats was common so there was always something to talk about.

    • Thanks for sharing, Janine! I love how you volunteered at the rescue. I find cat people to be some of the easiest to connect with. We talk about our shared love for cats (and share lots of pics!) and take the focus off ourselves! Thank you for reading!

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