Mr. Tom, the half-grown feral kitten I’ve taken in, bit my hand this morning. Last week he scratched my leg. Both times I immediately bopped his head (like a good momma cat) and he backed away, apologizing with body language.
My husband thinks maybe we should run him off for his bad behavior. Perhaps the wild thing is incorrigible. Though I don’t understand his actions, I defend the cat by saying we don’t know the places he’s been or what abuse he may have endured. I persevere, hoping Mr. Tom will change.
He has changed already. In two months, he has gone from the wild cat too timid to get closer to humans than twelve feet, to one that wraps around my legs, demanding to be petted. His fur is soft now and his eyes are bright.
Mr. Tom has learned our routine. He cat naps behind the hedge at our front door. In the heat of the day, he sleeps under my car. At dinner time, he’s back under the hedge, waiting for his portion. At night he prowls, understanding our door will not open for a long while. He is adapting to domestic life.
He remembers his earlier existence, though, and insists on sampling the bread crumbs intended for the birds. He prefers the stale water in the bird bath to the fresh, cool water in his bowl. He bats at my hand if it lingers too long on his head. This is where he came from and it won’t go away quickly.
People have history also. They’ve been places, sometimes so disparate from our own, we can’t comprehend their actions or relate to their emotions.
When someone is angered by our joke or laughs at our calamity, we may label them odd. If their advice is consistently contrary to what we consider wisdom, we may avoid their counsel. If the “odd” behavior makes us too uncomfortable, we might even avoid their company.
Birds of a feather do tend to flock together. We feel most at home among people who look and act like us. When a person forces himself out of his comfort zone, he learns more in a short span of time about other cultures. S/he loses some of his fears and prejudices and becomes more accepting of behavior not like his own. It takes time; it takes experience.
A person can either embrace those experiences and incorporate them into her thinking, or she can balk and kick and insist every way except her “old way” is a wrong way. She can grow or she can be stunted.
I was out of fresh milk this morning so I put powdered milk on Mr. Tom’s brown rice. He yowled at me and refused to eat. This feral cat I’ve been feeding for sixty days, now no longer starving, is becoming a typical, finicky cat. We are indeed slowly changing the places he’s been.