When I rescued my cat, Hazel, she was 9 months old and had been at the Humane Society for six months. After being returned by a family due to biting behavior, Hazel had been left in the back room without being rotated into the adoption population for weeks. She was in a desperate situation, and at risk of euthanasia due to overcrowding. Hazel's time at the shelter was running out, and she needed to find a forever home. When I first saw her, my heart melted. She looked like a miniature tiger, and acted like one, too. I was so happy to take her home, and I knew we would have many adventures together. Hazel has taught me so much about life. Here are four of those lessons.
- The Right Care Matters
Hazel has been asked to leave several veterinary practices over the years I've had her because of her behavior. While they attempted to be professional and polite, they each asked that Hazel never return. The first time a vet referred to Hazel as a "street cat," I cried. Surely, we couldn't have been talking about the same cat — she was so sweet with me. The second time it happened, I was angry. Hazel, like all of us, deserved proper care. She had a difficult kittenhood, and the months spent waiting for adoption in confinement were traumatizing for her. Hazel's anxiety at the vet now requires sedation before her appointments. However, finding a vet who understands her needs has provided Hazel a much better quality of care. Vet appointments are manageable now that I have found a vet who works with Hazel. This is something I wish I learned before watching Hazel suffer through appointments, and something that I learned from personally. If a doctor isn't a good fit, I move on. I've stopped internalizing myself as the issue, and feel no shame searching for a doctor who makes me comfortable. The right care matters, and quality treatment that meets patients where they are is essential.
- Always Find Your Sun
On the gloomiest, rainiest days, Hazel will find her sun. It doesn't matter if the blinds are tightly shut, or if a hurricane is looming, Hazel will find a small sliver of light to curl up in. On the sunniest days, Hazel will move from room to room to follow her sun spots. She will stretch out and soak up sun rays in any form without fail. In times of uncertainty, pain, fear, and unrest, it can feel impossible to find light in the darkness. But, when we look for it, we become adept at finding it. Understanding that the light will come again uplifts me on days when it feels like clouds have firmly settled in.
- Not Everyone Will Like You
I've fostered two wonderful cats over the years, and Hazel hated sharing her space with them. They've since been adopted within our family, but Hazel could not wait for them to leave. When visitors come over, Hazel runs away and wants little to do with them. I've tried every possible technique to make Hazel (and our guests) feel comfortable, but Hazel remains disinterested at best. For years, I tried to make her more social, as I felt it was best for her, yet it made no difference. While I think this is extreme and not a behavior I'd recommend anyone emulate, it has taught me to understand that no matter what I do, not everyone will like me, and that has very little to do with me.
- Find Your People
The final lesson ties into the last. Hazel might not be open to company, but she has formed very close bonds with those she connects with. My husband and I work from home, and Hazel always wants to be on one of our laps. We are her people, and she lets us know it. Hazel has transformed into a deeply affectionate, loving, and quirky cat who spends her days purring and rolling around for praise. She found her forever family in us, and we found it with her. Hazel has taught me that while I might not be able to connect with everyone, and I may be misunderstood at times, I have built a life filled with meaningful relationships.
Hazel has undergone a remarkable transformation during our years together. She is the most feisty, loyal, and complicated cat I've ever known. The rejection she experienced was because of no fault of her own, and required lots of patience and understanding to overcome. I couldn't imagine my world without Hazel, and I'm so thankful to have had her teach me so much about love and life. I only hope I've done the same for her.