Life Lessons We Learn From Our Cats

Today’s guest post is written by Claudia Tietze. Claudia has graced the pages of this blog in the past writing about the wonders of owning a “specially-abled cat” (What is Less Adoptable Anyway?), which I urge you to read after you read today’s post.  She has done much to protect animals and do check out the links at the end of this post. Thank you and hope you enjoy this very special piece. 

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As humans, we are often touched by stories of unconditional love and intuition possessed by cats and dogs. Their seemingly endless capacity to forgive past transgressions by humans, and persevere even when the odds seem to be against them, is something we can all learn from.

I’ve always been very sensitive to animals, their communications and possibilities. Because of this, I’ve been rewarded throughout my life with the most amazing experiences.

A child's bond with animals

Me with my first kitten

I was 9 years old when I found Tyke. He hadn’t even opened his eyes yet. I grew up in the country and was walking through I field when I heard a faint mew. In the country sometimes peacocks sound suspiciously like cats. I stood still. All was silent. I walked on.

“Mew.”

Finally, I spotted him. He’d been the runt of the litter and when his mother moved the rest of his tribe, he’d been left behind, abandoned. I tucked him under my jacket and he poked his pasted shut eyes through the space between the snaps.

A few months earlier my mother, a horribly failed matchmaker when it came to me, tried to bring a cranky, mean, confused Persian into my life in the hopes it would sooth the heart break I felt upon losing my cat Kitty to leukemia. It was a relationship bound to fail.

Fluffy (Yeah, I know, as original as Kitty) and I couldn’t find common ground. I was a tomboy and she was a Persian. I didn’t care if I got dirty or my hair was messed up as long as I kept up with the boys while Fluffy was obsessed about her appearance.

Tyke riding on Claudia's brother's shoulder

Tyke riding on my brother’s shoulder

She wasn’t built to run through the grass, hunt or explore the outdoors and came back day after day riddled with burrs. She’d glare at me and hiss. I told my Mom this wasn’t working and Fluffy had to go back to her lady friend. The right cat would find me when it was time

And so it was at the tender age of nine years that I understood to have something really magical in your life, you have to make room for it.

Tyke had to be hand fed and taught how to be a cat – how use the box, eat, play and hunt. He grew to be a cat of honor, protecting the weaker neighborhood cats against Spunky, the neighborhood bully. He never started a fight, but he finished them.

Soon a small stray showed up at our doorstep. I named her Olivia and she was a wild one. I tamed her down by moving food towards her and sitting at first ten feet away from her, then nine, then eight and so on. She grew to adore human interaction and drooled when you petted her for longer than a quick moment.

It had been raining and Olivia disappeared for days. Once in a while she would Cat Around for a day or two, but it had been nearly a week and I was worried. Tyke and I went on excursions to look for her, but I never found her.

One night Tyke came to the sliding door in his “Let Me In” stance, but when I opened it, he ran away. He repeated this twice more before this thick-headed human decided I should follow him like a scene from Lassie.

I squinted into the darkness and saw him struggling to pull something large up the steps of the deck. When I took a closer look I found he had brought home Olivia’s body. There wasn’t a mark on her. She was muddy, so he must have dragged her quite a distance. Rain was drizzling down and although Tyke didn’t enjoy rain, he sat by her broken body and looked at me. He thought I would want to know.

I found a wooden box, a spade and a pocket bible. Tyke and I went to our pet cemetery and buried her. We did everything together. He sat with me the entire time and before closing the box gave her a soft, gentle lick to send her on her way.

In my darkest days of childhood, and there were many, Tyke saw me through. I fully believe if it were not for his love and spirit I would not have survived. We developed an almost psychic connection. I would think of him, and he would come. Or I would think about playing with him, and he would bring me a toy.

As we do for the ones we love most, Tyke and I fiercely fought for each other. He, when he chased a lone coyote out of the yard, and me, when I shot a neighborhood boy in the ass with a BB gun after he had shot Tyke with the same gun.

a specially, differently abled cat

Tiny Timmy: He never gives up

Today I share my life with three extraordinary cats. One of them, Timmy, is differently-abled. He’s wobbly from neurological damage sustained from over-exposure to flea and tick products before our paths crossed.

I thought I was rescuing him, but as is often the case, it’s the animals who rescue and teach us. He does things in his own way and never gets hung up about his need to do things differently.

In the past six years I’ve been struggling with severe chronic illness and at my worst I was more dead than alive. When I got discouraged about being bed-bound I would look at Timmy. How happily he would watch the other cats climb a tall scratching post and figure out how he could do it too. He would try, fall backwards and keep watching and trying until he succeeded.

There was never a thought in his head or spirit about NOT being able to do something. If he could do it, so could I. If he could adapt, so could I. If he could thrive, so could I.

Tiny Timmy when he first came to us.

Tiny Timmy when he first came to us, we were told he wouldn’t make it.

It’s important to note when he first came to me and I took him to the emergency vet due to his extreme reaction to the toxins in flea and tick products, the vet didn’t believe he would live 48 hours.

Later, after he survived, I was told he would never climb, jump or run. He’s since done all these things and more in spades. I am still trying to figure out how he managed to get on top of the dining table!

Timmy, in his incredible sweetness, has become a beacon for many people who are struggling from illness. My neighbor comes by to sit with him whenever she feels especially sad. He has a Facebook reach over 75,000 and while most of them are animal-centric, some are also chronically ill. We all find long buried strength in ourselves by watching Timmy accomplish his triumphs.

The Tiny Timmy stance

The Tiny Timmy stance – one of determination

Timmy changed the trajectory of my life. He sent me on an odyssey to find safer alternatives for cats and dogs to traditional toxic flea, tick and mosquito treatments. The company he inspired, Be The Wave, now produces Tiny Timmy’s Dirty Flea Soap. This small, broken cat is more whole and has changed my life more significantly than most humans.

Timmy’s unrelenting sweetness, determination and unconditional love give me strength and remind me that anything is possible when we simply ask “Why not?” instead of say “I can’t”.

Is message is clear. Just. Be. Love.

Special abled Tiny Timmy wth his mommy

Claudia and Tiny Timmy on a photo shoot near their home

What have your cats taught you? Share with us by posting a comment to this piece. We’d love to hear from you.  And as always, thank you for loving and caring about animals.

To learn more about Timmy’s personal story and find alternatives to traditional non-natural flea and tick treatments visit TinyTimmy.org.  You can read about and purchase all natural, GMO-free, soy-free flea soap at “Tiny Timmy’s Dirty Flea Soap” (it’s safe for cats, dogs and children and smells so divine I want a candle made out of it!).

And don’t forget to read “What’s Less Adoptable Anyway,” on the joys of owning a cat that’s a little different – and I think that goes for all animals.

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  • What a great article. I love wobbly cats – they don’t know they’re “disabled” so they will try (and often manage) everything that “normal” cats do. I think it’s important to get it out there that neurologically impaired cats are not sad or unhappy about their altered abilities, because many people think so. But that’s just us projecting human emotions on animals, and a lot of them don’t get adopted or get euthanized because of this false belief.

    • So very true….i’m sad he was robbed of his “normal” life given he doesn’t have CH or any other illness that would have made him that way but he certainly a VERY happy kitty and I guess that’s what matter! And as you say, he doesn’t know life any other way – he’s such a cutie! hope you read the other post too – thanks for reading this one and taking the time to comment!

  • Thank you, Claudia for sharing Tyke with us. My human had a special cat like Tyke, only Harlot came to her in her young adulthood. Same bond, though. We’ve been admirers of Timmy for a long time now, as you know!

    • Thank you for taking the time to read, I’ll be sure Claudia gets your message 🙂

  • jmuhj

    I’ve been a great admirer of Tiny Timmy since first hearing of this brave little guy. Looks like he’s had some seriously wonderful kittens and cats in his family background, too. It’s so true that THEY rescue US, even when we have no idea we even need rescuing, and that love is the only thing that truly matters in this world, bottom line.

    • Awwwww yes so true! On all counts my friend – thank you again for your loyal readership =^^=

  • Leslie A Palleria

    What a beautiful and inspiring story. Love you Timmy <3 <3 <3

    • Totally agree! Beautiful – love TT and Claudia!

  • Catrina A. Dickens

    Wonderful and special relationship. So glad you found each other.

    • I’m so happy you enjoyed the article, and will make sure Claudia gets your comment 🙂

  • reeserlibrarian

    Wonderful article!

  • Agree!

  • Shelly Lyon

    My dearest Claudia and Timmy are the inspiration for welcoming a special needs cat into our family. They are a perfect pair.

  • Diane Helen Lo Nigro

    Claudia I loved hearing how you were so in tune with animals even at a young age and that Tyke was one in a million, and how very sad for the baby Olivia. I know about Timmy and he has been an inspiration and teacher to so many including me. I love him, and I know how he has been so important in your life as you are in his. Aladdin also saved my daughters life and even though she now only vists every 2 years from Canada, he never forgets her and loves to see her on her return. Now he has opened his tolerant heart for her little daughter who can sit on him, pull his ears and he allows it with such patience. A little miracle in our lives <3

  • Jacquelyn Fontaine

    Such a great story. Awe amazing that Tyke brought home Olivia. And amazing that Timmy knows he can doz ANYTHING! NEVER SAY CANT!