Be Patient — Lessons Learned from a Cat Adoption

Last week at church, I felt very convicted during the message. Ephesians 4:2- Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient .Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love.

Ironically, as he was talking about patience, I sat there thinking: “I wish he’d get to the part about how to achieve patience.” No joke. The irony of that thought process wasn’t lost on me. I already said I felt convicted.

Latte, a 21-pound Maine Coon
Latte, a 21-pound Maine Coon

The very same weekend I heard that message, this beast came to live with me. (The cat, not the boy — he’s lived with me since I gave birth to him.)

I’m not a cat person. I always tell people, “I love cats that live with other people.” And that’s true. I like to give my neighbor’s cat a can of tuna now and then. Because of this, he loves me. He visits my porch and rubs up against my leg and sometimes purrs. Sometimes, though, he visits my porch and runs when I reach down to pet him. Sometimes, he bites me. For no apparent reason. I don’t get that.

My beautiful, sweet, loving Golden Retriever would rather die than bite my hand. She’d rather die twice, slowly and painfully, than bite my children. When I call her, she comes running to my side. When I don’t call her, she comes running to my side, covering me in her silky abundant hair.

She is a constant, loyal companion who is as overjoyed to see us when we have been absent only 10 minutes as she is when we’ve been absent 10 days. I don’t get that, either, but I like it. Dogs give instant gratification and are predictable. Cats do things in their own time and in their own way.

Our beautiful golden, Ellie, really wants to be friends with Latte.
Our beautiful golden, Ellie, really wants to be friends with Latte.

And that’s the crux of the matter. I don’t like cats because: they aren’t on my timeline; they are unpredictable; and, they do not bend to my will.

So why would I become a player in a cat adoption?

Enter Latte, a 4-year-old, 20-pound Maine Coon cat in need of a home. His owner, an elderly woman, is moving out of state with her sister who is allergic to cats.

That is not a dramatic, heart-wrenching story. It’s certainly not a story that would have moved me to adopt a cat. In fact, in hindsight, I can’t think of a story that would have moved me to adopt a cat.

I’m one of those people who is glad that no-kill shelters exist because I know they are super important to some people, but the euthanasia of unwanted animals is not at the top, or even at the bottom, of my list of causes warranting my personal attention or sacrifice.

So why did I bring this cat home?

The story I told myself is long and convoluted. And as I sat in church less than 48 hours after bringing this cat home for a “trial” adoption, it occurred to me that God had a hand in sending me Latte. Because the cat is teaching me about patience. Or, at least he’s reminding me of the value of patience. His presence is also requiring me to work with my 7-year-old on the character trait of patience. That, alone – working with an impatient 7-year-old on patience – requires a GREAT DEAL OF PATIENCE.

The poor cat was so afraid when we first brought him to our home. It had lived its four years in the small, quiet home of an elderly woman with limited exposure to other people or other animals.

Our home is bigger, much, much louder, with five regular inhabitants, including the energetic 7-year-old, plus her friends, plus the friends of my 17-year-old son. Plus a 60-pound Golden Retriever who wants nothing more than to be friends.

In the first 24 hours, Latte hid behind a toilet. He hid under beds and behind and under couches. He yowled. He hissed when the dog came within 20 feet. He slapped at the dog, missed the dog and cut my leg with his razor sharp claws. He did nothing to endear himself to us.

In hindsight, we weren’t doing anything to endear ourselves to him, either. (Trying to pet him, talk to him, coax him out of hiding places, reaching for him, giving him run of the whole house . . )

I called my friend who arranged for the home visit/trial adoption and asked for advice. She said:

“Put all his stuff in one room – litter, food, toys. Then put a box in that room. Then put him in that room and close the door so he feels safe. Keep the door closed until he cries to have it opened. Go in to visit with him, but don’t try to touch him. Let him come to you. Don’t try to pet him or reach for him when he’s in the box.”

Some pet.

We did it. And we told my daughter to do it.

As soon as we put the box in the room, he ran into it. And went right to sleep. He was obviously exhausted from the transition. I don’t think he had slept in 24 hours.

Ginger reads to Latte.
Ginger reads to Latte.

Then my daughter sat down next to the box and read to the cat. For 30 minutes. He opened his eyes and stared at her. He seemed calmer.

The next morning, he sought a little interaction with us, meowing, purring and rubbing against our legs. We were excited. “Yea. He likes us.”

That lasted for about 90 seconds, and then he was back to the box and turning his head away when we spoke to him.

Still, we’d seen proof, however brief, of the sweet affectionate cat that his previous owner described him to be.

Latte has been with us now for more than a week. He is very loving and affectionate (for a cat) first thing in the morning. He’s cordial at night, seeking to be near us but not desiring any physical touch. During the hours between early morning and night, he seeks solitude, usually under my college-aged daughter’s bed – the room where no one lives most of the time.

He’s our pet on his terms, on his timeline. Maybe he’s not our pet — maybe we’re his family. For some reason, we all really like him. I believe the trial visit has turned into an official adoption.

Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love. That approach worked with a freaked-out cat whose entire world was turned upside down. I am trying to remember that as I interact with my kids, my husband, the clerk at the bank, the unfriendly neighbor . . . . .

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