Forgiving Your Pet
My cat Lou is a pretty easygoing fellow. He travels with hardly a complaint (quite a marvel in the cat world) and enjoys snuggling like it’s his job. But he’s not perfect.
This morning, he tried to take off my foot. He didn’t succeed of course, but in an instant, he left four deep puncture wounds. It was not a playful nip. After an embarrassing yelp, I tried to keep the blood from getting on the carpet and my tears from pouring. Neither effort was successful.
Yes, I was in pain, but I was also feeling shocked and sad. Why would Lou do something like that when he’s never displayed violent tendencies (except towards his cotton mice) until now? My fiancé E. had a few guesses.
E. and I brought Lou on our road trip to North Carolina for the holidays. Although Lou was a champ in the car, I know that travel and a change of routine is stressful for cats. To add to the stress, Lou is staying in my parents’ house where another, older male cat rules the roost. We had vague hopes that the two felines might be friends, but we weren’t surprised when my parents’ cat hissed and carried as soon as he saw Lou. Since their initial meeting, we’ve been successful at keeping them separate. Lou stays upstairs while the other cat stays downstairs (which is his preferred turf anyways).
It seemed that Lou was adjusting well to his temporary home upstairs. He loves rolling around on the carpet (a nice break from our hardwood floors in our apartment), and he makes himself cozy on our bed.
But we know he must be confused and anxious. He’s in another animal’s territory—and since he was three-weeks-old, he’s never interacted with another animal.
Over the past few days, we’d noticed that he was treating my socks with suspicion (My socks probably smell of the other cat since I’ve been spending time downstairs, walking on the rugs where the other cat likes to play). E. and I figured this behavior wasn’t problematic—as long as the cats remain in their sections of the house.
Then this morning I wandered upstairs after breakfast, gave Lou a few pets after he rubbed my leg, turned to open the blinds, then wham.
E. thinks that Lou was viewing my foot as an extensions of my parents’ cat—or perhaps he was jealous. We can sit here and speculate about why Lou would attack me, but we will never know why exactly he bit me where and when he did. I understand that he was probably stressed and nervous, but beyond that I’m not sure.
I believe, however, that Lou was acting from instincts and responding to something in a way that was right to him. My job as a pet guardian is to pay better attention to any warning signs (like the socks incidents) and be more responsive (when possible). For example, spending more time playing with Lou could help ease his stress and safely exercise some of his more aggressive instincts. And I also must forgive him.
From peeing on the carpet to scratching your mother-in-law’s antique sofa to giving you a nasty bite, pets can do all sorts of upsetting things. Moving forward and continuing to foster a loving relationship with them requires forgiveness—even for the actions we don’t quite understand and the actions that physically and emotionally hurt us. In many cases, it also means looking for ways to better read and respond to your furry friend. Beyond feeding your cat or dog, how else can you provide for their needs? How can you show them love and forgiveness?
Also in Pets: 10 Natural Pest Prevention Tips for Pets
3 Do’s and Don’ts of Feeding Your Pet a Vegan Diet
6 Tips for Coping with a Loss of a Pet
Photo: Mary Hood