Today’s article shares stories and lessons from my kitty-cat, Caviar.

To watch this week’s article with additional, bonus content on the Will You Grow Show, please click here and subscribe to the show here.

What’s your perspective about cats?

I’ve met a lot of people who either have negative thoughts about cats, or don’t know much about them. Even my Cuban brother, Angel, came from a cultural upbringing that defined black cats as bad luck. However, his cultural prejudice did a 180 after he came to live with me and my black cat, Caviar.

Getting out of Dodge.

When Angel was having a very difficult time in life, he needed to get out of his living situation in Wisconsin. So, he decided to take a sabbatical and move into a guest room down South. He got a job, and spent evenings at a nearby park, and allowed Mother Nature, prayer, and the Delilah radio show to work their medicine. When Angel came home to sleep, he would close his bedroom door, to “keep the riffraff out,” as he said, meaning my cats (I had three at the time). One evening, Angel got up to use the restroom, and when he came back to bed, he left the door open a crack. When he awoke that morning, he found Caviar, sleeping soundly on the bed beside him. He asked her, “What are you doing?” And, she just stayed curled up alongside him and winked. It was that morning, that Angel pet a black cat for the first time. And, much later, he remarked about the softness of her fur.

Then, things started to shift for Angel.

His heart began to open and heal. At bedtime, he’d say he needed to make sure and close his bedroom door, then next thing you know, he’d “accidentally” leave the door open a crack. And, after that, Caviar slept on Angel’s bed every night. Angel would say, “I just can’t help loving that cat, I tried! I don’t know what it is. My family would laugh at me, sleeping with a black cat! How am I ever going to not have her around when I have to leave?” Well, six months went by. Caviar would wait outside in the driveway for Angel to come home at night, or be sleeping on his bed when he arrived. The feral cats that I fed outside would sleep under his truck. And when it came time for Angel to move on with his life and move out of my house, he asked, “Do you have any pictures of Caviar? I want one for my wallet.” When Angel’s truck turned out of my driveway for the last time, I know there were many tears hidden behind his dark sunglasses, and nearly all of them were for Caviar. The black cat prejudice spell was broken, and he was emotionally healed from abuse.

Caviar changed a lot of people’s minds and lives, by being herself.

A small, black cat, her strength and capability was often underestimated. When she found me back in 2002, she was so ill that when I took her to the animal hospital, the vet recommended putting her down. “What’s the other option?” I asked. “You won’t want to do it,” she said. “What is it?” I asked. “Isolation for three months in a room by herself, oral medication and salve in her eye three or more times a day,” she said. So I bought the medicine, put her in a room alone with the window open and the screen closed, and came home from work during my lunch break to give her meds. That was the beginning of an incredible bond of trust between us. She was always freean indoor and outdoor cat, coming and going as she pleased, just like when she found me.

Relearning her catwalk.

A few years ago, Caviar had some health difficulties, which made it unsafe for her to be outside without a protector. So, she and I learned to walk together. I learned to lead, and she learned to follow. And, she taught me the importance of not only how to lead cats, but people. In the beginning, I would coax her and encourage her. I’d say, “Come on Cavi, you can do it!” And the more I coaxed, the more she stayed put, sat down, or cried “Neoooooooow!” I learned that she knew what I was asking of her, she knew that it was for her own good, and that the more I asked her, the more she felt afraid of failing and pressured to walk. So, I learned to tell her that we were going for a walk, carry her outside, and then I slowly turned my back to her and walked away, without looking back. In 30 steps or so, if she hadn’t caught up with me, I’d sit down with my back turned to her, so that she could catch up. When she did, she got a “Good Girl!!” with lots of pets, and then I got up and started walking again. And THAT is how we learned to lead and follow, without a leash or food treats.

Neighborly nuances.

This walking thing took our neighbors by surprise. No one expected to see a woman walking down the road once or twice a day with a cat in tow. This befuddled one of my male neighbors so much, as a matter of fact, that when I went to his mother-in-law’s funeral two years later, the very first thing he said to me in the funeral procession line was, “How do you make that cat follow you?” After looking deeply in his eyes, I realized his question was sincere, so I replied, “Ahh, YOU know you can’t make anybody do anything. She does it because she wants to, and likes it.”

Dog people.

Amazed dog lovers watched in awe as Caviar and I walked past. And when Caviar and I took our motor coach to the RV parks, we would walk together each morning and night, unaffected by barking dogs. The children flocked to her. Women cried as they remembered their favorite black cat, and men pointed and elbowed their buddies, baffled at what they saw before them.

More cat walkers.

Inspired by our catwalks, some of my friends with cats have learned to walk with theirs, and all parties are without leashes!

Be the change.

By Caviar and I walking our walk, we inspire people to shift their perspectives—about cats, about black cats, about women and cats, about single travelers, about the relationship between humans and cats, about connection, and trust. As the memory of Caviar remains in the minds of many, she continues to break barriers, transform misperceptions, heal emotions, and love without conditions. When she passed recently, she didn’t go without teaching me another lesson—one of the biggest in my life. It was this: that once the soul has left the body, we can contact it through the feeling of them in our heart—that feeling we always had for them. The love. That feeling we knew while they were here physically. It lives inside us, as the place we can now call home. I thank you, Caviar, for that indelible lesson!

What say ye?
Share your meaningful story with an animal companion! What lessons did he or she teach you?

Always with love,