Something crazy happened last weekend.
I went out to the garage to grab a tool, and I heard a commotion in the corner. I freaked, thinking it was a squirrel or something (not that I have ever seen a squirrel in my barren neighborhood that has no trees, but still…yes—it was my first thought). But then I saw it was a sweet little cat. It came up to me, and I called the kids out. The cat wasn’t afraid, and it allowed us all to pet it.
That’s a first for most animals with my kids. If you know my kids, you’ll understand why.
In fact, my 6-year-old immediately started referring to the kitty as “Tiger.” Boom. It had a name.
I didn’t think much more about it—our neighbor has a cat that wanders over sometimes. But this cat stayed. I mean, it hung out. It wouldn’t leave the garage. And it waited right by the door to the house, hoping to hop inside whenever anyone opened it.
Here’s the thing: I love cats. I am a total cat person. I’m probably going to end up a crazy cat lady. So there’s that.
Here’s the other thing: My husband is ridiculously allergic to cats, so we can’t have them in the house. Yes, I had a cat for 15 years who died recently, but my husband was immune to her. And only her.
So I couldn’t let this sweet cat into the house.
We left to run some errands, and the kitty was waiting by my front door when we came back.
After another few hours of it still hanging around, I did what I probably shouldn’t have: I fed it. It was meowing like crazy at me and seemed kind of skinny. So I gave it some food. It gobbled it down like it hadn’t eaten in a while.
And then it stayed some more. It slept on a table in my garage for the rest of the afternoon, and when it was nighttime and I finally had to close the garage door, I moved the kitty to a blanket-lined box on my front stoop.
The cat was still there when I woke up in the morning.
Petting the cat, feeling its sweetness and giving it kindness in return felt good. Seeing its bright eyes and beautiful coat was a pleasure. Watching my kids’ faces light up as they played with it was inspiring.
And here’s the part that kind of sent me into turmoil: Although the cat was so sweet, it stunk. It stunk like it had been lying in its own piss for a while. Which, it turns out, it had. When I went to say hello in the morning, I saw that the cat had pooped in the box it was still sleeping in. It smelled worse than ever.
Now, I was still on the cat’s side. I’m not going to kick you to the curb when you’re down. I’ll be friends with you even if you’re stinky.
But we had 3 pets die in the past 5 years, all of them with serious ailments that required major investments into their medical care. And I just decided to close my business in order to become more financially stable. Taking in a cat that wouldn’t be allowed to come inside was already a problem; I didn’t see having to cover its medical bills as a financially intelligent option. And all of a sudden I was dealing with this situation that was so seemingly innocent but was presenting me with a conundrum I hadn’t signed up for.
Why couldn’t the freaking cat just be cute and healthy and let us pet it for a while? Why did it have to bring up thoughts about finances, priorities and who deserved a warm bed more: my husband or the cat?
So I did something even shittier than feeding it. Even though it was meowing for food, I didn’t feed it. I decided that if it was still there that afternoon, I’d create a Go Fund Me account and see what I could do. And I’d feed it then.
We went out for a few hours that day. When we got home, the cat was nowhere to be found. Not a trace of it was still there. It had vanished into thin air.
You’re probably wondering why I’m going on and on about this stinking feline. And you might be singing the “Smelly Cat” song from Friends. That’s fine. I’m cool with that.
It’s just been killing me trying to figure out why the heck that cat came into my life and then disappeared like that.
My first instinct was to feel guilty. What if it got hit by a car or was really sick and that was its last call for help? If I had just given it one more serving of food it would’ve stuck around and I could have taken it to the vet.
My second thought was that maybe it did have a home to go back to, and because I didn’t feed it, it had the motivation to make the journey home. That made me feel a little better.
And then I really started overanalyzing and thought about what it meant that I am in this slightly desolate but forward-facing and promising financial situation and I was presented with an opportunity to do good with my money or save it for groceries, coming to the conclusion that the cat disappeared so I didn’t have to make the heart-wrenching decision to save the cat or protect my family from starvation.
Then this morning, I had a super clear epiphany. I heard the words come to me, as clear as a bell:
I was not yours to fix.
That phrase elicited a well of emotions and a brimming sense of peace at the same time. I’ve been working on establishing trust in my intuition in the past few months, a topic that we’ll get into a little later. And that phrase really hit a chord with everything I’ve been trying to do for the past several years and my personality that wants to have a hand in everything.
It was a good lesson in letting go. And prioritizing. And enjoying the moment.
And while I still expect the cat to magically appear whenever I walk out my front door, every trace of it has vanished.