When I brought home my cat Jacquez, age six months, he was about one-third the size of my older cat, Ben. I was afraid to let them play freely because they would start to scrap and I thought Ben might hurt Jacquez.
Jacquez did not share this fear.
He would come after Ben and do everything he could to provoke a tussle. Ben would eventually react. Jacquez would flip onto his back with his claws in the air as if he was saying, “Bring it on!”
Jacquez is fearless. You can see in his face that he is always planning his next crime. Ben, on the other hand, is far more tentative in his approach to life and even the ways he provokes Jacquez. Yet, Ben is much bigger and stronger.
After some thought, it occurred to me that their history is different. Jacquez was brought to a shelter as a young kitten because the family where he was born had too many cats. Jacquez had likely been petted, fed, and cared for both in his birth family and the shelter. He has probably never been in any real danger.
Ben was a stray. His family abandoned him on a road in the country in the dead of winter. How long he was at risk from cold, hunger and coyotes is anybody’s guess. Then he found his way to my sister’s home. He was hungry for food and starved for affection. From there he came to me.
Jacquez’s life had taught him to trust. Ben’s life had taught him to survive.
Before Jacquez, Ben was not a curious cat. He was happy to have food and warmth and a cat tree to get to the high ground.
The other day Ben was lying on the top of the tree when a loud noise occurred outside. Immediately, he was bolt upright, tail raised, ears perked, ready to run. Jacquez sprinted to the top of the tree to see what made that interesting sound. Then he licked Ben’s face. I almost imagined Jacquez saying, “Hey big buddy, it’s ok, we’re safe here.”
Jacquez is into everything, including my kitchen cabinets. I see Ben watching Jacquez jump up on the counter to explore. He used to just pace and meow at Jacquez. Sometimes, Ben jumps up there sometimes himself now. He is learning from Jacquez that the world is an interesting place and it’s safe to check it out.
He is learning to trust again.
What have I learned from Jacquez and Ben? We are not born with our fears. We learn them as survival mechanisms. So, it stands to reason that we can unlearn them. At least that is what I think.
What do you think?
Plain and Simple Advise
To unlearn my fears, I must understand where I came from and what I was trying to survive.