February 27, 2023

Life Lessons from a Cat: Finding Grace During Loss.

Eleven years ago, one cold winter morning, I went out to feed my horses and do my morning chores.

I went into the horse shelter to pick up some poop, and a little black fluffy cat jumped 10 feet straight into the air and darted out faster than I could scream, “Oh, sh*t!” He scared me more than I scared him!

I left food out for him all winter. When spring arrived, he disappeared except when I saw him hunting in the hay bales high up on the hill in the hay yard. He had no interest in me. Summer came and left. As the winter chill settled in again, the little black fluffy kitty knew where to find his daily meal.

Taming a stray cat has never challenged me—especially when they are food motivated. It takes time, patience, empathy, and a deep desire to connect with that animal on a soul level. Something more than “Here’s your food. Now let me pet you.” It requires almost a spiritual awakening to presence, mindfulness, and respect. It takes practice and an inner knowing of how to read their body language and energy.

I’ve spent many evenings patiently and quietly waiting in the dark for a new acquaintance to lean into trust with me. It can take weeks, months, or even years of commitment to the purpose of connection. Along with the ability to recognize their needs and wants, I connect to their energy and trust the process no matter how long it takes.

My patience, kindness, and intuitive understanding prevailed. And one day, while he was scarfing up the unagi fish canned food that my house cat wouldn’t eat, I declared, “You’re my little Unagi kitty!” From that moment on, his name was Unagi. He was my new best friend. I called him my bubby because he followed me everywhere like a loyal dog. One night he followed me back to the house rubbing my legs, almost tripping me to my knees while purring so loud I could hear him a mile away. Finally, I got irritated enough that I reached down and scooped him up for the first time. He snuggled into my arms and purred all the way to the house. That was the night he became my first garage cat.

For 10 years, Unagi was my bubby. He kept the mice out of my garage and did an amazing job keeping the gopher population down. He was a great hunter. One day he brought me a baby wild turkey the size of a full-grown chicken. Last summer, he brought me four woodpeckers. He had to have climbed a tree to catch them. He would sit in the pickup truck with me when I watched the gate while feeding cows and drive to the mailbox on my lap. He went on my walks with me. And he sat by my side every night I stayed up late with a sick horse. When he wanted back in, he would jump up on the dog house and talk to me through the kitchen window. He was more than a bubby. He was part of the family. He was my support system.

I have no idea how old Unagi was when he first arrived in my life. I thought he was younger because he wasn’t a big cat, but he never did get any bigger. He was maybe 10 pounds at his heaviest; however, he was mostly fur. He always lost weight in the summer because he hunted from sunup to sundown. This past winter he put weight back on, but not as much as usual. Not totally uncommon for older animals—especially those living in the elements and cold of winter. I fed him separately from the other cats and gave him extra groceries. Unagi was a good eater, so on that cold January morning when he sat at his food dish of chicken in warm chicken broth, staring at it instead of inhaling it, I knew something was wrong.

I dove into my holistic toolbox and did everything possible, but his appetite did not return. I syringed him water and chicken broth. He didn’t eat on his own but would suck on the syringe like a kitten nursing. The vet said to smell his breath. I didn’t have to. His really stinky breath indicated what I already knew. Unagi had kidney failure. Something a lot of cats die from. Unagi was no exception. Knowing there was nothing the vet could do, I supported him with fluids, love, and microcurrent therapy. My other four garage cats took turns cuddling with him until he was gone. No drama. No pain. No suffering—just the normal life event that will eventually happen to all of us: death.

My dad used to say, “We are all terminal.” And we are. He also used to say, “Life is short. Always take time to pick the berries.” And I do. My berries just happen to have four legs.

In the end, that’s when grace becomes amplified with these amazing creatures. There is an elevated vibration of grace. Our connection becomes greater as we enter a new relationship where we help them go to the bathroom and hand-feed them. It is a necessary time to energetically and empathically tune in to their new needs and wants. There are blessings that we don’t always take the time to observe, but they are there. Even though they are transitioning, they are still showing us the way.

They are here to share life lessons that aren’t so obvious but profound. Their end of life is a time to listen on a deeper level and hold the space for them to transition. I have held the space for many animals over the years. Many were mine. Several belonged to clients. Some were euthanized. Others died on their own. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cow, horse, cat, dog, or human—everyone is different.

My experiences with animals living and dying taught me a lot. I’ve learned to hold the space, maintain faith, believe, listen, and be open to learning more. As a young child, I observed that animals know more than we do and do not always rely on the vet or other people’s influential words. I listen to my animals because I know them better than anyone else.

I listen to the calling of the animal spirit guides. They guide me to be more mindful of my energy and environment. It’s because of animals that I’m more self-aware. Every animal I have lost has strengthened and heightened my connection with the next one who comes into my world. My soul connection with animals is through subtleties and synchronicities. I pay attention. I ask for a sign and guidance and trust the process while being open to miracles and possibilities.

Our animals are on their own journeys. When they leave us, they’re ready for the next phase of their soul’s journey. These are the levels of energetic evolution that we have no control over the timing.

Since Unagi left this realm, another stray has shown up on the farm. Another sweet, young tom cat looking for a place to call home. He showed up scared and alone, but now he lets me pet him and rubs on my legs while I walk back to the house—just like Unagi used to do. Perhaps, he is the next cat to move into the garage and maybe Unagi knew it was time to leave to make room for the new guy. I believe Unagi knew he needed a home just like he did when he showed up over 11 years ago and he knew I needed a best friend.

Every day is a gift. Always take time to smell the roses, pick the berries, throw the ball to your dog, ride your favorite horse, and squeeze your cat, because life as we know it on this planet is short.


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