What an Ornery Cat Can Teach Us About Love

by | Blog | 15 comments

For a while I managed a cat rescue and adoption center a few days a week.

That’s where I met Madonna, a fluffy gray and white feline with big gold eyes and a chip on her shoulder.

Each day at the center I’d let the cats out of their kennels to stretch and play. It was a struggle to get Madonna back in her kennel. She did not like to be touched.

In fact, she’d be perfectly happy if you left her totally and completely alone. Forever.

Madonna sat in her kennel, cleaning her face, scowling at every prospective adopter who came into the shelter. It was nearly impossible to set up a visit because she pitched a fit each time we had to move her. There was usually a towel involved, and sometimes gloves.

Things were not looking good for Madonna.

Enter Tegan

Then one Saturday Tegan came in. She was gruff, curt, and wearing fatigues. Tegan had survived a hard life. Her face was scarred. As I spoke with her, I realized her scowl amazingly mirrored Madonna’s.

Tegan walked along the rows of cats, hands in her pockets, dark bangs covering her eyes. She stopped in front of Madonna’s kennel. Madonna licked her paws indifferently.

“I want to visit with Madonna,” she said with finality.

I shared a glance with one of the volunteers. Part desperation, part disbelief. I swallowed audibly. “Okay, but you should know that Madonna is a little antisocial and does NOT like to be touched.”

Tegan leaned toward the fluffy gray cat and confided, “Me neither, sister.”

I told Tegan to have a seat in the visiting room, sparing her the sight of Madonna wrestled into a towel, kitty-burrito-style, for transport. I dropped the surly feline off, hissing, and closed the door behind me as I left.

Half an hour later, I realized I’d abandoned the pair in the visiting room. I panicked, fearing I’d find Tegan dead and bloodied, Madonna standing triumphantly on her chest, fangs dripping.

Instead, I found Madonna asleep in Tegan’s lap, one paw extended. She had been purring so forcefully that Tegan’s right leg was damp with drool. Tegan looked up when I entered. “I’d like to take her home now.”

Dumbstruck and not wanting to jinx the miracle, I retrieved a cat carrier. I paused, afraid of the explosion sure to happen when stuffing Madonna into the cardboard box. Even the most laid-back orange tabbies resisted this part.

But Tegan lifted the drowsy cat slowly from her lap and placed her without fanfare into the box. With that, Tegan and Madonna began their life together.

A few weeks later, Tegan came back. My stomach bottomed out when I saw her. I was certain Madonna had shown her true colors and was being evicted.

Tegan sat down across from me and slid a battered photograph across the table. She had clearly been carrying it in her pocket and handling it often. It was a picture of Madonna, snoozing in a sunbeam on the window sill.

“She’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I just wanted to say thank you for bringing us together.”

I promptly burst into tears.

Tegan’s eyes welled up, too, and she brushed them away hastily with her fist. “She loves the window sill and I was wondering if you had one of those cat shelves I could hang up for her.” I did. I tore the price tag off as I handed it to her. Then I loaded a case of food and a big sack of litter into her car.

Finally I worked up the nerve to ask her. “What’s your secret? That cat hated everyone she ever met here.”

“Well, I let her be who she is. She wants to be left alone, so I leave her alone. And I love her as-is.”

Acceptance at Face Value

Imagine if we embraced this philosophy. If we let everyone in our lives be exactly who they are and loved them as-is. Ourselves included.

Do you love as-is? Or do you require a warranty?

  • Who in your life is begging to be accepted as-is? Who around you most needs to be loved and embraced for who they truly are?
  • Do you accept yourself with all your quirks and imperfections? Do you love yourself even with that chip on your shoulder?

Get out your journal and explore some of these topics in writing. Love as-is and acceptance at face value is easier said than done.

Practice in your journal, starting with you.


  1. Kim Mailhot

    I love this post so much. My biggest job is loving myself, as is…I am going to do my best to be like Mona today.
    Thank you for this.

  2. Eden

    I almost didn’t read this post, because well…..I don’t really like cats and well, it’s gonna be all about cats. But OMG I am so glad I rclicked to read this post, it’s so inspiring!! And yes, I need to love some ppl out there “as is”… (myself included)….Thank you for the reminder!

  3. iHanna

    What a story teller you are Kristin! Thanks for sharing your beautiful story about this cat and her new owner, it is beautiful. Smilla is adopted too, from a couple that couldn’t keep her because their other cat hated her because she was to playful and that cat was old and grumpy.

    Take care!

  4. melydia

    What a sweet story! Reminds me a bit of my husband’s cat, Ryo-ohki. A lot of people don’t like cats because they expect them to act like dogs, but if you let them be who they are, they often reveal a very loving side.

    The same with people, really.

  5. Jessi

    I am always amazed that each of your posts, including the weekly big dig always fits into my life perfectly. I have a larger problem accepting myself as-is, I like to be alone most of the time too and other people don’t understand that. Thanks for your posts, it seems like you’re reading my mind without me even knowing it’s on my mind. 🙂

  6. Tom

    It takes a lot to bring a tear or two to my eye, but this one did it. And I don’t even like cats. Thank you.

  7. Kim

    Oh my gosh, this makes me all weepy and happy. I’m so happy for Madonna and Mona! And realized that I have learned this lesson about letting people be who they are in my life, which is a big part of why I’m much happier now! Not so much in the past when I tried to make things go how I thought they should be. We can learn so much from Mona’s take on life.

  8. Laura

    *sniff* purrrrrfect post. Just what I needed to read.

  9. Antoinette

    Beautiful lesson, thanks so much for sharing.

  10. Kristin

    Thanks for the feedback, you guys! Seems lots of folks have had a special feline in their lives. I used to be a “dog person” too, but Miss Nevadelia Lotus Blossom won me over. Now I’m just an animal person. 🙂

  11. Scott Bergman

    Great article! I’m not really a fan of cats, but I really enjoyed the story, it left me smiling.

  12. jess

    why doesn’t everyone have to announce when they don’t like cats? I like them but thought this was very cute regardless 🙂

  13. C

    I love this post! It’s so touching. It’s often contradictory the way we expect our loved ones to be as we want them to be, yet we want them to accept us the way we are. I’m definitely going to think about this a little more now. Thank you!!!

  14. Sarah

    Thank you, Kristin, for sharing this story. This will surely help me as I volunteer at the shelter.

  15. Jan

    This story touched me sweetly in a tender place. It was a timely reminder too, for me to love myself, just as I am and to be more self forgiving.