04 October 2014

What I learned about Jesus from the Mangy cat

I should start this post by saying I hate cats.

Like really.

I don't like them at all.

My Mom is allergic and we are dog people. Dogs you can train. They obey. They protect. They appreciate.  I'm a dog person.

For three years I've lived in Oxford, New Zealand. This tiny little farm town. Tiny is not dramatic, even people in Christchurch don't know where Oxford is.

But farm town it is. There are stray farm cats around, they occasionally mess around in the garbages and get shooed off our property. Just part of life here, nothing notable much about them.

Last year though one of the strays ended up having kittens on our property. Or at least very shortly after they ended up making home under one of our apartments. Within months we had a major cat problem. They were getting into our garbages, they'd run out at night and scare people, they'd get into the houses, they were just a nuisance. At leadership meetings they started talking about humane ways of "dealing with them."

Nothing ever got done, natural kind of took it's course and a bunch of cats turned into 3 or 4 that were still hanging around.

March of this year Soph and I were having lunch in the yard when one of the young cats, a skinny little red one got real bold. He started inching himself closer to our table. Sophie and I were done eating but had a few scraps left on our plates.

Soph is a cat person. Mostly Soph is just an animal person. We have an hour long video of her coaxing a wild seal pup into rolling over on it's back and letting her stroke it by the seas side once. (Yea...for real).  Let it go on record she made the first move...

Soph put her plate on the ground and made the clicking sound.

I don't know what that clicking sound activated in my head. Whether it was love, a scholars desire to learn, my stubbornness seeing a challenge but whatever it was I was done. This cat was suddenly...mine.

Our base has had a long standing No-Pet policy. My old mentor tried to make Soph and I get rid of a spontaneous gold fish we bought last winter but he only ended up lasting a weekend so we never had to cross that bridge. It's understandable, most staff are pretty seasonal, here for 6 months, gone for 6. We used to have a primarily American staff. No one actually lived here. I get it.

(But since I'm in confession mode, we also kept a snail for a few weeks last year...)

Anyways, to my cat. From that day on, occasionally I would throw a scrap or a bit of fat to the cat. About a week after building his confidence that I could be trusted I began to only give him bits of food on my front porch. He started realizing that was my home,  his source of food came in and out from that door.

In the mean time I started forcing myself to get over my fear of cats. My goal was to love that cat. I didn't know why. I still don't know what it is about him that solicited love, sympathy, protection?

It was about this time that he was starting to take up room in my heart that another guy came along to steal my heart all together. This one was a human though, Mitchell was the one who started calling him "Mangy Cat," and somehow when he said it it sounded loving and so it stuck. Mangy had a name.

About a week after he learned to come to the porch to be fed I realized he'd mostly stopped digging in our garbages. (Mostly...because c'mon guys he's just a baby).  Now when I would come to feed him I would stand on my step and say "Mangy be sweet." He would come and cuddle up against my legs and I would put his food down.

The next week I would sit down once I put his foot down. Forcing myself to be brave, risk those sharp little kitten claws and begging him to be sweet I decided to start stroking him. And it worked! This wild cat was letting me pet him! People starting joking; oh my gosh, Mandi is domesticating a feral cat! Grace who worked in our kitchen would give me tuna or scraps bound for the garbage because of expiration dates for him.

It just made me want to love him more. Shortly after that he started trusting other staff, Sophie could sit and he'd come over wanting a pet. He'd rub up against Mitchell wanting a stroke. The snowboard girls would coo over him, the boys made a sport of catching mice for him.

He would follow me to our backyard and watch while I hung up clothes. He would jump off the porch and come up to me if he saw me headed towards my front door. As one of the snowboard girls said, "He knows who his Mama is." Mangy trusted me. Sophie once dropped a shirt while doing laundry and he found it, carried it to his spot on the front step and curled himself up in it.  If that wasn't a sign of his territory the sudden disappearance of the other cats was. One night we saw Mangy on a death race chasing another cat off our property. He knows he gets fed and loved here and he's not about to share that.

It was a reluctant win for my case that we should officially keep the cat. One that we feed keeps all the others off our grounds is worth it. Unfortunately for Mangy being allowed to "keep" him means a very unfortunate surgery for him next week....I'm sorry about that buddy...

Mangy offering his comfort in exchange for mine yesterday.

I take it as a badge of honor that this cat trusts me. I don't know what it's been but a weird and random desire to love something small that hit my like a ton of bricks. I will still claim I'm not a cat person- I just love this one.

Maybe in the cheesiest of forms, Mangy reminded me of myself not so long ago. So desperate for love, to be held, to be feed, to be protected but so desperately scared. That happens to the best of us when we've been hurt. We pull away from people wait them to drop the food and back away.

But God's different. He's got something way better for us. I had something way better for Mangy than fighting the other cats for the scraps out of our garbage.
If that's not domestic I don't know what is...salad, cat food and energy drinks/ deodorant for my guy. 
Mangy was born a stray but he didn't need to stay one. I wanted him to be mine. I wanted him to belong to me, at least temporarily. I wanted to love him. 

It's a lot like how God feels for me. He's got such bigger, better plans for us. There's really no reason to keep fighting others for the scraps this world has to offer us when Our Father is offering us the best of the best. 

I just ran to my room to get my computer charger and there he was, cuddled in his make shift bed on my front step. More domestic than wild now- I got half an eye open and a bit of a head nod. Thanks bud- you just keep on being a cat. Eat. Lay in the sun. Enjoy being loved by me. 

And I'll do the same.

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