Life Lessons from a Tiny Old Cat

Sometimes life lessons come in unusual ways. I had the privilege of sharing my home for almost 12 years with an amazing cat named Raleigh who taught me many lessons I can apply to other areas in my life. She died two years ago tomorrow, so this blog is a way to honor her and share those life lessons.

  1. Make a good first impression: Raleigh walked in the room the night I went to meet her prior to adopting her, and she mesmerized me. She had a presence that drew all eyes in the room to her. She had me at hello.
  2. Don’t let fear control your life: Raleigh had been through a lot and had a lot of fears at first. The door buzzer, the vacuum, loud voices, sudden movements, thunder, Velcro … all of these things scared her. I admire the courage she showed, overcoming those fears one by one and becoming the confident lady she was later in life. I even saw her roar at the once-feared vacuum cleaner.
  3. Be a leader people want to follow: Raleigh’s nickname was The Empress. She had this regal air, and she was a bit bossy and determined to get what she wanted. However, she was a benevolent empress that her younger sister and I loved.
  4. Be gracious, without fawning over people: Raleigh liked having people over, although if it was a group she might lay low until people settled down a bit. She would come out when I hosted a family meal and greet each person, sniffing them and rubbing them, and allowing them to pet her but not to take it too far. Everyone was enamored by her.
  5. You can be tough and still be a lady: There was a movie called Steel Magnolias about a bunch of southern women who were a lot tougher than they looked. I called Raleigh my steel magnolia. She was a southern belle (she was even raised in Kentucky) and if she was a human she would have been sipping mint juleps with someone fanning her and feeding her grapes. She was also small, and in her later years so frail that it looked like a light breeze could carry her away, but she had a core of steel and was a real fighter, without ever losing her grace and elegance.
  6. Be yourself: Raleigh’s younger sister Coco was (still is) a pretty wild and crazy girl, who did things Raleigh had never even thought of doing. Raleigh would see some of those things and try them, but always with her own style. I laughed the first time I saw her bat down a tree ornament. She did it so elegantly, and looked so pleased with herself. Coco would have attacked it much more strenuously.
  7. Aging happens, but don’t dwell on it: Raleigh was almost 19 when she died, old for a cat, but cats don’t care about age. She knew that on days when her kidneys or pancreas were acting up she didn’t feel good, and she slept more as she aged, but she still played and still did what she felt like doing.  Humans are the ones that fret about aging and try to fight it. Raleigh just lived, and lived well, and made adjustments as needed.
  8. Don’t hold grudges: I had to give Raleigh subcutaneous fluids the last couple of years of her life, and especially at first I was very bad at it. I’d do a bad needle stick and it hurt her, and she’d cry out and take off. Other times it would leak and she’d get all wet, and sometimes she would bleed. Even when it went really bad and I’d cry or yell in frustration, she’d be on my lap cuddling five minutes later. She never held it against me.
  9. Look at the big picture: Probably 10-15 minutes out of each day she was submitted to atrocities – pills being shoved down her throat, the dreaded subcutaneous fluids, etc. The rest of the time she had a good life. All of our lives have unpleasantness and difficulty, but overall there is far more good than bad, and Raleigh knew that.
  10. Never give up: The night before she died, Raleigh was so weak that she could barely walk. She tried to jump up on the bed to cuddle with me and she couldn’t do it, and fell on the floor. I lifted her up on the bed, and she looked at me with a peeved look, jumped off the bed and tried four or five times, until she finally got on the bed by herself. Once she did it herself she curled up happily. Her determination inspired me.
  11. Love is worth the pain of loss: Losing her was very hard, since we’d gone through so much together over the 12 years we’d been together. I went out a month later and adopted another cat, because the joy far outweighed the pain of loss. I’m thankful for every day we had together.

About Pat Wolesky

I'm a renaissance woman in some ways. Professionally I do Web content management, knowledge management and communications. I also do watercolor painting, compose and perform music, do nature photography, and am the devoted slave to two cats and a moderator of the About.com Cats forum.
This entry was posted in Cats, General. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Life Lessons from a Tiny Old Cat

  1. If some one needs to be updated with most recent technologies then he must
    be visit this website and be up to date daily.

  2. Pat, I loved this. Cat teach us every single day. Would you like to guest post for Cat Wisdom 101?

  3. E says:

    Oh, how I loved the image of her being peeved at you for helping her up onto the bed. And how it must have broken your heart to see her keep trying, even though she did finally make it.

  4. Pat, what a lovely tribute. I also have tears in my eyes. What a special cat she was…and what a special person you are!
    Jessica (catosmama)

  5. Pat, I came here from the forum page (I’m Catgypsy). What a wonderful piece you’ve written. They do teach us so many lessons, don’t they? I have to wipe my eyes and blow my nose, this touched me deeply.

  6. Pat Wolesky says:

    Thanks Irene – she was a special lady and it was a joy to have her in my life.

  7. Irene Hansen says:

    Pat – what a truly beautiful tribute to Raleigh. I have tears in my eyes as I type. You have captured the essence of what loving her was like. I especially liked the part about aging. All cats should be as fortunate as Raleigh was to have led such a long and happy life with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *