When You Are the Bitten Hand That Feeds

Meet Cinnamon and Turbo, two of the sweetest felines you could imagine.

I do not see them as pets. To me, a pet is something you own and control.

Owning and controlling a sentient being does not interest me.

I see Cinnamon and Turbo as companions, and treat them as such. The bonds humans can have with other animals can be every bit as meaningful and precious as bonds between humans.

All sentient beings can tell on a fundamental level if they are being loved, threatened, or exploited, and within the limits of a being’s conditioning, it responds in kind.

(Meaning some beings, including humans, are conditioned to expect exploitation and conflict, so their responses to love may be skewered until reconditioning occurs through prolonged development of trust and sense of safety.)

Seeing and treating Turbo and Cinnamon as equals makes it possible for us to have an extra-special, mutually synergistic bond.

Like with any relationship, it’s about giving and receiving. They are domesticated cats who were declawed before they came into my life, so it’s important for me to utilize logic and solid judgment to protect them from dangers they may not fully comprehend.

They rely on me for food and protection, and I rely on them as my comforters and confidants.

Something intriguing happens when you speak to non-human animals. They can understand you. I do not think they understand the language you are speaking (other than learning certain words through repetition), but it’s like they can sense the meaning, energy, and intention behind the sound vibrations of your voice.

Since cats do not have frontal lobes, where most of humanity’s inner dialogue and multi-tiered thought processes come from, they may actually understand us on a purer level than most humans would. I mean, when you’re talking to a person, chances are solid that they are thinking of the next thing to say before you even finish your thought. If they’re doing that, then they’re not taking you in as deeply as a well-loved, trusting cat might.

Then again, talking to a cat when they are hungry or in a heightened state of anxiety may produce similar results as a conversation with a human ego.

It’s funny. I didn’t intend to write all of this. None of this so far gets at the initial point of this article, but it seemed important to touch upon, especially because of a current situation in Lansing, MI, in which 53 pit bulls were seized from a local dog fighting ring.

The dogs were initially expected to be ordered euthanized by a judge. The court date was yesterday, but a decision was not reached. The next court date is September 6.

This is good. People stepped up. Lots and lots of people, me included, stepped up and made their voices heard. Euthanizing those pit bulls is unacceptable.

Though I have not met those 53 pit bulls in person, their lives matter to me as much as sweet Turbo and Cinnamon’s do.

Imagine being born into this world, and being beaten and abused by those you trust and feel most loyal to. Maybe you don’t have to imagine. Maybe that’s been your actual life.

(If so, I am extremely sorry if these words are cutting.)

Next, imagine that the ones who forced you to fight get taken away, locked up.

You get thrown into a kennel somewhere, while your fate is decided by outdated, inequitable laws that treat you like your life doesn’t matter simply because you have done what you were programmed to do.

But then imagine how you’d feel if you were one of those pit bulls, and after everything you’ve been through, someone stood up for you. Some loving, patient, understanding, empathetic person took you in, and taught you what it means to heal and flourish.

I know that there is more to it than what I’m describing here. I understand that rehabilitation is not easy and instant. The right thing is not always easy, but it’s still the right thing. The right thing is always worth the effort, even if it takes a lifelong commitment.

Which brings us back to Turbo and Cinnamon, the cats.

The head of my bed is adjacent to a large window with a ledge. Naturally, that ledge is a favorite scenic spot for the cats.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I receive awakenings most rude, when neighborhood cats make their way to the bushes outside of that window. The result is the most disturbing and hateful version of Romeo and Juliet you’ve ever heard.

Turbo (the grey one), a mild-mannered and quite shy fellow by default, starts producing noises that could best be described as an army of demon-possessed babies singing death metal.

The first few times I woke up to that, I was for a moment filled with panic and fear.

After a while, it became less disturbing and more amusing.

When this happened a few nights ago, I reached up to close the window (sleeping with the windows shut would solve the whole issue, but the fresh night air makes it worth the fuss), and Turbo bit my hand. Hard.

Which was unexpected because it was unprecedented, but also understandable. I do not know the exact dynamics of what causes him to go into Army of Darkness mode, but it’s obviously an instinctual process that overrides all else. A fight-or-flight state.

I cursed and recoiled, then grabbed a pillow to prod Turbino away from the window so I could close it.

That was the first time Turbinson inflicted physical pain on me. He left four well-sized teeth marks in my left hand. It looks how I’d expect a snake bite to look.

Throughout all of that, I reassured Turbs that I love him very much. I did not judge him for his violence, nor did I seek vengeance. I simply did my best to understand and be loving.

Which brings us to a few moments before I started writing this. It was a little after 5:00 am, and Turbo took notice of a feline visitor. He started freaking out as usual, enough to wake me up, but then he stopped himself. He looked at me. Peered back out the window. Back at me again. Then he hopped down from the ledge and let it all go like a zen master.

One of my favorite aspects of having feline companions is the philosophical stimulation. Observing interactions in a multi-cat household is truly a sociological marvel. Cats have social order just like humans do, and where it gets most intriguing is when our social orders combine.

We’re a family. We’re a tribe. We look out for each other, and learn from one another.

By observing relationship dynamics within my local tribe, it’s possible to develop a greater understanding and sensitivity to the needs of the global tribe. Even the cosmic tribe, if you prefer.

Sometimes in life, we get bitten. Sometimes stabbed, shot, or nuked.

These are poor reasons for retaliation, vengeance, and hatred.

Others bite, stab, shoot, and blow us up for reasons not all that different than Turbo taking a chunk out of my hand.

We’re all just trying to survive, and do the best we can with what we’ve been given. To do the best we can within the limitations of our own beliefs, experiences, and programming.

And damn it, we can change.

Why do you think Turbo handled his Romeo and Juliet from Hell skit differently today than he has every other time? He altered his approach. He changed.

What if I’d been less understanding? What if I bit him back? What if I feared and hated instead of loved?

We’ll never know, because I’m never gonna play it that way. Not with Turbo, not with any life-form in the world. Not with people who want me dead. Not with Donald Trump or Kim Jong Un, or a bear I encounter in the woods or Bigfoot.

Love works. Understanding works. Empathy works.

These are the catalysts for peace at home, and harmony everywhere.

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