Untitled – GROWTH Competition Submission


Photo courtesy of Google images



My experiences parenting abandoned kittens had been straightforward for years until I received my latest group. I had always found easy success with the socialization process; I’m very patient so I don’t mind sitting and reading silently as the cats get accustomed to my presence. Typically, kittens will gravitate towards a warm protective figure, and within an hour they have climbed up my shoulder and fallen asleep under my hair. This is why when I received a carrier of four feral strays fresh off the street, frozen in fear and hissing like snakes, I was caught off guard.


Attempting to carry out my usual procedure, I sat across from their open carrier with a book, hoping they would drift out to me. One hour passed. Nothing. Two, three. By then, the sun had set and the kittens were still stubbornly scrunched into one corner of the carrier. This prompted a new approach. I plated their nightly dinner and placed it at an equal distance between me and the carrier. The aroma immediately had them poking their noses out into the open. Then, I began to read aloud. Even at a low volume, my voice sent them flying back into the corner. I changed my tune, speaking slowly and softly to the point where my words were barely decipherable. It took a surprising amount of focus to control my breathing and keep the sound smooth, and the kittens still flinched at any harsh consonants or “s” syllables. Yet the kittens did clear the plate, and they continued to do so as I inched the plate closer to me at every meal. After a week, they were eating on my lap. At this point, I could pet them as they ate, but the moment the food disappeared, they went back to hissing. Progress had plateaued, and my faith in myself was wavering. Only when I was on the precipice of giving up did the first kitten begin to purr at my touch. 


The kittens’ development seemed to accelerate exponentially after this milestone. I was giddy with relief once all four kittens were adopted into safe homes, but I lingered on the way that I had nearly let self doubt ruin their futures. My patience, the virtue that I prided myself on the most, had not been as strong as I thought. The experience reminded me that the acquisition of knowledge is fluid; most of the best lessons emerge only after one overcomes a significant amount of adversity, and mastery of a single skill is impossible when the world is constantly developing. A willingness to be vulnerable by immersing oneself in the present seems to be the key to growing as a learner, and as a human. One can never become complacent in an ever-shifting world. In the end, these four riled up furballs taught me that vulnerability and courage can be one and the same.