The Cat’s Tale

By Troy Headrick

So, for a while now, my wife has wanted a cat.  We live in a typical suburban, middle-class neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas, and almost everyone on our street has a pet.  Even though my wife grew up in Cairo, Egypt, a place where far fewer people keep domesticated animals, being around so many dogs and cats and their owners has rubbed off on my spouse.

In an attempt to find a furry friend, my wife has been trying to tame a feral cat in our neighborhood for the past couple of months.  She puts out food and tries to approach him.  She has even given him a name—“Mishmish,” the Arabic word for apricot, because he is the loveliest shade of orange.  Her attempts, so far, have been nearly completely unsuccessful.  Mishmish is still skittish and shies away from all human contact.

A couple of weeks ago, we heard, through the grapevine, that someone (a friend of a friend of a friend) was wanting to find a home for an ownerless cat that she’d been feeding on her patio for about a year.  Over time, the cat had become quite docile and would allow humans to pet her.  We contacted said individual and told her we’d be interested in providing this feline with a good home.  We made a plan and set a date for when we’d drive to her place and get the cute, meowing creature.

For the next few days, the woman would frequently send us videos, photos, and emails about the cat.  (She’d decided to call it “Bobcat” even though that name didn’t seem like a good fit.)  Her emails were full of Bobcat anecdotes and information about the cat’s eating, drinking, and sleeping habits.  We learned about her favorite foods and pooping routines.  After a few days, I knew more about the feline than I know about some of my own family members.

On the morning we’d scheduled to drive to her place to get the cat, I texted the lady and told her we were on our way.  Several days earlier, she’d placed a pet carrier, with the door open, on her patio, and Bobcat had taken to sleeping in it.  As a matter of fact, the woman texted me just as we were departing, that Bobcat was currently sleeping in the cage.  Everything was working out perfectly. 

After a twenty-minute drive, we arrived at the woman’s apartment complex and were informed that Bobcat wasn’t around.  According to the story we were told, a man in a nearby apartment had started working on his car and had made noise during his repairs.  Hearing the racket, Bobcat had bolted from the carrier and was now nowhere to be seen.  To make a long story short, we left without the cat.

This was very suspicious.  A number of questions immediately came to mind.  Why did we not see anyone doing car repairs upon our arrival?  Why had the woman not simply closed the carrier door as soon as I told her we were on our way?  Once the cat had disappeared, why hadn’t she texted us while we were in route?  She could have easily saved us a trip.  In the end, just before leaving her place empty-handed, the woman apologized profusely and promised to text us as soon as the cat returned.  It’s now been seven days and still no text.

It didn’t take a genius to see that the woman had changed her mind about giving us the cat but hadn’t been brave enough to tell us the truth.  (Ironically, she works as a psychoanalyst, a profession that helps people look inward, find the truth, and then find a bit of healing in the process.) 

The moral of the story is this.  Honesty is always the best policy.  We certainly would have understood that she’d had second thoughts; we all change our minds about all sorts of things all the time.  There’s no sin in that, and there would have been no sin in this situation either.  Instead, rather than simply leveling with us, she had created an elaborate story that was terribly transparent.  (And she gets paid quite handsomely for seeing through people’s elaborate fabrications.  Does she not realize that others have this same capability whether they get paid to do so or not?)

And the moral of the story is this.  This is how people end up spinning great webs of untruth and then get trapped in them.  What would the woman have said next had we texted her rather than waiting for her to do so?  What would her second story have been?  It would certainly have had to be at least as elaborate as the first one was, or would she have chosen to confess at that point?  Telling the truth might cause a short-lived discomfort but then the pain ends, and one feels that a heavy load has been lifted from one’s shoulders.  Piling untruths on top of one another compounds this discomfort.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.   

47 thoughts on “The Cat’s Tale

  1. Hello, Troy!! This one got me good, lol 😂 Don’t give up on your feral cat!!! I spent MONTHS with a one eyed feral cat we call bandit. Couldn’t get anywhere near him. He would run away or, if I was bringing his food out to him, hiss and growl this awful low pitched warning as I was putting his bowls down. I just kept talking to him every day, twice a day bringing his food and moving him ever closer to our house. After about 6 months, on one fine day, I put the food dishes down and kind of just stood next to the food not budging an inch (I had been slowly moving less and less far away) and our grumpy one eyed bandit got brave and cautiously approached grabbing a bite of food. I just stood there and didn’t move till he finished. About two weeks later, when this was all normal, I reached down to touch him…hisssss, growl, etc…we went on like this for a while. To make a VERY long response shorter, now he lets me pet him all day, rolls at my feet, comes running for me when he hears my voice. He has come in to our house as if he owns the place🤗 Totally worth the time and patience.
    The humane society has a program TVNR or trap, vaccinate, neuter and release. We did that for Bandit (most stressful 24 hours of my life) to make sure his eye was ok and he was not making more feral kittens. He didn’t love it but we wanted to help him and he is so much healthier now.
    Feral cats are wild animals for sure. Bandit had never, in his 6 years, been touched by a human in kindness. Bring that love and patience to him has been such a joy in our lives. Tell your wife to not give up!!
    Thank you for posting and sorry for the super long response!! 😆💙

      1. Hi, Vivi. You are absolutely right. I grew up with cats–was owned by all of them. They are lovely and very interesting creatures. They are “dog people” and “cat people.” I’ve always been the latter. Thanks for the comment.

      1. I know what you mean; our little lady was not socialized when we met her and now she owns the house. It’s amazing how far love and respect can take you.
        Thank you for sharing the story 🖤💗

    1. Hi, Danielle. It’s great to hear from you and thanks for sharing your Bandit story. It is amazing how strong my wife’s love is for Mishmish despite that fact that he does very little to encourage her. He is exceptionally cute though. I grew up in a rural setting, surrounded by all sort of animals, some wilder than others. Mishmish is a tough case! (He has no idea how determined she can be, though, once she gets an idea in her mind, but I know!) He will sniff her fingers from time to time but that’s about it. He seems to have adopted our backyard as something of a “home,” but being a young male means that he wanders a lot and sometimes disappears for a day or so, so he something of a feline “hobo.” We’ll see what develops. It’ll be an interesting project. Take care and stay in touch.

  2. This tale speaks a lot about human nature and how speaking truth is really hard even if all know one is making stories , there is another problem with making stories you have to remember them live them as if they were real .

    1. Yes. Yes. I totally agree that the truth is sometimes difficult to share and difficult to hear. I’ve learned, though, that the pain that can come from telling the truth is short-lived. On the other hand, not telling the truth can long haunt the teller.

  3. There’s no shortage of cats looking for homes and no shortage of psychology professionals who are insecure. She lied to you because she was afraid of your reaction to her keeping the cat. Given the behavior she has probably seen in her clients, many of her clients would have reacted negatively and even obnoxiously and it was a risk she couldn’t take. Her data set is skewed towards the unreasonable.

    If 70% of people would be ok with something but 10% will give you a holy ration of shit for it and 20% will just quietly resent it, you have to decide how much you fear that 10%. Even the risk of that 20% is important if you are worried about what people think of you. Most people have a need to be “liked,” even in casual, nonrepeatable, encounters. You don’t know who is who, so you lie to everyone to be safe.

    Kind of a variation of the “kill ’em all and let God sort it out” approach to life.

    And to satisfy your emotional needs, you lie to yourself about the transparency of your claim because you still have “plausible deniability.” You have a defensive position if you are attacked.

    OTOH there are plenty of people who would simply say they’d decided to keep the cat for themselves. They have prepared for an argument and if you got all huffy about it they’d tell you to blow it out your ear.

    The people I want around me are the ones who’d proactively call me up the let me know they’d fallen in love with the cat and I needn’t waste the trip. They place a value on my time, don’t make assumptions in advance about my level of reasonableness, and have the confidence to handle any response. Those people are rare. Fear and hostility of/to the unknown are deeply rooted in our amygdalas and real-life experiences with nasty people just reinforce those feelings. Empathy and confidence in the face of the unknown are less common.

    1. The experience we had with this individual reinforces my belief that human beings are absolutely the most complex and interesting creatures in the animal world. I just love observing people, studying them, trying (often unsuccessfully) to get into their heads.

      I absolutely agree with your last paragraph. Like you, I am drawn to the sort you describe. By the way, there are many ways to tell the truth. One can do so tactfully and diplomatically or one can be blunt. Having written that makes me wonder. Was she afraid of our reaction or is she the sort who has trouble speaking with tact? Perhaps she was more scared of how she might speak than how we would hear her words?

      Thanks, Fred (Au Natural). I always learn from your comments.

  4. But it is hard to let go of a pet that you cared for for so long. You should have got the hint when she overly described the cat. She was definitely fond of it. Hope your wife finds what she is looking for 😊

    1. Actually, her constant posting did send up a red flag. I wasn’t entirely surprised when she balked at giving us the cat. We are talking about getting a cute kitten.

  5. I’m sorry you didn’t get the kitty 😢 I’m sure she probably feels terrible about lying, but hopefully the cat is living in a wonderful, caring home, which is ultimately the goal.
    I hope you’re able to find another fury friend, and/or that your wife is able to the feral a friend 🖤

    1. You are right. The aim is not who the cat lives with. It’s that the cat is taken care of. I think we will eventually get a kitten. We’ll be doing some international travel soon, so we’ll likely wait until we return.

  6. You make a great point about how getting trapped into interminably maintaining a web of lies by attempting to avoid short-term discomfort. One could make a great Utilitarian argument for honesty based on that insight. It’s so easy to forget about why lying is ultimately worse, even from a selfish, comfort-driven motive!

    1. Absolutely, SeekerFive. That’s a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way. Those “hard lessons” often end up being the most transformational though.

  7. Feral children are worth the work – half of our indoor cats were feral.
    I think people panic, and so they lie. It’s easier to “rationalize” a lie (Kitty was scared away) than it is to own up to (I’m going to miss this part of my life). Especially now when we’re still struggling with this pandemic, and even the smallest bits of emotional comfort seem blown out of proportion. I’m guessing she hadn’t realized how much she needed that interaction, but was afraid you would laugh at her, or worse, take the cat by force. Just because she’s in the business of helping people, doesn’t mean she isn’t needing some help herself. There was an article in the Washington Post yesterday along those lines.
    Maybe, despite you and your wife’s disappointment, you can reach out to her and see if she’s OK? Start by asking for help in socializing your feral? Be the dose of kindness, and step over the lies.

    1. Hi, Liz. I think your analysis of the situation is spot on. As a matter of fact, I’ve come to the same conclusions myself. It’s likely that she discovered that she couldn’t handle the truth and less about her thinking about us not handling it. How have you been, by the way? I hope well and happy.

  8. I agree Troy – honesty is the best policy. I’ve often wondered if we have a poor definition of what kindness is. This idea that we shouldn’t upset people. That we should always be nice. Of course we can’t control how other people feel or react to what we say. If you ask me honesty = kindness. We can deliver the truth compassionately but things still need to be said. In the long term this is always the kinder thing to do.

    1. It’s a lot about style when telling the truth. A person can be honest and tactful and diplomatic or a person can be honest and caustic and blunt. The former is kindness as you defined it; the latter can be hurtful and thus unkind. Thanks, AP2, for your comment. They are always extremely insightful.

      1. Agreed. No one accepts rocks that are hurled at them. They either duck and hide or throw them back. The truth should be delivered, but done so with diplomacy and tact. Cheers Troy.

  9. Hi Troy,
    We’ve taken in three over the years, one from a shelter, a stray who came to us and a newborn found on our doorstep. Adoption is a commitment by both cat and human, and with love its fulfilling for both. Two two who passed had 17+ wonderful years with us. The third is still early in his journey.

    Just remember, cats have brains and feelings. They, like many creatures, understand far more than we credit them, and they can sense things that we cannot. Watch for the often subtle signs. In our experience, the more you treat them as a friend and companion, the more they will give to you.

    1. Agreed. I grew up in a rural setting and learned early on about the intelligence of animals. My wife is lavishing so much love on Mishmish that I’m in the earliest stages of jealousy. She is actualy starting to refer to him as “her boy.” Very funny. And humorous to observe.

      1. I was suburban kid, but my wife spent decades in rural Maine before we met, and has a way of listening to her cat (formerly 3, now just 1) that is rather remarkable.

      2. Her background sounds similar to mine. Because my family was unstable, I spent years living with my maternal grandparents who lived on a Central Texas ranch. I grew up around every farmland animal you can imagine and we probably had 20 to 30 cats on our property. We even raised some exotic animals. Because of those early years, I feel that I connect with animals well too. My grandfather actually could call the animals and they’d come running. It was a great way to grow up.

      3. Absolutely, she lived for part of her teens with grandparents in upstate Vermont. I grew up with grandparents in Louisville, KY. She had lots of animals around, I didn’t.

  10. We, my husband and I, leave the feral cats outside. We feed them and, if one is in a mood to be petted, we do that too. However, two of our three inside cats were once feral kittens. That’s a whole other story though. Our oldest cat is one we got at the Dumb Friends League. I recommend the Dumb Friends League because you don’t have to worry about diseases and they take care of the cat being fixed.

    1. That’s amazing! There’s a place where you live called the “Dumb Friends League.” Really? That’s likely one of the best names for an organization I ever heard. I know I didn’t say much about your cat adventures. But, shoot, what a name for an organization!

  11. Good lesson about what kindness really means (in this case, telling you the truth that she changed her mind and didn’t want to give you the cat, rather than making you drive out there). I’m sorry you didn’t get the cat though.

    1. There are lots of cats in the world! We are both adults. Did she think she would crush us by deciding to keep the cat? I hope we don’t come across as that fragile. Thanks for the comment.

  12. “Honesty is the best policy”, a philosophy I try to observe at all times. Short term pain avoid long term discomfort and strained relationships. We can fixate on the negative outcome of telling the truth and neglect the long term problems caused by withholding it.

    Thank you for sharing.

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