Want to become a better person?
A more assertive, self-confident, disciplined, pro-active person?
A kinder, gentler, more compassionate person?
Want to be more understanding of those around you, and how to nurture the relationships in your life better?
Get a pet.
I strongly believe that learning to care for an animal is one of the best ways to do all the above.
I have been in about a month-long relationship now with Tiger, a stray kitten I found at the Hang Tuah LRT station, who rode back home with me on a 20-minute ride in a crowded train at peak hours without a complaint. Every day he teaches me new things.
I know having a cat is a far cry from having a child, but the principle of caring for a living, breathing thing (with a mind of its own!) helps shed a lot of light on why my parents do / say what they do, and the reasons behind them.
Such as how much it really does hurt when you unintentionally cause harm. Read on for the first instalment of a series of posts I'm naming "Cat Diaries", that I will be writing weekly.
How silly mistakes hurt people
(Warning: Reading the following story is going to make me sound like a terrible cat owner - but before you point a finger at me, let's be honest, we often make silly mistakes and hurt the people in our lives, don't we?)
I was playing with Tiger, who, in his playful moods, finds everything and anything amusing, even pens and paper clips. I was teasing him with a glo-stick and decided to fix it around his neck. He looked adorable with the bright yellow stick contrasting against his dark fur.
My brother even called him "Disco Cat", which we both found highly amusing. He was totally unfazed at being decorated this way, and calmly strolled out of my room, seeking more interesting diversions.
Awhile later, all of a sudden, the most primal, horrific meows erupted from the living room. I ran out to find Tiger thrashing about on the floor, trying desperately to wriggle free from his 'collar', which had gotten stuck tightly in between his jaws. In his attempts to rid himself of the glo-stick, he had punctured it, and the nasty taste must have caused him to go wild.
It took some time to calm him down so we could remove the stick, but by the time that ordeal was over we were left with bruised corners of the mouth, oily yellow fluid smeared everywhere, and one very subdued kitten.
I felt like the most horrible person in the world.
To think I had unwittingly found amusing something that would cause so much trauma! How much different did that make me from someone who could find torture amusing?!?
And to think of the warning signs I should have taken into consideration - we had previously tried to get Tiger to wear a collar, which he resisted immensely and even when it was on, he acted so miserable and aggressive that it would have been cruel to keep it on. Also, my mom, upon noticing "Disco cat" strolling through the living room, had warned me to take it off or he might choke. At the time, he had seemed so calm and looked so adorable that all these things didn't cross my mind.
What a thoughtless person I was!
What followed was excessive pampering and profuse apologies to a very miffed kitten who just ignored me, walked away, and jumped up beside my brother. They say a cat has a very good memory, and if my own memories of all the times I felt unfairly treated by my parents were anything to go by, I was afraid this would be the beginnings of a very deep resentment my cat might harbour towards me.
Thankfully, by night, he was snuggled up back in his favourite spot - my bed, of course, and the next morning, I was woken by the same low purring demanding to be 'manja-ed' before getting ready for work. (If only humans were as forgiving.)
I learnt an important lesson from that experience. How a thoughtless action that may seem amusing at first can easily turn into something very hurtful. It could be a small gesture or remark that may not seem like a big deal, and maybe even funny - but we could unintentionally be causing a lot of harm by it.
So let's be more thoughtful about our actions, words - and what we let ourselves be amused by.
P/S - I Googled "pets swallowing glo-stick liquid" and found that many pets and even children have accidentally ingested the liquid and that the quantities present in one glo-stick is not toxic enough to do significant harm. (Phew - I'm not THAT terrible a person after all. But still! Don't give glo-sticks to babies or animals!)
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