Friday, August 10, 2007

Life Lessons From My Cat

Our loved ones provide some of life's best lessons. I've written about wife Margie and what makes a trader's marriage work. I've also written about daughter Devon and what she taught me about finding one's niche in life. Then there's son Macrae, who showed me the communications that are possible across cultures.

So now it's Mali's turn.

Mali is our calico cat.

Mali was neglected at birth by a Syracuse, NY shop owner and kept in a cage in a storefront. She received little attention or care. When she developed feline herpes, it went untreated and spread to her eyes. She was blinded as a result.

I heard about Mali from an angel of a woman in Syracuse who went out of her way to rescue animals in need. She saw Mali in the store and insisted that the owner surrender the cat. The little calico was taken to a vet and there she stayed in a larger cage, awaiting adoption.

But there were no takers for a blind cat. Truth to tell, Mali was not a great candidate for adoption. Her fur was not kept especially clean and her eyes had frequent discharges. There was concern that, because of these discharges, she could infect other cats with the herpes virus.

So when we were called about Mali--we had already rescued two cats from this woman--our leaning was to take a pass. We didn't want Gina and Ginger to possibly contract the virus.

But, I decided on my own--without telling anyone in the family--to visit Mali.

She was very small, and she had kitty litter in her fur. Her eyes were visibly damaged, and she sniffed loudly to check out her environment. When I held her, she purred louder than any cat I'd ever heard.

Here was a cat that wanted love.

We adopted Mali and she's done very well. The other cats have stayed healthy, and we added quite a friend to the household. Every night Mali tucks herself under the covers between Margie and me and sleeps with us. Her purring at night reminds me of that day I first visited her.

Mali's taught us several important lessons:

1) Make the Most of What You Have - Mali had very little stimulation early in her life. She was an active, curious kitten locked in a small cage. A big part of the reason she didn't keep herself clean was that she learned to use her kitty litter as a toy. She would scoop it in her paws and toss it around. Not exactly the most sanitary activity, but it was the only game available to her. She kept herself stimulated until a family came around for her. How many of us would have the presence of mind to avoid self-pity and create stimulation out of an otherwise barren environment? Mali demonstrated that it *is* possible to make the most of even the most limited situations.

2) Love Comes From Love - What convinced me to adopt Mali was not only her loud purr, but her sudden cleaning of herself when I held her. In her cage, she rarely washed herself. Once I held her, however, she began her ritual cleaning, furiously licking her paws and washing her face and sides. To this day, she grooms herself very well, but she most vigorously cleans herself when she's in bed with us. It is difficult to value yourself when you're neglected. But exposed to love, we feel loved, and that makes us love ourselves. Mali took care of herself once someone wanted to take care of her. How similar people are: We feel most special when we're special to others.

3) It's How You Compensate for Weaknesses That Counts - Mali is almost totally blind; she can only distinguish bright light from dark. Nevertheless, she has compensated with an excellent sense of smell and an uncanny sense of direction. When we brought Mali home, it only took her a few days to learn her way around our house. When we moved to a larger home, it similarly took her just a few days to figure out the layout. She navigates around furniture, sniffing, feeling with her whiskers and paws, and listening for sounds. Given little stimulation at an early age, she now craves stimulation and loves to have new people come to the home. As a result, she's an unusually friendly cat and receives loads of attention. By compensating for her weaknesses and limitations of upbringing, Mali has cultivated strengths.

Mali has been a true inspiration. She's a survivor--and a reminder that happy endings are always possible.

But every so often, she still tosses her kitty litter!


What Trading Teaches Us About Life

Life Lessons From a Personal Crisis