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What an Ornery Cat Can Teach Us about Love


For a while I managed a cat rescue and adoption center a few days a week. That’s where I met Madonna, a fluffy gray and white feline with big gold eyes and a chip on her shoulder.

Each day at the center I’d let the cats out of their cages to stretch and play. It was a struggle to get Madonna back in her cage. She did not like to be touched.


In fact, she’d be perfectly happy if you left her totally and completely alone. Forever.


Madonna sat in her cage, cleaning her face, scowling at every prospective adopter who came into the shelter. It was nearly impossible to set up a visit because she pitched a fit each time we had to move her. There was usually a towel involved, and sometimes gloves.


Things were not looking good for Madonna.


Enter Mona


Then one Saturday Mona came in. She was gruff, curt, and wearing fatigues. Mona had survived a hard life. Her face was scarred. As I spoke with her, I realized her scowl amazingly mirrored Madonna’s.


Mona walked along the rows of cats, hands in her pockets, dark bangs covering her eyes. She stopped in front of Madonna’s cage. Madonna licked her paws indifferently.


“I want to visit with Madonna,” she said with finality.


I shared a glance with one of the volunteers. Part desperation, part disbelief. I swallowed audibly. “Okay, but you should know that Madonna is a little antisocial and does NOT like to be touched.”


Mona leaned toward the fluffy gray cat and confided, “Me neither, sister.”


I told Mona to have a seat in the visiting room, sparing her the sight of Madonna wrestled into a towel, kitty-burrito-style, for transport. I dropped the surly feline off, hissing, and closed the door behind me as I left.


Half an hour later, I realized I’d abandoned the pair in the visiting room. I panicked, fearing I’d find Mona dead and bloodied, Madonna standing triumphantly on her chest, fangs dripping.


Instead, I found Madonna asleep in Mona’s lap, one paw extended. She had been purring so forcefully that Mona’s right leg was damp with drool. Mona looked up when I entered. “I’d like to take her home now.”


Dumbstruck and not wanting to jinx the miracle, I retrieved a cat carrier. I paused, afraid of the explosion sure to happen when stuffing Madonna into the cardboard box. Even the most laid-back orange tabbies resisted this part.


But Mona lifted the drowsy cat slowly from her lap and placed her without fanfare into the box. With that, Mona and Madonna began their life together.


A few weeks later, Mona came back. My stomach bottomed out when I saw her. I was certain Madonna had shown her true colors and was being evicted.


Mona sat down across from me and slid a battered photograph across the table. She had clearly been carrying it in her pocket and handling it often. It was a picture of Madonna, snoozing in a sunbeam on the window sill.


“She’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I just wanted to say thank you for bringing us together.”


I promptly burst into tears.


Mona’s eyes welled up, too, and she brushed them away hastily with her fist. “She loves the window sill and I was wondering if you had one of those cat shelves I could hang up for her.” I did. I tore the price tag off as I handed it to her. Then I loaded a case of food and a big sack of litter into her car.


Finally I worked up the nerve to ask her. “What’s your secret? That cat hated everyone she ever met here.”


“Well, I let her be who she is. She wants to be left alone, so I leave her alone. And I love her as-is.”


Acceptance at Face Value


Imagine if we embraced this philosophy. If we let everyone in our lives be exactly who they are and loved them as-is. Ourselves included.


Do you love as-is? Or do you require a warranty?


Who in your life is begging to be accepted as-is? Who around you most needs to be loved and embraced for who they truly are?


Do you accept yourself with all your quirks and imperfections? Do you love yourself even with that chip on your shoulder?


Get out your journal and explore some of these topics in writing. Love as-is and acceptance at face value is easier said than done.


Practice in your journal, starting with you.

This heartworming story was originally published (and is used with permission) at 

–Dr. Jeff