I could see the cat through the glass patio door, petitioning for breakfast. I had spent the night at my mother’s place, and because she was leaving early in the morning, she had asked me to feed the stray she had recently adopted.
Mugs, a Scottish fold, had been beautiful but bore signs of neglect. A piece of one ear was missing, as were most of his teeth. He looked malnourished and was missing patches of fur from his body and twice-broken tail. Tests revealed Mugs had been severely abused, and a veterinarian advised my mother he wouldn’t live much longer. Undeterred by the diagnosis, mom started Mugs on a regimen of supplements and high-quality food to make him more comfortable. She made a bed for him in her laundry room—complete with cat door from a previous pet—and lavished him with love.
Even though he bore the marks of a hard life, Mugs was dignified and carried himself with tenacity and class. He held his head high and walked as straight as his hobbled legs would permit. Most important, however, his neglect hadn’t destroyed his gentle spirit. Despite his difficult life, Mugs was pure, unconditional love and showed it with his purrs and head bumps.
The day I was to tend to Mugs was unusually chilly for Texas. I had an engagement to get to and hurriedly prepared his breakfast. When I finished, I grabbed the bowls, slung my purse over my shoulder, and flew out the door. Mugs was outside waiting.
“Morning, Mugs,” I said offhandedly while quickly setting the bowls on the concrete and rushing past him. “Eat heartily.”
As I strapped on my seatbelt, I saw Mugs slowly make his way to his meal. Backing from the driveway, I noticed he had sat down next to his breakfast but wasn’t eating. The cat looked at me with a kind of sadness as he watched me drive away.
Each of us needs love and courtesy every day. Maybe intentionally withholding such kindnesses from others is a kind of mistreatment.
I returned at dusk, surprised to see Mugs still seated by his untouched breakfast.
“What’s wrong, little guy?” I asked as I brushed by. “Not feeling well?” He looked at me—through me—the way cats do. Improbable as it may sound, I felt patience in his expression, the kind that comes from a loving teacher.
About that time, my mother drove up. I explained Mugs had sat by his uneaten food all day, not even moving to find a warmer spot.
“Did you stroke his head after you gave him the food?” she asked. “He won’t eat unless he gets a pat or two.” Mom glanced at Mugs. “After his head pat, he’ll look up at you and give you a smile of thanks. Can you believe it? An actual smile.”
She nodded. “After his pat, he’ll eat.” By then she was stroking Mugs. “He’s such a cutie, I just assumed that you would take some time with him when you fed him.”
But I hadn’t. I had hardly acknowledged him as I focused on my schedule. I realized Mugs had felt this rushed attitude because he needed love more than he needed food.
I crouched to stroke Mugs’ ears. His eyes locked on mine with such love, humbling me.
Lesson learned. We all need food to survive, but it always tastes better when served with love. But I discovered the lesson goes deeper still. Each of us needs love and courtesy every day. Maybe intentionally withholding such kindnesses from others is a kind of mistreatment. If we don’t feel loved and respected, we’re harmed emotionally. Without extending a kind of reverence to others, I came to understand, we miss an opportunity to be nurturing.
I remembered Jesus’ words, “Feed my sheep.” Perhaps he meant to “dish up” love, respect, and compassion. Feeding time, when viewed this way, is never-ending. We all need to be fed!
It took one loving cat to show me these important truths and place them in my heart.