What we can learn from SnowWhite, the cat

The misfortunate and heroic cat who taught me a lot about humans

You may have read about SnowWhite’s early years and the first major misfortunes in her life. But she made it, heroically, and survived everything against all predictions. You would have liked to hear — “and she lived happily ever after”, but unfortunately, she didn’t. There was no end to the obstacles which this creature had to face and overcome. So let’s go on with the story:

The next misfortune developed slowly

Cats love to hide under cars and when the motor is still warm they love to sleep on the hood. SnowWhite was no exception. Normally the cats run away when you start the car and they also run away when you arrive in the driveway coming home. I began to notice that SnowWhite became slow in these things. Once I almost ran over her when I didn’t notice her under the car, but she could flee and was safe. However, one day I saw her walking away and I heard a sudden loud noise like a gunshot. The other cats ran and hid, but SnowWhite continued walking along her way. That’s when I noticed that SnowWhite had become deaf. And she definitely was.

What to do when the auditive sense is lost?

Not hearing is a scary thing for cats, as it is for all animals. Now their perception is mainly reduced to their eyes, and the area of what they notice is reduced to what lies right before them. While the ears allow us to become aware of what is going on all around us, the eyes give us much narrower information. That’s why deaf creatures need to construct a safety net where they can see as much as possible. They won’t go too far away because they cannot perceive a threat coming for them from behind. So the best thing is to stay in a restricted, well known and safe space where little danger would be expected.

How SnowWhite met this challenge

A white cat like our SnowWhite: she lost her ear-tips and her hearing faculties

For SnowWhite a hard time began. She was not able to respond to the actions of others. But she was clever enough to find a strategy to keep herself safe and became the utmost QUEEN in the pet family, turning very aggressive with anyone around. She clawed whoever came near, she hissed and screamed — and she managed to be respected as the boss. That made sure that the other family members kept their distance and made a huge circle around her. They avoided her by all means when she was frustrated and ran around in a very bad mood. Nobody wanted to get in her way, not even the dog. She had managed to keep surprises and danger away by establishing her dominance. That didn’t work so well with us humans and sometimes she got really scared when I made some unexpected move, especially touching her from behind. I felt really sorry for her fear and panic whenever she encountered what could be perceived as dangerous and what she couldn’t predict.

Dominance as a security measure

A friend of mine who had moved with her Labrador into the neighborhood thought it would be a good idea to take over SnowWhite, so she wouldn’t have to bother about other cats. It seemed a good idea to me — but after ten days or so my friend brought her back saying that she would like to keep her dog around her. Why? SnowWhite had succeeded to chase the dog away, first to the next room and then to the far end of the house! And the dog wouldn’t come back to my friend while the cat was around,

The inevitable comes at the end

As an absolutistic queen, SnowWhite lived relatively in peace with us for a long time. Until — the cancer came back. The pure pink skin of white cats has no protection against the aggressive rays of the sun in Italy. Cats LOVE to bask in the sun and cannot be convinced to stay in the shade. SnowWhite’s ears were fine, but now the cancer took over her nose and literally ate it up. And then it expanded down to her lips in ways that it became impossible for her to take up food. There was nothing which could be done to help her. You would expect to cut away the cancer tissue, but in her case, there was nothing to cut. The cancer wasn’t growing on anything but caused the disappearance of parts of her face. This was the biggest and final misfortune of this brave cat who had met all challenges in her life with utmost success. Now the only choice left was to end her suffering before starving to death.

What could we learn from SnowWhite, the heroic cat?

SnowWhite was a great teacher for me, in very many ways.

  • She showed so many traits and behaviors which I believed were typically human. We are much more like animals than we would believe!
  • I also began to question the concept of being totally responsible for what happens to us in our lives — a New Age belief which became widely accepted. SnowWhite showed me that some creatures have a really hard life — without any obvious reason, while others are far more fortunate.
  • And ultimately I learned from her how to address challenges: “when they arrive, go right through them”. We need to do what is needed to keep us safe and live life as we meet it.
  • As humans, we might be able to not inflict suffering on others because of our misfortune or bad moods — but as far as I see, only very few humans are able and choose to do that. It is far more common with humans that the whole family has to undergo the moods of a member who, for some reason or other, feels deprived of something he/she had taken for granted.

Conclusion:

Cats, like many of the higher animals, are not just “cats”, but they have a very particular personality. There is no one cat like another. They might have many traits in common, but how they act them out in the world is not the same at all. It depends on their individual temperament and also on what they experience in life.

There is synergy between us and our pets

And the same is valid for us humans. Is this why we LOVE our cats and dogs because they are our mirrors and also can act out our traits which we as their masters don’t want to act out ourselves? We transfer our shadows to an animal who is working it out instead of us, ourselves — and when the animal behaves in unacceptable ways we can excuse it (or punish it) — instead of saying THANK YOU for what you did for me!

(Stay tuned for the story of Emma who took over my emotional load and died for me)