I was the kind of little girl who was always bringing home stray animals. Then I would cry bitterly when my mother made me give them away, which she nearly always did. It was an early lesson in attachment.
When I became an adult, my lifestyle didn’t leave a lot of room for animals, so for a long time I didn’t have any. Plus, my husband was allergic to cats, so they weren’t an option.
When I left my husband and moved to northern California, I once again opened my home up to strays. But it didn’t take long to realize that living on the edge of a canyon with a forest behind was not a conducive place for cats. The food chain always triumphs.
So I decided, no more cats.
But the cats came anyway. There must be some pipeline among animals that lets them know where they can find a free meal. One day four half wild kittens showed up in the woodpile. Another time two kittens were foisted on me. If I didn’t take them I was told, they were going to the river. When I came back from India, my son had taken in a small gray cat.
Since the world is not full of eager people to take in stray cats, I keep them and feed them. And, often, they disappear.
I took it hard at first. I still take it hard, but I’m learning to let them go. Cats have their own minds and here on the hill, I can’t really think of them as belonging to me. They stop by and offer company and every day I realize may be the last time I see them.
More importantly, I’ve learned I can’t save them. Whatever fate or karma is theirs’ in this world, all I can do is give them shelter while they’re here and say a prayer for them when they go.
It’s all we can do for anyone.