The sound was as irritating as it was loud -- extreme on both accounts!
As my Keeshond, Shatzi, and I sat in an exam room, awaiting the vet, we became increasingly agitated by the ear-drum splitting sound of a kitten's harsh "Meeee-OWWW! Meeeee-OWWWWW! Meeeeeeee-OWWWWWWW!!!"
Shatzi began to pace, then whine, and then scratch at the door. I (an auditory learner who overloads at the sound of a tapping pen, let along an incessantly yowling cat) considered making a run for the car and coming back another (quieter!) day.
Fortunately the vet came in, we survived the exam (during which the kitten's demanding yowls only crescendoed) and fled for the check-out window.
And that's when I saw him. An impossibly tiny scrap of cat, in the clinic's "adopt me" cage, pathetically clawing at the bars, reaching out to anyone walking by. And screeching that nails-on-chalkboard yowl for all he was worth.
"He's the last of his litter," the cashier told me. "Everyone else got adopted, and now he's all alone."
Now I have smuggled home enough baby animals that Daniel should have evicted me years ago. But no matter how sad his story, I had no urge to rescue little Yowly Cat. I pitied him. And I couldn't leave him fast enough.
As we drove home with the radio off (I needed complete silence to "decompress"!) I thought about how glad I was that Annemarie's new kitten, Rafiki, had always been such a quiet little guy. When she'd selected him from the 11 kittens available, he was the most docile. When she'd held him up, he'd curled up in her hand and gently licked her fingers. We're not quite sure if she picked him, or he picked her!
Once home, the only sound he made was a delightful purr. When he'd tuck himself into a hiding place to sleep, the only way to find him was to call "Rafiki" and wait to hear the purr. Even as an 8-week-old, his purr of contentment rumbled the floorboards. Now, as a full-grown cat, Rafiki loves to settle down on someone's chest, place a paw on either side of their face, and start the purr until the windows rattle.
Because of the purr, Rafiki is so easy to love. He sounds happy all the time. It's so natural to interpret his rumbles as cat language for, "I love you! You're wonderful! I'm so glad to be part of this family! Life doesn't get any better than this!!"
I thought back on Yowly Cat at the vet. What would become of him? Who would naturally be drawn to a cat with a predisposition for making such an awful racket? For a moment, I thought about turning around and bringing him home; after all, somebody should love him!
But what if that habit couldn't be broken? What if he was going to make the noise for the rest of his life? I had to be honest: I couldn't deal with it. Aside from the assault to my ears, which would be bad enough, I knew I couldn't love an animal that seemed to be saying, "I'm miserable! You need to do something for me! This isn't good enough! I demand more!"
It wasn't Yowly Cat's fault -- he couldn't help his cacophonic instincts any more than Rafiki could be praised for having invented the purr. They just happened to be two very different kittens. One I knew I could never love; the other I find so easy to adore.
"Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34b-35.
This tale of two kittens has gotten me thinking about people. Who, in my life, is like Yowly Cat? Offensive. Incessant. Unchanging. Makes me want to turn tail and run in the opposite direction.
Yet whose fault is it? Do the clueless people in my life deserve to be left unloved just because the way they express themselves causes me discomfort? Is it okay for me, as a Christian, to only bond to people who make me feel like Rafiki: clearly loved, adored, well within my comfort and convenience zones?
Or does "love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" mean that I need to treat Yowly people as if they're Rafiki people?
(And -- perish the thought! -- is it possible that I'm a "Yowly person" myself? That I'm clueless about how badly I rub some people the totally wrong way?)
Jesus says that it'll be clear that I'm His disciple when I love others as He loved me.
Yowls and all.