No this is not some kind of political statement, this is a personal reality in my home. Yes, I deal with NRAS on a daily basis. Not familiar with this malady? Neither was I for most of my life. You see, we had always been a one cat family. Both my childhood family and my family as an adult counted only one cat among our members. And all was well. Then my youngest daughter decided our current cat, who was getting older, needed a companion and playmate to keep her company. (why didn’t I suggest fish or even a bird to fill this role?) Because I had no idea, that’s why.
And so it happened that we acquired a kitten to go with our cat. A cat, by the way, who had expressed no such desire and who had not been consulted on this matter of adding an additional family member. So we brought our new little calico home from the shelter and all was well. For about three years. Then, without warning, one ordinary day, amidst ordinary events, it happened. NRAS entered our home and remains to this day. And things have never been the same since. Total peace has never been restored and I fear will never return here. Oh, there are temporary truces, so deceptive in their appearing. They get my hopes up that all will be well from this point on, only to be dashed as skirmishes resume when my guard is down.
Now the ordinary event that was the beginning of this now ongoing saga, was a routine trip to the vet for annual shots by one of the aforementioned felines. Imagine my surprise when upon returning from the vet, these two former friends began behaving like mortal enemies, ready to battle to the death if not for being separated by myself, now thrown into the role of referee. I was unprepared for this strange turn of events and called my vet for advice. That’s when NRAS was explained to me. This malady is “non-recognition aggression syndrome” in cats and my cats had it bad!
Now I always thought cats had pretty good eyesight, could even see well in the dark. So what could be the problem? They could see each other, couldn’t they. Why didn’t they recognize each other? We hadn’t been THAT long at the vet. Were their memories THAT short? Is it only elephants that never forget? Did they have no memory of all the good times they’d shared up to this point? (Bird watching out the windows, chasing and playing hide and seek with each other, eating out of each other’s food bowls) I pondered these questions as I watched in disbelief as their growling and hissing toward each other continued to escalate, reaching truly alarming proportions. Memory for them seemed to have been erased, the slate wiped clean. We were starting over and this time they hated one another.
I was told it was smell they were reacting to, the one that had been gone smelled different so the other no longer recognized her. Again, I wanted to reason with them. “Use your eyes, I wanted to shout, you can clearly see each other, who cares what you smell like?” Apparently, our calico cared and our snowshoe concurred and reacted. “You don’t remember me? well I don’t remember you either” With cats, smell must trump vision every time, I concluded. “You’re the intruder, no you’re the intruder” was my interpretation of their loud discourse. The peace in our home had been replaced with this ongoing battle and with my constant vigilance to keep them separate and safe from each other.
This really was a full time job in and of itself, but I don’t know who you delegate this job of delicate, full time diplomacy to? And what would be the job title? “Feline Negotiator needed now, must speak fluent feline.” And so life continued with the waxing and the waning of the feline feud, presenting innumerable challenges and keeping us on our guard at all times. An initial cooling off period was achieved by moving one cat to her own “apartment”, a separate room behind a closed door. (let them growl away with the door between them) Next came supervised visits with each other, gradually lengthening over time. Tensions would ease and some semblance of peace would be restored. Hope hung in the air at such times, heralding the end of the Cat Wars. But then it would be time for one of them to visit the vet for their required annual shots.
Back to square one and the process would start all over again. Why wouldn’t I just let them fight it out? you might ask. Although this occurred to me as a possible solution, I didn’t want to run the risk of harm to one or both of them. Because ironically, that would result in more visits to the vet, which is the root cause of the NRAS for my cats in the first place. Cat Wars are wearisome because they are never ending and because they result in litter box wars, which results in never ending cleaning problems and work for me. Another reason I desire peace on the feline home front.
Why is this on my mind currently when its been going on for quite a few years now? Well, the older cat, the snow shoe, is sick and going to the vet more often now than just the once a year check up. Medicine and tests are taking place with diagnosis to come soon. So the Cat Wars are on for sure and she doesn’t feel well. I am battle weary but have not found a Feline Negotiator at this time. Again, wish I could reason with the Calico and tell her to drop the “tude” for awhile, cut her feline friend some slack so she doesn’t have to be looking over her shoulder 24/7. What price peace?
Will she miss her snowshoe sister when she’s gone? Will she remember? (apparently not, or this syndrome wouldn’t be happening) Do I do this with people? Do I react to anything that “smells different” from what I’m used to or doesn’t agree with me and fail to recognize all the good and potential that resides within them? Fail to recognize all the unexplored connections that I have with others? Do I fail to recognize because I fail to see, or more truly, I fail to look beneath the surface. I don’t take the time, I don’t make the effort?
If I want peace, I need to seek it and pursue it and practice it in my personal life every day. It is a choice. It will require some effort, but anything worthwhile does come with a price. The Cat Wars have not consumed me, but to me they seem so inexplicable. I want to shout to my cats, “you can clearly see each other, you are both cats, you have the same needs and I can meet all your needs plus more without giving less to the other. There is no reason for you to fight when you could enjoy peace.”
Is that how God sees all of us? We are all human, we have the same needs for food, water, shelter, health, meaningful work, meaningful relationships, safety and peace for ourselves and our children, etc. Is that what God would shout to all of us, that He wants to supply all our needs, that we are more alike than different because we are all created in His image, that we need to open our eyes and truly recognize our kinship with those around us. We have mistaken them for foes when we were created to be friends.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath . . .” (Romans 12:18-19)
“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. . . ” (Revelation 7:9)
“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14)
sincerely, Grace Day