A Post From Author Linda Lou Burton
Can you believe this waif was a terrorist? She looks all innocence, don’t you think? Don’t you want to cuddle her up, listen to her contented purr?
But this baby didn’t know how to cuddle, instead she struck out with teeth and claws. She growled at inanimate toys, biting them and slinging them away. She refused to wear her pretty pink collar with the jingly silver bell. She was a terrorist!
When I brought this abandoned kitten home, I expected her to snuggle against me like the other cats who have been a part of my life. Instead my arms and legs were in various stages of bleeding and scarring from scratches and bites. I was perplexed, and to be honest, disappointed.
And then I remembered Harry Harlow and the monkeys. Harlow, a developmental psychologist, deprived infant rhesus monkeys access to a mother in his experiments, and determined that when given a choice, the monkeys chose “touch” over food. Other researchers using rats found that when infants were licked and groomed by their mothers, they grew up fairly well adjusted, but those who were deprived became anxious and fearful.
When Katy was left alone under that bush she was fed – the people in the office nearby saw to that. But she was not touched; no mother to groom her, no siblings to toss and tumble with. No socialization of any kind.
As I tended my wounds and observed Katy’s reaction to the world around her, I began thinking about how abandonment and abuse affect PEOPLE too. Characters came into my mind – I’d awake in the morning and there would be Susie wounded and hurt, and Merit tenderly caring for her, a bonding. And all the others – Lovely, so lonely that she succumbed to attention from a stranger; the two motherless children who wound up on the cover of the book. How would they deal with their world? And Patchwork Love began to come together. I stopped my non-fiction work about capital cities and wrote my first novel.
Katy may have been an abandoned kitten, but she was destined for great things. She inspired a book!
Patchwork Love is dedicated to Katy, the blue-eyed part-Siamese all-white kitten I found under a bush. Her mother took her siblings and left her there when she was only four weeks old, observers told.
Katy struggled with the aftermath of abandonment, acted out in growling, biting, scratching, clinging, sucking her tail, eating holes in everything – I never had a cat behave that way before and frankly I resented the fact that she didn’t appreciate my good intentions as I thought she should.
Today Katy is a happy cat, still somewhat wary, but able to enjoy a nap with me on a sunny afternoon, snuggled together on the couch, listening to the birds outside. Sometimes she’ll stretch out long, reach her paw to touch my face, and purr. We may have had some knocks, she seems to say, but this is good.
Katy inspired me to write Patchwork Love. Our experience underscored what I’ve always believed – we can’t choose what happens in the world around us, but we can choose how we respond.
I could have chosen to leave her there. She could have chosen to continue biting the fire out of me.
Every moment is a choice.