I’m not big on small dependent mammals.
Nevertheless, three years ago we adopted two rescue kitties from the SPCA. My #3 kid and I went to the kitty shelter every weekend for a month waiting to meet our perfect cats. We saw lots of pretty young cats come & go, and lots of old cats that will probably stay in the shelter for the rest of their lives. We seriously considered adopting one of these oldsters. And we really thought about the fellow who had been so severely abused that he’d had a front and a back leg amputated when he arrived. But he got adopted by a rich old lady who promptly went out to buy him $500 in kitty toys, so we figured he was going to do better with her than with us.
My stepson joined us (my #4 bonus kid!) on the big day and as soon as he walked into the kitty room, a black cat climbed out from under the bank of cages and looked lovingly into his face. They gazed at each other like two very old friends.
So that was obvious.
And then I saw Allie peering out at me from behind the piece of paper that was taped to the front of her cage. She’d been there every time we had, and for a couple of months before that. She had a paper barrier between her and the world because she got so distressed whenever people came near. Allie was another cat who had been severely abused. Pure white, with crik in her short tail where it had been broken. And she was looking at me.
I opened her cage door and she sniffed my hand.
Of course, I’d told the kids they could each pick a cat, but I wanted to recant. I had to have her. Luckily, my #3 kid was just as impressed, and Allie came home with us.
I did try very hard to get Matthew and the kids to agree to change her name to Yog-Sothoth, but we couldn’t get consensus on that. Allie was the name they’d given her at the SPCA, and Allie it stayed, though I do sometimes call her Alligator for short. We all agreed that Sebastian was a perfect name for a handsome black gentleman with such frightfully tattered ears.
Allie spent most of the first six months crammed in the tiniest crevices she could find. But over time her crevices became less tiny. Then sometimes she’d let a paw stray out while she slept. If you pulled on it, she’d suck it back in, like a snail recoiling to its shell. Then she started hanging out when just the family was home. And then she started skulking in corners when visitors were over. Sniffing them, even. Giving their pant legs a little lean, but disappearing before she could be touched.
Allie’s a comparatively well-adjusted cat now, but she still bolts if you move quickly. If you close the door to the room she is in, she leaps up from a dead sleep and wants out now. I’m pretty sure she will always be like that, even though she knows that she is safe with us. Her early trauma is stuck in her body. Her flight response is on a hair trigger.
Turns out Sebastian is quite a vocal cat. He’s a meowler. He’s hungry? Meowl! Wants’ out? Meowl! Wants love? Meowl! Not sure what he wants but he thinks maybe you should do something about it? Meowl!
I have talked to kitty experts who have said that this can happen to abandoned cats. Seb was discarded and as a result he meowls, irritatingly.
Sebastien meowls and Alligator startles.
And the only solution is love, patience & compassion.
What does this have to do with being paleo?
I think that a lot of us are stuck in meowling and startling; fighting & flighting; and are in the habit of trying to regulate our disordered nervous systems with simple carbohydrates.
Unresolved trauma results in a disregulated nervous system, for mammals of all kinds. In humans it can lead to addiction in an attempt to numb the discomfort and get the nervous system back in balance. Not everyone becomes a meth-head or an alcoholic. A lot of us become starch & sugar addicts, because it’s legal & cheap & socially acceptable & our fix is available at every corner store. In fact, I think we might be a whole society of SAD starch & sugar addicts.
And it is really, profoundly, and utterly hard to quell this addiction.
That’s the reason I’m writing this blog. To address the complexity of making the change to paleo. It’s not as simple as sanctifying your pantry and downloading some recipes. It’s healing work. But unlike Alligator and Seb, we can make choices.
If you still need your tiny crevice, or your sugars and starches, to be safe: choose them.
Know that healing is a process. Work on creating a safer environment so you can put first a paw, and then your whole self, into the change you want to be.