When I was living in Morocco, I saw stray cats everywhere. Often hissing and scratching whenever anyone came near, they were angry and filthy. People kept their distance.
Moving to Houston, I was confronted with a similar problem. While nowhere near as bad as Morocco, there were a few feral cats in my neighborhood.
One cat in particular, setup residence just outside my apartment. Whenever I opened the door, she was lying either on my porch or in the bushes out front.
At first, I treated her like a pest – just like everyone did with the ones in Morocco. As I passed by, I didn’t give her a second look and she would run off and keep watch from a distance.
I told myself that it was only a stray cat – who cares what happens to her?
Then one day, for whatever reason, I took a closer look. On inspection, I noticed she was beaten up and so hungry that I could almost make out her ribs.
It was the first time I took notice of how much this animal was suffering. Realizing that I had been ignoring her pain for months tore me up inside.
I’m a big proponent of building a better life and making the world a better place, but here was a living reminder of how much more I could be doing. How did I walk past this cat for so long and fail to notice how much she was suffering?
A big problem was my mindset.
When I lived in Morocco, I had ingrained this idea that stray cats were pests and should be treated as vermin. But this mindset clouded my judgement and I overlooked the needs of a poor creature right outside my door.
That all changed.
I walked into my apartment and got a small cup of cat food (I have my own cat) and laid some out to feed her. She was incredibly scared at first, but eventually came closer and closer.
As she crept out of the shadows to eat, she became more trusting. Eventually she got close enough to let me pet her
Weeks passed. The more I fed her, the more friendly and trusting she became. She even started to approach me and meow when I came near.
I looked up information on the best practices to take care of feral cats. Houston has a free program to vaccinate and neuter strays, but this cat had already been taken in (you can tell by her ear which had been clipped).
Now that I’ve been feeding her and giving her positive attention, she has come out of the shadows. She’s lively and energetic and well-fed enough so you no longer see her ribs.
Because of my actions, she’s no longer needlessly suffering.
What I Learned About Making the World a Little Better
It’s easy to look at the world and see all the big problems going on around us. When we hear about injustice and violence, we want to do something.
Most of these problems are outside our control; there’s little we can do about the things we see happening in the news. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything to make the world better.
Think about how to make your surroundings a little better – the things and people you actually interact with on a regular basis.
Do a random act of kindness.
Make someone smile.
It starts by recognizing what you can do to help. In Morocco, no one gave a second thought to the stray cats. Even local Moroccans seemed not to notice the problem – most had no clue why there were so many stray cats to begin with.
But because they ignored the stray cats, it continued to be a problem there. Many cats needlessly suffer and die there because no one will take the time to do anything about it.
That’s what I had become too – someone who saw a clear problem but simply ignored it or refused to believe that it was there at all.
As Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” This cat taught me that I can’t just sit back and let bad things happen without doing something about it. If I just let this cat slowly starve to death, how could I possibly forgive myself?
Making the world a better place isn’t a one person job. It’s all our jobs. Think of how wonderful the world would be if we all just spent a little time trying to improve it.
As small as it may seem, by helping this cat, I’m making the world just a little better – it’s an extremely tiny, fraction better – but still better.
And really, that’s all most of us can do. For most people, making the world a better place starts by doing good at home.