My husband and I just uprooted ourselves along with our two dogs and three cats and moved to a new house. Moving is supposed to be one of the most stressful life events, and although our move was one based in excitement and choice, it did not come without stress. Putting our old house on the market required a million tiny little updates that added up to weeks of tedious labor. Working with the bank and realtors on securing our new home was a wild experience full of mishaps and odd quirks that often made us question whether or not we were making the right choice. Yet, at the end of the stress storm, we signed our names thirty or so times on binding documents prepared in a musty attorney’s office. Amidst the fatigue and elation of holding the physical key to our new home, we began our journey. The big move.
So many times throughout the process of moving, we worried about our cats and the transition they would be making. One of our cats, Sugar Frances, is sensitive to change and would likely develop a bladder infection or mark territory everywhere. Another cat, Dobby, true to his Harry Potter house-elf-inspired name, is mischievous, and would likely jump off the balcony of our new porch, injuring himself. But our third cat, Luna, would be perfect, easy and accommodating to all. Luna is a Yoda-like cat and is often the wisest presence in our family—hence her Harry Potter Ravenclaw namesake. Luna would be the last one to worry about. She would even teach the dogs how to adjust.
During the buying and moving process, there was much pain. Emotional pain from stress. Intellectual pain from dealing with incompetent business people. Physical pain and exhaustion from the intense cleaning, home repairs and packing. My husband and I were always verbal about the pain we felt as we tried to give birth to our new house—our new home. We needed to curse, scream, laugh hysterically, dance like a troll—whatever needed—to stay healthy. Our success of health came from our freedom to acknowledge our pain.
Cats are different, it turns out. We learned this the hard way. Luna, the most resilient, agreeable House Ravenclaw cat in the world, turned out to be in serious pain. Just after moving, at a routine check up with our new vet, our doctor explained that over half of Luna’s teeth were severely decayed, many rotting from the inside out, making it hard to see. He explained that cats hide their pain, even more so than dogs, and that Luna was in extreme pain and would need surgery. Hiding pain is a survival instinct from the wild.
In all of the huffing and puffing over our move and worrying over our other pets, I never saw Luna’s acute pain. She had been covering it up brilliantly. I can’t imagine that—feeling like showing my pain or my stress would be a sign of weakness. A bad thing. Having had my share of dental surgeries, I am particularly empathetic to the stress of mouth pain and in awe of Luna’s ability to hide hers.
Today I am sitting in a coffee shop, watching people, wondering if they are able to share their pain with each other, or if they think they somehow must bottle it all up. I am thankful for my mouth and my ability to chew food. I am thankful for my new home. I am thankful for my ability to express my stress through creative means. I am looking. Looking at the people. Seeing cats.