Time, Patience and Love Help Things Change

Athena stopped growling and started loving—and so did her mom, Rose.

Rose + Athena

With time and tender loving care, Athena got a second chance at a happy life—and so did her mom, Rose.

"It's been such a joy to see her blossom late in life into a friendly, loving creature who could trust again."

Athena the cat
It was about three in the morning when I found Athena. At the time, I was working nights for Amazon, packing box after box after box after box in the sprawling warehouse just outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania. My nights off felt long, lonely, and isolating. Working the night shift will do that to a person. For fun, I would often drive around on back roads by myself, alone with my thoughts and my headlights, surrounded by dark and endless cornfields. One night, instead of my usual long drive, I scrolled through a pet adoption site.

I tweaked the filters to see only senior cats, ones with special needs. Then her picture stopped my scroll. She was beautiful, with expressive eyes and striking tabby marks, but she had a grim, determined look. Almost mean. Like she’d been hurt, she expected to be hurt again, and she was through with being sad about it and had switched over to being angry.

Athena the cat sleeping
According to the description, this cat had been at the shelter a few years, and was about 13 years old. When I went in to meet her, some of the well-meaning volunteers exchanged looks. “We’ve got so many cats, even if you don’t like her… maybe a younger cat? A more playful cat? This cat… well, she bit one of us once… and the vet can’t figure out why she has such terrible stomach problems…”

Athena the cat
I brought the cat home and she growled constantly. She did not want to be touched. She did not want anyone within ten feet of the little cardboard box I set up for her in the bathroom, lined with a soft towel. But every night, I was there and she was there. Slowly but surely, the months ticked by. Her GI issues cleared up on their own. She gained weight. I started to pet her. A few minutes here, a few minutes there. Gradually, she stopped growling and tensing up her body when I walked by. Slowly, she started venturing out of her cardboard lair.

I changed, too. Left the warehouse, and started a business. Reunited with the kindly man who’d been patiently waiting for me to quit it with my own version of growling. These days, Athena sleeps with us. She demands to be petted the second we come home. As you can see from the photo, she still won’t really let us pick her up… but she purrs non-stop when we brush her soft fur.

Athena the cat with Rose
Athena was the little friend I needed in a dark time. It’s been such a joy to see her blossom late in life into a friendly, loving creature who could trust again. Watching her gradual transformation over the years has given me hope, and made me believe that with enough time, patience, and love, things can change for the better. Cats and people alike.

Athena is seventeen now, and I know she won’t last forever. But the things she taught me will. Keep your heart open, and good will come to you. It might not come immediately, but it’ll come: with time, patience, and love.

Each year, Petco Love invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Rose Womelsdorf won Tabby’s Place in New Jersey a 2018 Holiday Wishes award.