Falling in love with a cat is no different than falling in love with a person. Sometimes, it’s love at first sight. That’s what happened for me when I saw Buckley, the subject of my first book, Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher, in a cage in the back of the animal hospital I managed at the time. I fell in love instantly.

Other times, it’s a slower process. You may take in a stray because she showed up in your yard. You may end up with someone else’s cat because she needed a new home. You’re happy to help this cat and provide a safe home for her. You like having her around, but you’re not sure she’s really the right cat for you. Maybe you’re even telling yourself that you’re just fostering her until you can find a new home for her. And then, one day, you realize that somehow, this cat that you weren’t sure about at all has made her way into your heart, and your life is forever changed.

Amber was that cat for me.

On a warm spring day, Amber and her five kittens were brought to the animal hospital by a client who had found the little family in her barn. Amber was skinny and dirty, but her eventual beauty was evident even then. She was a dark tortoiseshell color, with an amber-colored heart-shaped spot on top of her head, which became the reason for her name.

Once the little family was cleaned up, we put them up for adoption. Amber’s kittens found new homes fairly quickly, but nobody was interested in the beautiful mommy cat. She spent her days in the big adoption cage in the hospital’s waiting area, but with the constant inflow of homeless kittens that is typical for spring and summer, nobody wanted to adopt an adult cat.

I had recently lost my almost sixteen-year-old soul mate cat Feebee, and the grief over his loss was still very fresh. I did not think I was ready for another cat, but coming home to an empty house was becoming increasingly difficult.


One weekend in July, I decided to take Amber home, “just for the weekend”. I wanted to give her a break from the abandoned feral kitten we had placed with her after her own kittens had all found homes. Amber was becoming increasingly exasperated with the rambunctious kitten’s constant need for attention. As far as she was concerned, she had done her mommy duty with her own kittens.

After living in a cage for all these months, Amber was initially a little overwhelmed by having access to an entire house, and she spent most of that first weekend near or under my bed. By Sunday evening, she had relaxed a little and started exploring her new environment. I liked having her gentle and peaceful energy around the house, and I decided that she could stay a little longer. I told everyone that I was “just fostering her”.

This was in the days before social media, so I made up flyers advertising that she was available for adoption. Remember those flyers with the little tear off tabs? Well, somehow, the flyers never got distributed.

I liked having this sweet, unassuming, almost self-effacing cat around. Her gentle energy created a quiet, peaceful space both physically and figuratively, which helped my grieving heart heal.

Finally, three months after I first brought her home, I acknowledged that she wasn’t going anywhere. I officially adopted her, joining the ranks of “foster failures” (people who foster cats but aren’t able to give them up), and she only returned to the animal hospital for regular check ups.

Once I completely opened my heart to her, I realized that she was a wise old soul.  Her peaceful and solid presence, not to mention her almost constant purr, brought love and affection into my life every day for ten years.

She was a teacher to the very core of her being, and she not only became my writing muse, she became the inspiration for The Conscious Cat. While I was writing Buckley’s Story, I was also trying to learn as much as I could about book publishing and marketing. How was I going to tell the world about this book, and how was I going to reach a wide audience so they, too, could benefit from the lessons this little cat had taught me?

One day, feeling overwhelmed by all of it, I was sitting in front of the computer staring at the blank screen, desperately trying to come up with some ideas for a marketing plan.  I looked up and there was Amber, curled up on the window perch next to my desk for a long nap. And all of a sudden, it was as clear to me as if she had said the words: I’m going to start a blog, and I’m going to call it The Conscious Cat. It would focus on conscious living, health and happiness for cats and their humans.

Animals come into our lives for many reasons.  Some very special animals touch our souls.  Amber’s innate wisdom inspired me to tap deeper into my own intuition and inner knowledge, and to share it with the world. She was the original Conscious Cat.

Sometimes, it’s the quiet cats that leave the biggest paw prints on our hearts. We can’t always explain rationally why we’re so drawn to a particular cat, but we are forever changed by these soul cats. A soul mate relationship, whether it’s with a cat or a human, not only enriches our life beyond imagination, it also forces us to grow both personally and spiritually. Amber did all of that and more for me.

Sadly, Amber passed away in May of 2010 after a sudden, brief illness. I will always miss her, but her legacy lives on in my work.

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This post was previously published in October of 2016.

18 Comments on When Love Grows Slowly: How a Shy, Unassuming Cat Changed My World

  1. what a beautiful story, sometimes you just know what is meant to be. This little gal paid it forward to you over and over again. thank you for sharing. she never stopped thanking you for sharing your home with her and the love and kindness you gave her over the years,

  2. To tell the truth, I think that it is really easy to fall in love with dogs and cats because they are truly incredible creatures which can completely change your life. Your story is so inspirational and it is so wonderful that you had such a valuable friend whose wisdom helped you fulfill your potential and take a look inside yourself, making such a great contribution to your life. You are absolutely right that animals come into our lives for many reasons and really often they come in order to teach us many important things. Without any doubts, Amber was necessary for your inner transformation and for filling your life with warmth. Of course, it is difficult to explain why we’re so drawn to a particular cat, but it indicates that this creature is our soulmate and that this close connection will bring a lot to our life. Of course, soul mate relationships can reveal our best qualities and even change our worldview, which is priceless.

  3. Amber is a great story. I had a litter 0f 6 feral cats born under my deck .
    Chicago Winters are tough! But I did TNR all including Mom and Dad.
    Even bought a custom heated cat house for warmth.
    Sadly all got hit by cars but one. ..Breavheart.
    Braveheart healed inside from a broken leg, he did not want to be free outside again ! I rehabilated him and could pet him.
    Braveheart now lives in AZ.sunshine with Mom and Dad.
    Soon he will be 19!
    Lucky Guy!

  4. Thank you for writing again about Amber and how she came into your life. It’s been 9 years next week since our Anya walked into our backyard, and became my soulmate cat. She is now likely to be with us only for a short time, as she is suffering from liver tumors and significant weight loss. She is my heart. And though she may be gone way too soon, she has changed my life, and “saved me” while being saved.

    Anya and her current feline siblings would never have had the proper care from us without the influence and information that we’ve received over the years from The Conscious Cat. So thank you Ingrid and Amber (and Allegra and Ruby) for your gift to us.

  5. Your story of Amber is beautiful!

    My first cat was a stray who showed in my yard. I hadn’t intended to keep her for several reasons but I became a cat person because of her. She changed my life forever.

    But she isn’t the reason I decided to comment. We’re currently fostering a young shy and fearful cat. She’s been returned twice to our shelter for her timidity.

    Everything you’ve written fits exactly how I feel about her. I like having her around, but I’m not sure she’s the right cat for our family. I intended to foster her only to make her more adoptable.

    In addition, we had intended to foster her just until kitten season. Except we’ve already rethought that decision, because she would be overlooked in the shelter with the constant flow of kittens, and so now we plan to foster until fall.

    She is actually becoming more confident, but unfortunately only with our family. And so we’ve already started to wonder if maybe she’s found her home.

    I don’t know yet what our decision will be, but your post really struck home with me. I also just enjoyed reading how your blog got started.

    It could be that we’ll

    • Thank you for giving this shy girl a chance, Allison. I’m sure that regardless of whether she’ll stay with or go to another family, she’ll be a happier cat because of you.

  6. I’ve enjoyed The Conscious Cat for many years so thank you Amber. Your book about Buckley and this article about Amber just proves the point: our hearts are a very big place!

  7. Your writing about Amber shines. The depth of the love you shared took my breath away & warmed my heart. Thank you for sharing these wonderful memories with us.

  8. I love reading your story about Amber – each and every cat I’ve had (or been owned by) have made huge impression in my life, in different ways. I’ve learned so much from my feline friends over the years.

  9. What a beautiful story….things happen for a reason. All along, you were supposed to be Amber’s Mommy…that’s why no one else adopted her. Amber was meant for you:)

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