Early experience in a cat’s life – and what happens later

We know that early life experiences are shaping the later life of a human being. But is that valid also for a cat’s life? Pets are emotional beings, very much like their owners, and so why should their life be very much different from the emotional point of view?

Today I want to talk about “Schneeweißchen” – Snow-White – the cat who became deaf after some years, I mentioned her already in a previous post.

SnowWhite came to me as a tiny kitten. I just had lost a grey kitten in an accident with my dog and I was very sad about that. So my ex-partner went out and brought back the tiny white ball. She filled all my emotional needs and I didn’t think about the fact that, for the kitten’s sake, it would have been better to stay some more weeks with her mother.

Well, I fed her and cared for her, I was completely happy with her. Was she with me? I don’t know.


Growth challenges for a motherless kitten

2 adult cats and 2 baby cats

The Little SnowWhite trying to find shelter with a male cat called “gatto quadrato”

Fact is, that SnowWhite, not having a mother to teach her, had a hard time to learn cat-skills. She had no guidance and had to figure out things in the hard way. She climbed up trees and didn’t know how to come back, the dog barking underneath and nobody to protect her from the “enemies” as a mother would have done. She had to defend herself against all the other creatures and dangers around her – we live in the countryside, and at that time, about 25 years ago, cats were not yet allowed inside my living area.


SnowWhite survived all attacks and dangers she met from other animals, but once, she still was very little, a piece of wood fell on her and broke the inner tissue of her belly so that the intestines hung like a ball in her fur. This was the beginning of a long series of misfortunes which accompanied her throughout her 15 years of life.

Severe health challenges in early life

So she had her first big surgery with about 4 months of age, she needed antibiotics or sulfonamides to heal – which marked the beginning of her path to deafness. I knew that only many years later when I discovered that she didn’t run away when a car was driving into the courtyard. She became deaf, and the vet said it was due to the drugs she got in early age. The vet recommende to neuter her because with pregnancy she probably would have problems because of the scar in her belly. I actually missed the right moment – and she gave birth to many new kittens during her lifetime.

little white kittens in a basket

SnowWhites first breed

It was not the only challenge which SnowWhite faced in her early life. Once she had a hole in her fur, about a centimeter big, you could see the inner tissues. It needed to be sutured and , of course, antibiotics. Big scratches on her body needed special care. She really seemed to attract all the misfortunes possible into her life, no year passed without a major problem which needed continuous visits at the vet and drugs to heal.

And here you are: She became deaf in the middle of her life.

How do humans respond to bad early life experiences?

Or they become victims and draw back from life, playing the role of a martyr – or they become strong and confident to overcome all obstacles in life. And I think the same is the case with animals.


SnowWhite the QUEEN of the cat tribe when she was about 8-9 years old

SnowWhite certainly is a good example for that. She didn’t give in, she found her place in the tribe: the LEADER. And in the moment when she was deaf and needed a safe surrounding, she became the ABSOLUTE QUEEN, intolerant towards her fellow cats, and even the dog. She developed an incredible authority and was feared by everyone. Was she happy? I don’t know. But she certainly had figured out how to live DESPITE of all the misfortunes which continued to happen throughout her life.

How did she do that? I will tell you in a future blogpost!

PS: all photos are taken from paper copies, please excuse the fuzziness.

4 comments on “Early experience in a cat’s life – and what happens later
  1. Lanu Bennett says:

    What a lovely story to read about ‘Snowhite’. I tell you that she is definitely happy with her situation, animals cope extremely well more than humans. I will definitely come back for more about such a beautiful snow. I only hope the vet bill is not too much.

    • Heidi Hornlein says:

      Thanks for your kind words! Actually, the story of SnowWhite is from long ago and she is dead for many years. She was a very remarkable figure and I will continue her story with other blogposts soon. There are 6 other cats and one dog where I am presently spending money to keep them healthy – or to restore their health. At the moment a stray cat is at the vet and has undergone surgery. And when I take him home next week, he will be part of our family – New stories to write about!

  2. Ken Hawrylak says:

    Awwww, I love kitties, have 8 of my own 😉

    • Heidi Hornlein says:

      Then you know what we are talking about here! Would you like to tell us something about your 8 kitties? Thank you!

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