Filippo: A Cat’s Journey from Zero to Hero

How often have you felt you were on ground zero and were dreaming of becoming a hero? Did you get there? Or maybe you didn’t know how? For your inspiration, I will tell you the story of Filippo, the hero-cat.

Animals can teach us, humans, a lot

Have you ever noticed how our human ways of being and doing are not so much different from an animal’s? If you have pets you certainly have a chance to learn about yourself and your fellow humans by observing and witnessing their lives.

I am really fascinated about what we humans can learn from animals. We can observe how they respond to challenges, we can witness their genuinity in their attempts to resolve them, we feel compassion about their successes and failures – and finally we can realize that we, as human creatures, are governed by much the same processes and emotional responses – and that we deserve compassion from ourselves, too, instead of continuously criticizing ourselves or others for what we believe are unforgivable flaws.

The story of Filippo

Filippos tribe: mother Trixi with 6 kittens

Filippos tribe: mother
Trixi with 6 kittens

Filippo was born to Morle, a highly “neurotic” black cat. She was restless, “schizophrenic”, her reactions unpredictable. Filippo had an only brother who developed a quiet, almost phlegmatic character while Filippo himself seemed to have inherited the crazy restlessness and lack of trust of humans like his mother. At the same time Trixi, the other mother-cat, had given birth to 5 kittens. There were enough tiny furballs to choose for our own joy. They were ready to be touched and caressed, so we left alone the more difficult ones like Filippo or Rosenmund, a red son of Trixi.

In those times all my animals (except Tommy) stayed outside the house and they were completely free to contact us or not. Sure, they came to eat from the feeding place whenever they liked, but they didn’t need to be near us if they didn’t want to. Getting Filippo or the red cat into a transport basket for neutering was therefore not an easy task, but we succeeded, probably causing them to perceive us as even less trustworthy.

The pet hierarchy established itself properly among the “resident” cats, but Filippo and the red one, as semi-wild creatures, were really on the lowest level in the cat tribe. They fought their way to the food table with aggressivity and hid away immediately afterward, avoiding too much fighting with the “higher ranks”.

Establishing trust

One day my ex-husband, who always felt the need to fight for the marginalized, decided to gain the confidence of Filippo. It took quite a while of careful approaches until he could touch him, but then the trust developed quite quickly.

Filippo loves to lie on my legs

Filippo loves to lie on my legs

It was as if Filippo was relieved as if he really enjoyed giving up his aggressive outsider position. He was becoming a sweet and adorable cat who loved to dwell on my legs while I was reading my newspapers in the afternoon sun.

Those were happy and calm years for Filippo. He became an accepted part of the tribe by means of our relationship with him and he didn’t have any obligations as the tribe was protected by the Tomcat Prince (read about him HERE). Things changed from the moment Prince had to be neutered, too (the reason for that you find here).

How Filippo responds to the challenge

There was no intact male around the house to defend the cat family against foreign Tomcats – and more and more of them arrived, ate the family food and distributed their smelly markers everywhere. Although the female cats were neutered, too, the foreign Tomcats chased them as well as all the neutered males – there were about 10-12 cats in the tribe those days. There was a real need for someone to defend them. Prince still tried to do the job; it was amazing what he could do with only three legs, but he avoided strong and young Tomcats in his condition. No other male cats in the tribe volunteered for the job at all and so, finally, Filippo stood up and took over the role of protector.

Filippo looking sad

Filippo takes on the challenge

Like his mother Morle, Filippo was a small cat, very thin and agile, but in comparison to some of our foreign visitors, he appeared tiny. Obviously he had felt the call, the necessity, for someone to fight against the intruders, and he developed an incredible fierceness in attacking and chasing away those who were not supposed to be present. Sometimes I intuited that he had to convince himself to do so, that he didn’t really want to do it and would have preferred to lie around and be lazy. But as if with a sigh he stood up and ran against the enemy to chase away and defeat him by any means. I really felt so much compassion for him and how he had become a hero – against his own inclination, out of his sense of duty.

Heroes often don’t choose to become such

It was then when I realized that those humans whom we consider heros today more often than not didn’t chose to become such. Forced by circumstances and necessity they develop the courage and the strength to stand up and to fight against what they perceive not to be right and what they believe to be their duty. Think about it, in your personal life, your family, your country: how many people have risked greatly to defend what they believed of highest value?

You can be sure that I helped Filippo whenever I could. As soon as I heard screaming cats I ran out to help chase away the intruders and I kept a very loving and close relationship with him which deepened more and more – until he left the world. (I will tell you this very touching story in another blogpost.)

4 comments on “Filippo: A Cat’s Journey from Zero to Hero
  1. Israel says:

    Hi Heidi!

    The story of Filippo is amazing! How he assumes that role nobody forced him to… wow!

    Cats are really something else, I got two cats (females) and they rule the house. They can be so cute, but suddenly the become the fiercest animal you can imagine…

    But we love them, no matter what. And I agree with you, you can learn a lot watching them, their sense of self-defense, always alert and trusting others when they feel they have deserved it.

    Thanks for sharing the story! It’s really touching 🙂

    • Heidi Hornlein says:

      Hi Israel,

      Thanks for your nice comment. I can feel your love for your cats through your lines! As you write: “no matter what”. So true!

      I wonder if you would like to write an article about your cat experience for this blog? I really would appreciate it. Please let me know. Thank you!


  2. aishahomemadecupcakerecipes says:

    That is so true we can learn loads from animals. I also have a cat and when me and my and my wife watch her she does the most adorable and amazing things some times. And you watch other animals in the wild like birds or even bugs its amazing to see how they behave and interact with the ennironment.

    • Heidi Hornlein says:

      Yes, we can learn a lot of animals and enjoy their company. Thanks for your nice comment. If you want to share a story about your cat, please let me know!

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