On her first day after coming home from the Tierschutzverein Berlin (Berlin Animal Shelter) Cherry was scrawny, terrified, traumatised, and fur shaved down to a bare minimum with only the dignity of a fuzzy head and paws. She was defensive, hissing at everything that moved and throwing temper tantrums at anything Champagne did within her proximity.

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In the beginning… ©MTHerzog

One month later, Cherry is completely transformed. She is relaxed, curious, active, playful, and a constant shadow who never ceases to amaze me. Neglected and traumatised animals understand love and safety when it is genuine, and this is the only way for them to embark on their recovery journey.

This is what she looks like now:

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A month later ©MTHerzog

Her fur is growing back nicely and it turns out she will be quite a fluffy cat, far more than Champagne! She absolutely hates being brushed, which will be a challenge, but either she lets me brush her or we will have to face the groomers and she will like that even less.

Friendship is not exactly what I would name the relationship she harbours with Champagne. They are both curious and playful active cats, just not with each other. Like humans, one cannot force the friendship and they need time and space to let it grow naturally. Being stuck with each other the whole day at home helps, and so far I haven’t come home to any broken items and open wounds, other than uprooted plants, which I can live with.

There are huge misunderstandings between the three girls every day, especially between Cherry and Champagne, who are both strong personalities trying to establish their territory. Although Cherry is the older one, Champagne is the more understanding cat, and will retreat to give Cherry her space and let her have her tantrum. Every once in a while, however, Champagne’s Thai politeness slips and she will growl back.

All in all, a life without bars and filled with unconditional love is transformative. She understands that now, and is learning to embrace this. It’s a two-way street – and we learn from one another as we go along about our daily business. She wants to be included, is hungry for attention and affection. I respect her boundaries and learn to read her messages, which is not always easy, but the fact that she insists on sleeping beside me is a good sign.