From the archives: This story was last updated in July 2019.
Stray cats live all over America. Some are abandoned, some were born on the streets, some stick with their siblings for safety, and some spend their whole lives as loners. “Ugly” was definitely one of the lonely ones.
Ugly stood out; he looked a little different from your average street cat, so much so that people avoided him like the plague. With nowhere to go, Ugly hung around an old apartment complex, rooting through the trash for scraps and dodging into the shadows to avoid the neighborhood dogs.
The residents were responsible for his hurtful nickname; the scar-riddled, street-smart tom cat was called “Ugly” because of his battered appearance. Over the years, he had had to fight for his life on many occasions.
As a result, he had only one eye and a torn ear. His tail was missing but for a stump, and one of his hind legs was deformed, probably as the result of a traffic accident for which the poor cat was never treated. Ugly was also covered with sores, which disguised his distinctive tabby fur. Life living rough had taken its toll on the old boy, but sympathy was not forthcoming.
Children were told to avoid the sorry creature, and adults sprayed the cat with water from the hosepipe if he came near their homes. But the tough cat endured it all. If something was thrown at Ugly, which it often was, the incredible creature would wrap himself around the offender’s legs to beg their forgiveness. But Ugly only evoked disgust and was quickly shooed away.
Ugly had grown used to his life on the streets and he didn’t wear scars for no reason; he could fight if he had to. One day, his fighting prowess was put to the test. A man from the apartment block saw two huskies outside the complex, and it quickly became clear that they had their eyes on Ugly.
They attacked the cat, and Ugly found himself cornered. The man ran over to help the poor animal, but by the time he arrived, Ugly was seriously injured. The man had heard the rumors and knew that nobody would touch Ugly, but in that moment, he made a controversial choice; the dying cat needed his help.
The decision to connect with Ugly changed his life forever.
The man scooped Ugly into his arms and ascended the stairs up to his apartment, hoping to be able to keep the cat safe from the ferocious jaws of the excitable huskies. The man was concerned that he was hurting the injured cat even by picking him up, and indeed, with every step he took, the poor creature’s gasps for air intensified.
But as the man climbed the stairs, Ugly extended a paw and gently tugged on his ear. In his moment of deepest pain and greatest vulnerability, Ugly was trying to make a tender connection. The man responded by holding Ugly closer, and the dying cat began to purr.
In that moment, the man realized that Ugly was, in fact, the most beautiful cat in the world. He was beautiful on the inside. Ugly, although scared, never tried to hurt the man. He was simply trying to demonstrate life and love in his last few moments on Earth.
The cat, who had by now suffered so much, took his last breath in the man’s arms; the man held him for a long time and pondered. He thought about the cat’s wretched, loveless life. Most people would be broken by living a life like Ugly’s, he thought. But Ugly had compassion for everybody even though they treated him with scorn and disgust.
The man continues to regale Ugly’s story to this day. The cat taught him more about love and compassion than anything else. While Ugly wore his scars on the outside, the man felt that he, and others, wear their scars on the inside.
We all have a lot to learn from this little creature. If his painful journey is to count for something, then allow it to change your outlook on the world for the better.
With thanks to Facts Verse for sharing Ugly’s story.