Once returned from the Crimean War, Nightingale turned her powers to the standards and practices of nursing, for she'd seen many severely nasty things in the war hospitals, and women were still not thought quite proper if they cared for male patients. She changed much of that single-handedly, but the effort, and a lifelong illness acquired during the war, kept her largely homebound. She never married. Cats were just the thing: the more, the merrier, and she loved them deeply indeed.
Here's her tale of what she learned from a little kitten:
I learn a lesson of life from a little kitten of mine, one of two. The old cat
comes in and says, very cross, “I didn’t ask you in here, I like to have my
Missus to myself!” And then he runs at them. The bigger and handsomer kitten
runs away, but the littler one stands her ground, and when the old enemy comes
near enough kisses his nose, and makes peace. That is the lesson of life, to
kiss one’s enemy’s nose, always standing one’s ground.
A charming page with two articles upon this subject here.