Cat Man Monday: Man’s Best Friend

by Keith Phillips

I never knew a cat could be a best friend.  I’d never had a cat before Studley.  My wife had a cat in her home when she was a kid, but never as an adult.

Studley today with cat man dad Keith

When she started volunteering at our local animal shelter, she somehow gravitated toward the cats, and brought me there one day to help her clean up a matted, under-nourished little white cat who could barely stand.  He had touched her heart.

The shelter manager assured us that, with care, he would probably not die (my concern), and we could just foster him and get him back to health.  I was later to fall for that “just foster” line 2 more times.

We knew nothing about cats.  We took him to the vet, he was neutered and vaccinated and sort of just cohabitated with us for about 3 weeks, till one night he began playing with a toy for the first time.

I was mesmerized by the joy he showed at playing and equally mesmerized by the fact that I became aware of expressions on his little furry face.  I never thought of cats as having facial expressions! 

He was Mom’s boy, but he was quickly becoming my buddy.  He loved to wrestle, so I gave him his pro-wrestling nickname, The Sphincter.  A few other nicknames followed, and he responded appropriately to all of them.

Delta society certified therapy cat Studley at work with his mom a dad.

 

I was becoming an incurable cat guy.  Through all of the work of becoming cat therapy teams, we watched him grow and learn how to let us know what he wanted or needed.  I found myself talking to him regularly, and once again I was mesmerized by the fact that he listened. 

Being sure that all cats were just like him, we fostered (read adopted) a little feral calico girl, Mitzi.  He socialized her and taught her to be a cat in our home.  I didn’t.  She is now Dad’s girl.  She sleeps with me every night and sometimes lets me pet and even hold her during the day.

He also helped our third cat, Zoe, adapt to our household more effectively than any effort we made.  Her history made her a little combative, but his patient, non-threatening approach helped her relax a little more each day.

Keith and Mitzi

 

I would have to say that the poor starved boy we first took home has taught me more about being a man than any person or other animal could have.  He is playful, very tough, very gentle, and always patient.  He shows affection, but he also accepts affection in a very appreciative way.  He also taught me how to live in a house with cats and like it.

I continue to learn more about cats every day and work to promote cat therapy, cat adoption from shelters, spay/neuter programs, and protection of feral cats.  I do it in my own way.  My wife volunteers in a shelter and also in a local cat rescue group.  I have a hard time being in those places because I want to take each one home, so I try to concentrate on spreading the word and being an advocate.

Zoe with dad

 

I worked in human services for over 30 years, but always in the budget, finance, and business side of the operation.  I found that was where I excelled because, although I cared deeply about the issues, getting close to the people being served drained me emotionally and robbed me of effectiveness.  It is the same with for me with cat issues.

Interestingly, the last area I worked in was child welfare.  I could not believe the similarities in issues between animal welfare and child welfare.  Something I could not always share at work, because most social workers do not like kids being compared to cats.  But it is astounding!  Finding foster homes, retaining foster parents, abused and scarred kids, abusive parents, neglectful parents, not enough funding; the list goes on and on.

There is one big difference, though.  No one euthanizes a kid that can’t be placed and the same thing should be true for cats.

Studley the Delta Society Therapy Cat

I had the good fortune of meeting Keith and Pam for real at EATALY in NYC

 You can friend Studley on Facebook and hear about his therapy visits and more!

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  • Candace

    It is amazing what we can learn from cats … if we’re willing to listen.

    • http://twitter.com/ihavecat I HAVE CAT

      So true Candace, we just need to open our minds and take the time!

    • Keith Phillips

      Amen to that!

  • Angela Arias

    It is quite true: cats listen and talk with their owners, quickly establishes a kind of mutual language and it is possible to distinguish the types of meows of our cats … they have a different one for every need. when you have 2 or more cats, they teach each other. In my case my two older cats – Kaya and Eli, have taught the little Emma (who is nearly 7 months) some of the meows that they use when I’m preparing their food.

    • http://twitter.com/ihavecat I HAVE CAT

      Awww that’s so cute Angela! I’m visualizing it now! Thanks so very much for your ongoing support of IHC. It’s so very appreciated!

    • Keith Phillips

      We all talk to each other all the time, or maybe I’m crazy.  But if I am, at least I’m happy.

      • Angela Arias

        Hi Keith: Definitely, when a cat comes into your life, this change forever. I love to know amazing stories of  “crazy people” like me, who feel passion for animals, especially cats. Thanks tamar and Keith for sharing!!!

  • Anonymous

    Tamar, thank you so much for sharing, this is an incredible story! I love the people who turn into cat lovers just with the experience of their first cat, but then to go on and do so much more.

    • http://twitter.com/ihavecat I HAVE CAT

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It really is very inspirational!

    • Keith Phillips

      I, too, am glad you enjoyed it.  It was an honor to share my experience.

  • Kent Butler

    Keith makes me even prouder to be a cat guy. Thank you!

    • http://twitter.com/ihavecat I HAVE CAT

      Hi Kent! You are in good company. Re; your question about the JULY issue, i didn’t get feedback either :(

    • Keith Phillips

      Glad to be a comrade!

  • Rena

    What a great story, a great couple, and a great cat!

    • Keith Phillips

      Thank you!

    • http://www.ihavecat.com I HAVE CAT

      Glad you enjoyed it Renee!

  • http://twitter.com/myfriendfluffy7 My Friend Fluffy

    It just goes to show that anyone can become a cat person! Love your little Zoe. She looks a bit like my cat who passed away a few years back. :(

    • Keith Phillips

      Little Zoe is a handful, and being the 3rd cat, she had the biggest challenge fitting in, but she is my shop companion.

    • http://www.ihavecat.com I HAVE CAT

      I’m so sorry to hear of your loss but I agree that if someone takes the time to know cats they will love them for what they are :)

  • http://www.weetzies.com/ Weetzie’s

    Ohhh this is such a wonderful story! I just love it. And thank you for bringing it to us, Tamar!

    • Keith Phillips

      I am glad you enjoyed it and so glad Tamar asked me to share.

      • http://www.ihavecat.com I HAVE CAT

        me too me too! i’m glad i asked and i’m so glad you agreed! 

    • http://www.ihavecat.com I HAVE CAT

      THANKS for reading Weetzie’s! :)
      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Ccarolyn05

    Heart warming story, very interesting and touching..

    • Keith Phillips

      Thank you, so much.

  • http://avalon-lion.blogspot.com Avalon Cat Cartoons

    What a touching story! It’s admirable that you do so much to help those cats.

    • Keith Phillips

      It is really easy, time consuming but easy.  I get a lot back from them.

      • http://www.ihavecat.com I HAVE CAT

        So agree Keith! Thanks again for sharing your story – I think you can see you are a hit! 

  • pag4usc

    I enjoyed reading your comments today and admire you for what you are doing.

    Mom Paula and Angel Praline

    • Keith Phillips

      Thank you, it is nice of you to say.

    • http://www.ihavecat.com I HAVE CAT

      Thanks Paula and Angel Praline – for reading and commenting!
      Tamar, Petie, Kip and HAddie too :)

  • Deanne Johnson

    So very very nice!!!  Great story & pics!!

    • http://www.ihavecat.com I HAVE CAT

      Thanks Deanne for reading and posting! SO glad you enjoyed it! =^^=

  • http://www.riverfrontcats.com/ Christine

    This is such a great story! It reminds me of my posting “I’m Not a Cat Person”. Most people are [cat people]and just don’t know it until they discover the true essence of cats. Well I’m definitely sharing this with a link from my blog! We need to change perceptions of cat ladies and we need more cat men! Christine. http://www.riverfrontcats.com

    • http://twitter.com/ihavecat I HAVE CAT

      Oh dear I thought I’d replied to this comment but it isn’t showing up! So excited to “meet” you and I’ve added Riverfront cats to my blog roll!

  • Marilia Bavaresco

    I love this story!!!
    And your blog is very cute!
    Kisses from Brazil
    Marilia

    • http://twitter.com/ihavecat I HAVE CAT

      HELLO! how exciting! Brazil! I’ve never been but would LOVE to visit! Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a message! Please do check out my “BEST OF” blog posts (upper right hand side of page) and visit us on facebook too! We have over 14,000 fans! http://www.facebook.com/ihavecat

  • P Wheelock

    I love this story too!  What a guy!

    • http://www.ihavecat.com I HAVE CAT

      Glad you enjoyed it! I was lucky enough to meet Keith and Pam in NYC – sadly not Studley tho! Thanks for posting! 

  • http://canidaepetfood.blogspot.com/ Julia Williams

    What a great post this is!! I’m so glad he discovered what so many of us have known all of our lives — that cats are magnificent, wonderful, loving creatures who can enrich your life in so many ways.

    • http://www.ihavecat.com I HAVE CAT

      Hi Julia! Thanks so much for dropping by and taking the time to comment! Glad you enjoyed the post and hope you check more of them out (BEST OF is a good place to start!)

  • katboxjanitor

    Your description of the journey with Studley is heartwarming.
    I also have a perception that there is a deep similarity of needs between children and the furred members of our families. I am never sure who learns more from a relationship.

    Thanks for promoting the idea that there is more than one way to ‘spread the message’ and for sharing the story.

    • http://www.ihavecat.com I HAVE CAT

      Thanks so much for visiting IHC and taking the time to post a comment> I hope you check out some of our other posts. I think we learn more from the animals than vice versa :)

    • Keith Phillips

      Thanks for your comments.

  • Amyadoptee

    I know that my cats helped me heal after my divorce. Sadly they both had feline leukemia and I had to put them down.  My home is now very quiet without them in it.  I am going to take the time to mourn their loss but eventually I will get another one. 

    • Anonymous

      I’m so sorry to hear about your babies :(
      They must have left a large space in your heart….
      Thanks for reading and taking the time to post your personal story. =^^=