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