Cats are limited in their ability to express affection for us. Mainly, they rub their bodies against ours, particularly their cheeks where their “happy” pheromones are produced (or exuded; I don’t claim to know much about cat physiology). They knead their paws on us, with claws extended, and sometimes, in their excitement, they nip. In none of those instances do they mean to hurt us, but if you aren’t trimming their nails regularly, and they still have their teeth, both of those signs of affection can be a tad painful. Leaving aside the obvious sophomoric human parallels to the above, that’s pretty much it for a cat’s ability to express affection for a human.
Some of you are lucky enough to have cats who will let you pick them up and snuggle them. I’m terribly jealous of you. Of our two cats, one will tolerate being picked up if it’s necessary to be moved from point A to point B, but the other will run if he even suspects that’s what we have in mind. Since he’s usually wrong about our intent, it’s also difficult to pet him, unless he initiates contact.
That cat, the male, is at his most loving when we’re in the bathroom. He loudly demands attention when we are either sitting on the pot, or have just stepped out of the shower and are dripping wet. Personally, I’d rather pet him while sitting down than immediately post-shower when his fur will get stuck all over me. Despite my aversion to cat fur on my wet skin, however, whenever my cats ask for attention, I am prone to drop everything and respond. (Cat people will understand.) Imagine then, how painful it must be to have to give up your cats, for whatever reason, to the uncertain future of a shelter.
A woman I know was recently forced, by medical circumstances, to take her two cats to a shelter, after she had tried, unsuccessfully, to find a home for them. After a week or so, she contacted the shelter to find out how they were, and if they had been placed with a new family. They told her that one of the cats had had a horrible time adjusting, stopped eating and drinking, and cried constantly. After several days, she’d apparently made herself so sick that they’d had no choice but to put her to sleep. I know the shelter in question, and they’re wonderful people, so I’m sure they did what they felt they had to do. The woman, however, was horrified, and promptly returned to the shelter to retrieve the remaining cat.
My heart breaks thinking about that poor woman. She is never going to forgive herself for what she will always think of as being responsible for killing her cat. Instead she’ll spend her days coughing and trying to catch her breath, while her remaining cat rubs against her asking for attention, which she will be unable to resist providing, thereby exacerbating her inability to breathe. Cat people will understand.