Do cats really love us, or are we merely the source of their food supply?
A Human Can Opener
Dear Can Opener,
Can’t you tell we love you from the way we follow you around, jump onto your chest when you least expect it, and purr even when itís not dinnertime? Of course, we love you even more after youíve given us our favorite cat food!
Mommas is a gray tabby with beautiful tiger striping. When we found her, she was pregnant and had been abused ó left to fend for herself and have her kittens on the street. I was in my first year of college when my parents took in Mommas and Persephone, the stray catís one remaining baby. We were grateful for their presence. Thorndike, our cat of fifteen years, had recently died. Our grief over losing him was great, and we didnít want to continue living in a catless home. We needed what I call furry love,
especially because I was the only child living at home after my two older sisters had moved out. To our good fortune, Mommas and her daughter proved to be experts in the field of cat psychology; they knew how to take care of peopleís emotional needs.
Mommas earned her name by adopting my parents and me as if we were her brood. Shortly after coming home with us, Mommas began following us around to see what we were up to. Whenever any of us cried, Mommas sat at our feet and waited patiently until she could administer her love and comfort.
After years of living in the same town, my parents moved to Pennsylvania with Mommas and Persephone, while my sisters and I stayed behind in Massachusetts. My father meant everything to me, and the last thing I would ever have wanted was for him to die alone. Yet one night, my worst fears seemed to have come true. My sisters arrived at my doorstep with some very sad news: Our mother had called to tell them that sheíd come home to find my father lying on the living room ?oor; he had passed away while watching television. To my relief, though, my sisters said that my father had not been alone in the last moments of his life. A very dear friend had been with him: Mommas.
Mommas had been my fatherís constant companion when my mother traveled for her job. The night that she found him in an everlasting sleep, she also found Mommas sitting by his side. Even as my mother cried over him, this cat would not leave my father. When the ambulance came, Mommas paced back and forth and dug her claws into the carpet at any attempt to make her move.
Finally, my mother coaxed her into the bedroom so that attendants could take my fatherís body away.
After my fatherís death, Mommas tended to my mother day and night, through all the hard times. She made the house seem less lonely. With her attentiveness, Mommas helped ease the painful memories. Whenever my mother or I cried, Mommas patiently sat next to us, lifted a paw to touch our arm or hand, and licked the tears from our faces to let us know she was near.
She stayed very quiet so as not to disturb us; she seemed to know that we needed to grieve. After we stopped crying, Mommas would begin the loudest, most warming purr. Then sheíd climb onto one of our laps. I donít know how my mother and I would have gotten through those times without Mommas.
Almost a year after my fatherís death, Mommas became ill with hyperthyroidism. Without expensive cancer treatment and medicine, she might have died. We did not hesitate to care for her. We couldnít lose her now.
After all, she was a member of our family. As she began to shed pound after pound, we worked endlessly with Mommas to make sure she ate extra food to keep her weight up. Eventually, she shrank from her normal twelve-pound figure to a small seven pounds. When we decided to take her to a vet for radiation treatment, the staff told us theyíd never seen a cat like Mommas; she was in better health than other patients at this weight. On the day of her treatment, Mommas clung to all the vet technicians, purring and letting them cuddle her.
I am grateful to say that Mommas returned to good health. Unfortunately, we lost Persephone to diabetes and old age this year. It is strange to watch Mommas hold on gracefully as so many pass away before her. She is now the head of a household that includes two large dogs we took in from the streets. We also now have Dutchess, a young new cat who was abused and neglected. Dutchess watches Mommasís every move, learning how to act, where to go, and what to eat.
Mommas has aged a lot. She is much thinner now, and her hair has lost most of its luster. She is quiet and content to sit in the sun while grooming her fur. Even though I know my time with her is limited, I try not to think about it. Instead, I focus on what Mommas has taught me. I have learned more from this cat about unconditional love, respect, and family responsibility than from anyone else. Hers is a love that no words can adequately describe.
Above all else, Mommas is the reason I have become a veterinary technologist. She inspired me with a passion that I take seriously and hold dear. I am learning to care for those who do not speak of their suffering, who quietly tend to us and ask only for our love in return.
The loyalty of a true friend can be one of the greatest comforts in life.
Are there others, animal or human, who are hurting and need you by their side?