What constitutes a cat kiss? Cats show affection for each other by “bunting” (rubbing cheeks and exchanging scents), by head-bumps, by exchanging slow eye-blinks and by mutual grooming. And when a cat shares any of those behaviours with a favoured human, you’re being marked as an honorary cat.
People who profess themselves to be dog people rather than cat people will tell you that cats are aloof, and that to enjoy affection you need to get a dog. It’s certainly true that many dogs are very focused on their own humans, and that many cats are more reserved – as the saying goes: Dogs come when they’re called; Cats take a message and get back to you. But cat lovers know that the surface reserve can hide deep affection, and that once a cat has given its trust, you become a vital part of its life.
At the Sanctuary the cats meet a great variety of people: there might be as many as 150 volunteers through in a week between the morning cleaning shift and the afternoon feeding one, and the Kitty Comforters,plus the Sunday visitors. In quieter areas, like the Moore House, there are fewer humans around; in the double-wide or the front courtyard there’s always someone coming or going.
With all that activity, building a relationship of trust with a Sanctuary cat takes time and patience and consistency. Some of them are always wary; with others it’s primarily cupboard love that produces the attention. But many of us have “our” cats who come for attention and who relax in our arms.
Sweet Jody would probably not be on everyone’s list. Jody is/was one of the tea-room bathroom cats; the late Baby, Piper and Jody used to share the three shelves there, hating each other, and each laying claim to their own space. Since we lost Baby, Piper has migrated out to the tea-room and Jody has mostly moved into the double-wide laundry room, where she jealously guards her bed from other cats, and looks pleadingly at passing humans. She doesn’t want to move, but she does love being petted, and she responds with little kissy licks, coaxing the caressing hand to stay just a little longer.
Visitors to Old Aids (actually the home of most of our leukemia cats) may overlook Eva, a tubby tabby who often tucks herself away. Eva has her favourite humans, though, and once she trusts, she snuggles in, putting her paws on your shoulder and giving little licks to the nearest bits of exposed skin or hair.
Sometimes the cats that don’t get on with other cats do better in a bigger area. Emery usually seems to have the ability to blinker out the felines around him, getting upset only when someone moves into his immediate space. He’s definitely a human-centered cat, though – Emery’s favourites know the heart-warming experience of an Emery-hug, and a cold nose snuggled into the neck! It’s too bad that this sweet boy expresses his stress by peeing in corners…
Leland is another cat who doesn’t do well at the Sanctuary. He is most often found pacing the front courtyard near the gate – the objective being to get between the gates separating front and back so that he can be spared the contact with all the other cats. Unfortunately for him, that’s a no-cats-land area. He expresses his displeasure freely in a series of grumbles, he wants human attention, but in a limited way, and when things get too much for him, he picks a fight with another alpha cat. But Leland has his sweet moments. In the right mood, a snuggle with a human is just what he loves best – especially when his best friend Debbie offers to cuddle him like a baby. That face tells you that for a moment, all is well in Leland’s world.