The Basement cats comprise new intakes, ferals, and male cats that don’t get along with other cats. We also have a place down there for our leukemia kitties and cats that are fiv positive. Our shelter has 3 floors, the basement, the first floor, or general population, and upstairs, which has 3 rooms with doors which close. When we have a cleaning shift, we usually split the chores by floor. I usually do the basement because the other girl that cleans with me is really tall and hits her head on the ceiling down there. I love cleaning the basement. I love taking my time with the basement cats. It’s quieter down there and you can’t hear the phone ringing or someone banging on the door. I just get lost in the semi wild cats we have down there. I take my time cleaning, and just being with them. Giving them affection.
One of the “ferals” Little Bear, who hid behind his litter box for the first few months after he arrived, recently has gotten so affectionate, he will follow you around while you clean, just waiting to be pet. It’s like he missed out on human affection for part of his life and now he wants to make up for it. He looks at you with these adoring eyes, just begging for some love. He also allows me to kiss his head as much as I want to. (Some cats swat you when you do that, which I admit I was surprised to discover.)
Sometimes if I am standing and reach down, he will meet my hand halfway by standing up on his hind legs..what a diamond in the rough. He is a main coon type cat, very big and muscular, yet extremely gentle.
Then there is Todd. Poor Todd has been with us for about 9 months, and wouldn’t let anyone touch him for the first 8. He would sit in the back of his cage, and hiss whenever anyone came to scoop his litter, or clean and refill his food and water. Todd is a real feral, you can see it in his eyes, they have a wildness in them and a long-standing fear of humans.
The day after Sid died, ( my iguana), I went through the motions, going to the shelter to work, and distract myself. I didn’t really feel like doing anything, but I didn’t like being at home, because it felt like something was missing. I had barely slept the night before, and I felt really out of it, and emotionally drained.
When I got to the shelter, something magical happened. It was as if the cats could sense my despair, and the complete and utter heartbreak I was feeling. First, when I walked into the laundry room, the pissed off cat that hid from everyone and growled the week before, greeted me nicely. Prilla, as we call her, climbed onto my shoulder with no prompting and started purring. This same cat hated everyone the week before. Now, she clung to me, as if she knew I needed a hug. I can only describe the changes as mystical, and loving.
But Todd surprised me the most. As I went about my business, topping off his food bowl, he walked over, licked my hand and then let me scratch the top and sides of his head. Then he gave me love bites, the cat equivalent of a hug and kiss, and the ultimate display of cat-to-human affection. He even leaned in for the cheek scratching. Poor Todd has never had human contact in his life before he arrived at our shelter; At least not positive interactions. This was a big step for him, and it left me so excited and flattered.
When I told my boss she looked at me with utter disbelief. Todd and Prilla helped me that day more than any human condolences or words could. The love and trust I received that day was so unexpected, and yet, not surprising.
I ambled in feeling like a ghost of myself, and the cats just sort of relinquished any fears or reservations, and opened themselves up more than they ever had before. Animals are more sensitive to us than we can even imagine. A dog can hear a human heartbeat from 5 feet away!! They know exactly what is going on. It truly amazes and inspires me to make a difference in their lives, and to make them happy and healthy and feeling loved. In return, I feel happy and loved as well. It’s a win-win!