“I meant,” said Ipslore bitterly, “what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?”
Death thought about it.
CATS, he said eventually. CATS ARE NICE.”
― Terry Pratchett, Sourcery
This weekend I had the pleasure of volunteering at a shelter and tending to a tiny four-week old kitten who, while waiting to go to foster today, was screaming his head off. He was no bigger than the size of my hand, but had the vocal strength of a fully grown cat.
I have often said that I am a sucker for kittens, and this was no exception. His black coat was roughly salted with strands of white fur, and he had a thin, white strip down the side of his nose. I immediately thought of him as Stripe. He alternated between begging at the cage door and hissing at me. The begging quickly won out when I opened the cage door. I moved slowly and spoke softly, and he responded right away with sniffs and with head bops.
I wanted just to scoop him up in my arms, but he had wreaked havoc on himself as well as the cage. His water bowl was empty. The litter was totally soaked, as was his blanket, teddy bear, the floor of the cage, and his entire body. Litter tracked on the cage floor. A quarter of the dry food was spread in his cage and another quarter on the tile floor.
I proceeded to take things out of his cage cautiously so as not to scare him. I slowly wiped down the cage as I took out items to clean or replace. I layered a blanket on a thin bed and made sure to include a few small, stuffed toys for company. I gave him a clean litter box and new food, but food was the last thing on his mind.
I had to get some paper towels to soak up the water from his paws and body before I could hold him, but it was a largely futile exercise. My shirt got filthy anyway. Well worth it. He climbed up and down off my shoulder as I leaned into the cage. Stripe pressed his tiny head hard against my chin and pressed his little body against mine. As I pet him, he tried to lay down against me and then would flop over for more petting.
I pet him as long as I could, but eventually I had to go and help with other kitties. Before I left, I peeked into the room to see him sitting comfortably on his new bed. All morning, I had been mentally calculated the logistics of bringing him home with me. I eventually decided against it due to logistics and the fact that I literally cannot take home every cute kitten that I fall in love with. Believe me when I tell you there have been a lot of them.
During my itty bitty kitty petting session, I started to realize that I had endorphins coursing through my body. I was actually beginning to feel high and loopy from the baby kitten love fest. I think that’s what happens when you provide physical love to a helpless, loving, and lovable baby: the pleasure center in your brain lights up like fireworks to reward you for your altruistic attention and physical affection for another being. Every time this happens, you want it to happen again as soon as possible. I have no kids, but I can only imagine the degree to which this happens to parents. It is addiction in its highest and best possible form.
When I am down or angry, all it takes is for one of my kitties to give me some unsolicited attention and love. Suddenly, I forget what was going through my mind and smile, returning the love that is so willingly given to me.