Are Cats as Emotional as Kids? My Unscientific Observations of My Ex-Cat

Lisa Goetz

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Sheffield Wednesday is our dusty orange tabby ex-cat. He used to be our cat but due to a series of events my husband I planned, that we believed to be in his best interests, he left us, never to return. Shef, as we affectionately called him, was born to feral mom on our property sometime in November 2015.

He had a twin sister, who we named Hello Kitty because she was just so darn cute, but she’s not the subject of this particular story.

Unlike my husband who’s definitely a cat person, before Shef came along, I never paid much attention to cats, even though we always had them when I was growing up. Before Shef, cats were “just there” to me.

My other siblings always took care of them, so I was aware that something different was happening when I found myself becoming preoccupied with Shef and Hello Kitty’s well being.

At first, I was kind of bothered when their mother, who didn’t have a name as far as we knew, chose to give birth at our home. What’s so special about here, I kept asking myself. It was probably the presence of a big box we left out on the porch for weeks on end, and then one day there were kittens in there.

I worried about them from day one. Not wanting to yank the kittens away from their mom because she seemed to be doing a good job nursing them, we moved the box close to the front door. We always breathed a sigh of relief every morning we woke up and found them still there.

It just felt so weird, like they were our own adopted kids. Hello Kitty seemed to have an overactive fear mechanism, so we were never able to develop a relationship with her, but Shef was different. He was a people cat. He loved being cuddled and sitting on people’s laps. He loved being in the house, more than I wanted him in the house, and that’s how he got his name.

Cat hair and fleas are the main reasons we keep our cats outside. It’s warm year-round where we live, so the services of cats are well needed to keep away mice and other vermin. Shef would have none of that though. He wanted to be indoors, so whenever the door opened, he ran in.

For fun, like a goalkeeper, I used to try to block him at the door, though I was rarely successful because he was fast on feet and he used his cleverness and wit to get around me.

As a soccer fan, I saw in Shef the great Argentinian forward Lionel Messi, and for a while I pondered naming him that. But a cat this unique needed a unique name, so we went with Sheffield Wednesday, the oldest organized soccer club in the world. It seemed an appropriately quirky name, and what’s more, it stuck.

Over the next two years, Shef’s mother and Hello Kitty would wander away, but he stayed with us and he was happy. He knew our homestead and the neighborhood like the back of his paw. He came and went as he pleased, and life just went on.

He knew how to straddle the feral-domestic fence, so he wandered around the neighborhood a lot, but he never failed to come home for breakfast and dinner, to slip in the door when he could, curl up under the sofa and take a nap, jump onto our laps for a little love, or hop up on the counter to snag a bite of whatever food we forgot to put away.

He also used to take walks with us, which had everyone in the neighborhood cracking up. People walk dogs, not cats.

A few months ago, the time came when we decided to move, and the thought of leaving Shef behind became unbearable. We consulted our local vet and decided to drop him off at the vet for a check up and to have him neutered, so he could live happily in our new home. I don’t know why we assumed that he’d be OK with all of this.

Somehow I thought Shef would get used to our new home — which was less than a mile away from our old home — and settle down.

Boy were we wrong! The day we got home from the vet, he ran to the farthest corner of the property and refused to come near us. The next day, the same thing. On the third day, something strange happened.

Shef came up to the house in a jovial mode. He jumped on the table on the porch and rolled over to let us rub his stomach. He even went into the house, looked around, and gave me this “You chose well Mrs. W. Thanks for having me neutered and extra thanks for bringing me here” look. He even ate a full breakfast and dinner, and the following day… he was gone.

Naturally we were distraught that our beloved Shef was nowhere to be found. I imagined all kinds of awful scenarios — that he might have been kidnapped by a psycho-tabby-cat kidnapper roaming the neighborhood. We didn’t really know what to think because the display of affection he had shown us the day before seemed so genuine. He couldn’t have possibly left on his own, we thought.

Around a week after Shef disappeared, my husband went to meet our former landlord to go over some final details about the house we had just vacated. That day, for some reason, I felt like our questions about what happened to Shef would be answered, and sure enough, as soon as my husband arrived at the property, I get a phone call…He’s here!

So basically, like a lot of kids with established roots in a neighborhood, Shef didn’t want to move and so after he said what turned out to be his goodbyes to us that last day he let us rub his belly at our new home, he went back to the old neighborhood where he was born and raised.

My husband was sad for a while, but I was relieved, at least Shef was alive and well. He made a choice about where he wanted to be in this world and acted on it.

You can’t really ask the cat if you should move, but somehow, it’s probably a good idea to ask your kids how they feel about it the next time you think about moving.

Originally published on Medium.

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Lisa Goetz writes cryptocurrency news, analysis and opinion. A freelance journalist with 11 years of experience, Goetz's articles have been featured in USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the Houston Chronicle.

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