Cat Love for People

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

People melt in the presence of a pet, but Kate Gustin wonders where the love goes when the object is another human being.

Within seconds of their introduction, he told her that he loved her.

The atmosphere was not exactly conducive of such tender disclosure, with ten-year old boys running amok, throwing food at each other from the table.

But the birthday party chaos did not deter little Trevor from going to the corner where she crouched, gently stroking her black velvety hair and, under his breath, declaring his feelings.

She responded, as kittens do, with a contented purr and a nuzzling of his hand.


It was not the first time that the Tabby had elicited such spontaneous, uncomplicated affection from children coming through our home. They tend to approach her eagerly, dropping their playground pretenses – the snark, the cool - like coats in summer. With little self-consciousness and fanfare, they open up their hearts to her.

Adults, too, soften in her presence, but with greater restraint. An abbreviated stroke tends to suffice but not for the lack of wanting more connection. The grown-ups hesitate to shed their padded garments – the cloth of caution and cynicism that buffer them from the world’s claws. Even kittens can only go so far in disarming the defended.

I often wonder what would happen if we subtracted the kitten from the equation altogether, if we substituted, instead, a person standing timidly in the corner of the birthday fray. Would Trevor have approached with the same kindness? Would he have approached at all? Would a human receive such love up front, without prerequisite – without having to earn it or prove something?

Though this musing may seem rhetorical, I do believe we can take a lesson from the baby animals we find so endearing. They remind us how the heart naturally blooms in the presence of another, if we let it. Their innocence activates a remembrance of our own; and, they help us remember that we can access our birthright - an eager, unconditional love that sources our humanity, no matter how much protective clothing we have layered upon it.

With a Perspective, I’m Kate Gustin.

Kate Gustin is a psychologist and mental health director.