VERO BEACH, FL–Annette Davrian, a 45-year-old Cedar Rapids, IA, bank teller, is spending her vacation time in a delusional haze this week, somehow managing to convince herself that her cats actually miss her.
"Buttons is so sensitive, I just know she's scared and frightened without her Mommy by her side," Davrian told uninterested relatives Monday, just hours after arriving in Florida. "And Bonkers gets so cranky when he doesn't get his morning treats. I hope they'll be able to handle this emotionally. I've always gone to great lengths to assure them that they're loved, but they've never been left alone this long before. If they think I've abandoned them, I'd never be able to forgive myself."
Animal behaviorists agree that cats are incapable of feeling sadness over an owner's absence, asserting that their only reaction to such an event would be a brief adjustment period to claim household territory previously thought to be the owner's.
Davrian, who has lived alone since the death of her mother nine years ago, has considered cutting her vacation short because of the cats' nonexistent longing for her to return.
"Those poor, precious kitties," she told a man in an elevator. "I'm all they've got in this world. What will they do without me?"
According to coworker Phil Gross, Davrian began worrying about her cats' imaginary sadness over her Florida trip nearly three weeks before leaving. On Jan. 8, Davrian expressed concern to Gross that the cats might not sufficiently "bond" with a stranger entrusted with their care. Based on this worry alone, she delayed her trip for two weeks, paying a large rescheduling fee for her plane ticket.
"She asked me to look after the cats while she was gone," neighbor Janet Pullman said. "I said sure, figuring I'd just have to feed them. Turns out, she wanted me to go in there three times a day and stay at least 20 minutes each time so the cats would feel 'adequately socialized.' Then she hands me a list of things to do that's, like, 40 items long."
Pullman admitted that she has not followed the elaborate instructions, merely filling up the cats' food and water bowls when they are empty.
"I just dump some Purina in the bowl, and I'm gone," Pullman said. "And do the cats give a shit? No, they do not. Why? Because they're cats."
Hoping to ease the pain and loneliness of her asocial, predatory pets, Davrian has left numerous long messages on her answering machine, claiming that the cats will appreciate hearing her voice. She also wrapped one of her sweaters around a pillow before leaving so Buttons and Bonkers would 'have a bit of me to snuggle with,' unaware that the cats' motivation for 'snuggling' is to maintain body temperature, not to feel emotionally connected to their food provider.
As a supplement to the answering-machine messages, Davrian left the clock radio playing in the bathroom "to keep the little ones company." Though the cats could not care less about the radio, the same cannot be said of neighbor Bob Franz, 49, whose bathroom shares a heating vent with Davrian's.
"I once heard [Davrian] say that [Bonkers] will get lonely without a human voice around to make him feel reassured," Franz said. "But the thing just sits in the window and watches birds all day, just the way it did before she left, and just the way it'll keep on doing after she gets back, every day until one of the two of them dies. Meantime, the damn radio yabbers on all day and night. That radio's probably more aware that the woman's gone than Bonkers."
The Florida excursion is not the first time Davrian has ruined her leisure time fretting about the cats. Since 1996, she has failed to enjoy 219 activities or excursions, including two trips to Lake Winnepesaukee, a visit to a local botanical garden, 23 movies, and three dinners–each of which she spent worrying about being "out of phone contact in case something goes wrong."
Davrian could not be reached for additional comment, as she had just cut short a sailing trip in order to, as brother-in-law Don Koechley said, "make sure the damn cats are okay."