Greetings, two-legged readers! I understand that the appropriate thing to say today is “Happy New Year.” As we cats do not make time differentiations in the way you do, such as years, months, or days, we must learn from your guidance. As we do not see things the same way, I will discuss some of the qualities of a cat that make up “catness.”
My CCL (Cantankerous Cat Lady) has asked me to write today’s post, as she still recovers from what she calls the holiday season. I don’t understand the concept for the most part, as we cats see every day as having equal value to any other and not one proves more important than another. We thrive on sameness!
Of course, we do notice occasional exceptions that might give that day a special significance. These might include giving birth or some form of accident that befalls us. Even then, we do not mark that day and single it out to be remembered and recognized at future times.
However, in journeying through our day, we do believe firmly in a routine which we follow consistently. We do have some concept of time, as we tend to perform the same daily duties in what we feel is the proper order.
Thus, we arise at the same time and expect our meals also to arrive at the appropriate moment. Since we now enjoy domestication, we don’t have to hunt for our meals, but can count on your supplying it.
It becomes your part of the bargain to furnish us feed at regular intervals, and we come to expect such treatment. After all, since we have agreed to live with you, there arise certain responsibilites that you must assume as a result.
Herein lies a big difference between us. We live in the moment. We do not make future plans. We depend on you to provide for us in such a way as to ensure our future survival. We have expectations, but we do not have rules.
We have noticed that you two-leggeds have rules for everything. We cats do not need rules. We like to keep things simple.
Before we decided to live with you two-leggeds, we had to rely completely on what you call “instinct” — our internal guidance system which became our gift from birth. If we had a good mother, she helped us to recognize the messages we received from this built-in gift.
Now, though we still retain these instincts, we can relax our vigilence a bit if you fill your proper role of protector and caregiver. In a sense, you have become a foster parent, and if we have some good luck, you will fill the role admirably.
It can become frustrating for both you two-leggeds and us cats, when a communication barrier arrives. We do not speak English; we only speak cat. We often learn the meaning of some of those sounds you use continuously, but our skills at understanding your speech has its limitations.
On the other hand, we have our own cat language, and can understand other cats easily. We do not use sounds a great deal, unless as a mother cat who must make her kittens understand what she wants of them.
Instead, we communicate with our whole body. Our tail, our fur, our movements, and even our facial expressions can have significance. Of course, when we become very angry or fall in love, we might add sound, but most of our communication has no vocalization.
A reason for this quiet language: In the wild, though we became excellent hunters, at times we also became the hunted. A spoken language would have endangered us if the wrong creature heard us.
An interesting sidenote here in reference to becoming prey: We believe in cleanliness. We wash a lot. We also have the habit of covering our eliminations, whether wet or solid, because we learned early on to become as odor-free as possible so no predators could smell us.
So, if you want to understand your cat, you would find wisdom in learning what your small friend tries to tell you with his body. We realize, however, that you remain challenged when trying to figure out our language, which explains why we make more sounds when trying to communicate with you. It becomes our challenge to try to help you get the message.
One of the ways we communicate has to do with our scent glands. These we carry in many parts of our bodies — the mouth, sides of the head, pads of the front paws, and tail.
When we mark an object or a person with our scent, in effect we leave a message that another animal can understand. For example, often if we rub against you, we tell the world, “this two-legged belongs to me.” Such marking can also represent a sign of love.
We mark our shared home or the boundaries of our territory for the same reason. Any other animal catching that scent will recognize it as a sign posted that says, “No trespassing — enter at your own risk.”
Please keep in mind: We are not dogs! Though both of us probably have more in common with each other than we do with you two-leggeds, our world views differ greatly. For one thing, dogs tend to like to travel in groups — they qualify as what you two-leggeds call “pack animals.”
We cats don’t travel in groups. We like aloneness and independence. Though in some situations we might bond with another animal, usually we do not do so. Again, we learned in our early beginnings to depend on ourselves. Now, though we have forfeited a bit of our independence in order to share your world, it was our choice, not our traditional way to live.
One trait that we retain, however, in spite of the ways we have changed: We kept the admirable quality of persistence. We use this trait to investigate and understand what goes on around us.
We often use the trait in attempting to communicate with you because it seems you often do not understand the message we try to convey. If we persist in our efforts to make you understand, we feel that eventually our message will get through. Unfortunately, sometimes your abilites at perception seem to fall a bit short.
Adjusting to your very different world has sometimes become a challenge. Those of us who have the best luck in successful adjustment start this process at a very young age. Then we have the chance to go through the stage you call “socialization.”
Through socialization, it becomes easy for us to adapt to the wide differences between us. We become used to living near you, and the fears that may arise because of these differences can become erased before they create problems with our acceptance of you.
After all, you grow to a huge size and you make a lot of noise. You can step on us and do us great injury! We have to crane our necks to look at your faces. Even your language has a sound that creates a dissonance between us –not only because we do not understand it, but also because of the very many sounds you produce when you speak.
If we become socialized, we find it easier to bond with you and to create a loving relationship. Though we still feel the need to try to control our environment, when we bond with you and form a loving relationship, trust can become established between us, and we then find it much easier to share the control of our world.
I think that one of the reasons we come to enjoy your world stems from our curiosity. We like to understand our environment, whether we control it all or not. It makes us feel more secure. In your world, we can find much that is new, interesting, and amusing.
Some instincts still govern our behavior. We like to fit into small spaces, like a little box, because it gives us a feeling of security. We love dark hiding places, because often in such a spot we can see better than any creatures looking for us.
We like high lookouts, as we can view the world from a space often far removed from what happens below. Again, security fosters this fondness for height. Also, as we have great climbing and jumping skills, these places become much more accessible to us than to many other creatures. Reaching them furnishes us healthy exercise as well.
Speaking of exercise, as you two-leggeds will agree, sufficient exercise becomes an important feature in retaining good health. For this reason, you would do well to schedule regular play sessions with the cat member of your family, especially if that kitty does not have access to the outdoors. Play might form the most important factor in his exercise regime.
Also, one of the drawbacks of domestication becomes our inability to act on the very strong instinct we have for hunting. We do have imagination, however, and if you play with us, you can supply the means for us to trigger that talent.
By doing so, we can fulfill some of that strong need to hunt. You might find it amazing when you watch us as we imagine and carry out a pretend stalk and kill routine.
My CCL has told me that in a cat’s brain there resides a center for moods and emotions, just as you two-leggeds have, and that explains why we feel things just as you do. Of course, the things that trigger our emotions won’t resemble the things that cause a similar reaction in you.
For example, perhaps you decide to move to a new place. Such a thing can trigger very strong feelings in us. After all, we base a lot of our security on our established routine, and when you make a move to a new place, we might feel frear, sadness, or a complete lack of acceptance of the whole thing.
If you move and find us scared and hiding, or perhaps even becoming aggressive, you might consider that the cause comes from the emotions we feel because of the complete disruption of our daily world.
Perhaps you have a baby, or bring a new cat into the household. These changes could trigger jealousy or anger, and we may strike out at the newcomer. Be sure to help us adjust to such changes by giving us additional positive attention and love. Let us know we still remain important to you.
We cats also have a very positive talent to offer you. We can help with healing. As an example, if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure, being with one of us can help alleviate those conditions. You might find it interesting to know that with a heart condition, if you have bonded with your kitty, your chance of a heart attack can become reduced by 30 percent.
Our beautiful purr can also do amazing things for you. Besides just helping to reduce stress, if you have a broken bone, lying next to us while we purr can help the bone to heal faster. As cats, we know our own power — we utilize that purr to help us through stress or illness. It’s an important tool in our cat health kit.
This post teaches a few of the important aspects of “catness”. Get to know and understand your cat and you may find new information about his/her differences from your own experience. Consider sharing a home with a cat as a unique and valuable way to get to know well another of the creatures that share your world.