So I was told lots about cats before I had a couple of my own.. how they are aloof, ‘couldn’t care less’ and self-sufficient.
Dog behaviour, apparently is completely understood whereas cat behaviour is still a mystery, according to a piece in the Washington Post written by John Bradshaw from the Bristol Vet School.
Well mine aren’t very inscrutable. They make their feelings, on the whole, pretty obvious.
They come and greet me when I get home, tails held high and Leo does the “happy hook” thing. Granted there might be some Dreamies on offer but hey cupboard love is still love isn’t it?
They are creatures of habit. No morning is complete without the early morning ritual of saying purry hellos while I’m sitting up in bed drinking tea and reading the news. There’s contented kneading – the cats, not me. There may also be a game of ‘what’s under the eiderdown’ in which my hidden hand, masquerading as a rat or something equally fun, gets fiercely attacked. Fortunately the quilt is thick.
Leo particularly will settle for a snooze but if he feels I’m ignoring him, he begins purring loudly again and assumes his “ultra-cute” look, exposed tum and paws curled appealingly into his chest, upside down face… works every time. So he gets a tummy tickle and when he’s just drifting off to sleep I might test his tickle reflexes – for cats are ticklish on the little pads of their feet. Well, mine is.
They are not aloof. They like to be where I am. Even if I’m going up the stairs, Leo runs ahead and pauses without looking back but his ears are tilted back, listening in case I’m stopping or going back down. He’ll settle down in the same room if he gets the chance.
They are terrible scaredy-cats – Leo’s in a perpetual state of anxiety that a saucepan lid might crash to the floor by him – but that’s self-preservation kicking in and probably a good thing.
His life has not been without trauma. As a curious kitten he got his head stuck in the handle of a small carrier bag full of batteries and did a warp-speed reverse out of the room, up the stairs and there was a crash on the landing as the bag broke and batteries spilled everywhere. It was the funniest thing. He waited a good five minutes before re-entering the living room with an air of insouciance as though nothing had happened. That illustrates, in my view, the big difference between cats and dogs – dogs have a sense of humour while cats detest being laughed at.
A dog will happy pick up the ball with the big rubber tongue attached, thoroughly enjoy the attention, pose for pictures, pick it up again and carry it proudly with a waggy tail.
You cannot even get a cat to wear a pair of false teeth and the minute you are slightly amused by their behaviour, they stalk off and sulk.
Similarly, there’s a lot of communication between owner and cat. Yes I accept that cats never miaow to each other – that they reserve this to try and get their points across to stupid humans. But it’s remarkable that they reply to a greeting “hello” with a miaow – and Lily almost pronounces “Ey-oh” with her particular brand of half-miaow.
Besides a greeting, there’s the insistent “miaow” could be a ‘Where’s dinner?!’ or a “Where’s Leo? He’s been out all day and I’ve been on my own!”
Or, on returning from holidays (neighbour looks after the cats) the repeated, insistent miaowing says “Where the hell have you been? We didn’t know if you were ever going to come back, and yes you made sure we were fed but well, it’s been one hell of a long time since we have been on the bed in the morning and quite frankly it’s totally unacceptable so kindly DO NOT DO IT AGAIN!”
Then, picking the cat up and feeling the return of the affection, the cwtching under the chin like a small child, makes it perfectly plain that there this is not a cat who is aloof…. this is a cat saying “I’m so glad you’re back.”
Leo, comfy on the pew watching me cook dinner.