Tag Archives: cats

All About Cats

Cat at the Computer

I’m using material from a recent article about cat behaviors in the Washington Post by John Bradshaw for this post. Bradshaw offered some explanations for the sometimes winsome and sometimes frustrating behaviors that puzzle even the most dedicated cat lovers. He noted that  “Cats are the world’s most popular pets, outnumbering dogs by as many as three to one.” He attributes cats’ popularity in part to their “convenience.” They don’t need walking; they can be alone for days with water and some dry food; they don’t chew the furnishings like dogs (although they have been known to “mark” their territory in ways which upsets their owners. Indeed, the rub for many cat “staffs” (dogs have owners; cats have staff)  is that they can be your best friend at one moment (feeding time) and then wouldn’t cross the street to say hello the next.

Cats formed a unique partnership with humans between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago when granaries used by the inventors of agriculture in the Middle East attracted mice. The wildcats recognized a free lunch when they saw it, and moved in. They were more like  urban foxes, “born to be wild” and solitary, but willing to be around people in an arrangement that benefited both parties.

Early farmers also appreciated cats for qualities we still prize: soft and furry, they also showed a wonderful intelligence and an entertaining playfulness, even if that was on their own terms.

Cats are natural distrustful of each other, but can live together peaceably if they must share a food source. Even feral cats divide up available food, growing to colonies of several hundred in close proximity. In such situations, they evolved cooperative behaviors such as grooming each other (which for their humans means petting) and the raised tail which means they are receptive to being approached.  They also communicate by meowing, which has such a range of expression that their staff can tell what they are “saying.” I know when my cat Nacho wants to play or eat, or if she does not appreciate my attempts to play with her. And sometimes she tears around the house vocalizing in a way that can only be described as barking. My vet said she is a “dog in a cat suit,” which might explain this behavior. Cats also purr, which can be a sign of distress, as well as of contentment that  most people take it for. Animal behaviorist theorize that purring essentially means, “Please come here and settle down beside me.”

There’s no doubt that cats occupy a unique place in our lives. We have always had at least a couple in our household for the past 40 years, and we’re hopelessly smitten by them. It would be hard to imagine a day without a tabby or dilute tortie or any of dozens of breeds sleeping in the sun, playing with string, stalking a dust bunny or running at the sound of a can opener. For my money, there’s nothing like a cat for companionship, entertainment, protection (Siamese are particularly good at this), and, yes, convenience. Through millennia they have capered and stalked beside us on the long road to the present, and I pray they will continue on our journey together.

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Cat Tricks

DSCN1758

Believe it or not, cats can be taught to do tricks. They can even be taught to use the toilet. Doing so requires patience and skill, both of which I lack, so our cats are pretty much as they came out of the can. They do have two tricks: eating and sleeping. They do both very well. We seem to acquire cats which are strong minded and not about to do a trick for anyone. Nacho will play with a pencil and is an excellent eight-pound guard animal, staying with me and lying between me and anyone who would do me harm. So watch out! If you want a piece of me, you’ll have to deal with a piece of a fighting mad dilute tortie/Siamese mix.

My brother once had a cat that he wore on the top of his head like a hat. (Our cats don’t like to be picked up,  much less worn as a fashion statement.) I was thinking about this when I was trying to remember if we had had any cats who would do tricks, and it put me in mind of the popularity of the Davy Crockett Disney TV series, with Fess Parker as DC and Buddy Ebsen as Georgie Russell, his sidekick. (I need to do a piece on sidekicks. There don’t seem to be many around any more, and I miss them. Batman and Robin, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Wild Bill Hickok and Jingles, the Cisco Kid and Pancho,  Huck and Jim, Han and Chewie…you get the idea.) Anyhow, Fess Parker wore a coonskin cap on his head, which is pretty strange if you think about it, although if the one you owned got messed up, you’d just shoot another coon and turn it into a hat. Parker’s model didn’t have the head on it. I think John Wayne’s did when he played Davy in the movie The Alamo. Or maybe that was Daniel Boone. I forger who played that. Anyhow, every kid I knew would have killed for a coonskin cap, which is pretty weird when you consider that you’d be wearing a dead animal on your head. Granted, they didn’t have many sartorial choices on the frontier and couldn’t exactly trip on over to their local MLB store and buy a Nationals hat.

So, we do live in better times. I just wonder if Davy Crockett could train his cats.

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Friday Poem of the Week: The Cats Are at Work

There are thousands of cat at computer pictures on line. What are you people doing all day? Why aren't you filling out your brackets?

There are thousands of cat at computer pictures on line. What are you people doing all day? Why aren’t you filling out your brackets?

The Cats Are at Work

a follow-on poem to “The Cats Are Driving to Work”

for Alyssa, who liked the original poem

The cats are at work.
They pull into their reserved spaces
Growling from a long commute
Slouching toward the entrance in that peculiar feline way,
Not speaking (they’re cats, after all),
Flashing their ID’s at the tiger behind the security desk.
They settle into their little chairs at their little desks with a sigh.
No purring at work: it’s not forbidden,
It’s a simple reality. Work is not purr worthy.
They ply their trade, international security,
These cats, guarding their humans sleeping at home
From cyber threats and depredations
Perpetrated by bears and panda who want to
Steal all the catnip.

The HR cats have it the hardest:
They explain once again to the testy but talented
Siamese from accounting
That medical insurance does not cover an eyelid lift
And that HR is not there to protect her interests
But those of the company.
It’s a startling revelation repeated over and over to the
Cat employees. They’re not stupid,
Just hopeful that if they ask the same question enough times
They will receive a different answer.

Interview over, HR cat pops another Xanax,
Takes a quick lap from her milk mug,
And wonders if there’s fish for lunch in the cafeteria
And not nasty dried cat food. Again.
She sighs, calculates how long it is until nap time
And quietly hopes for a mouse to scurry by.
And so, day after day,
The cats are at work.

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